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What Adjusters Need To Know at the Peak of Hurricane Season

We are well into CAT season, so there is no better time to fine-tune and improve your claims process

September 20, 2022 Photo

Recently, I hosted a training for inside adjusters, and the group consisted of around 20 seasoned claims professionals with an average tenure exceeding seven years. Most of these inside adjusters had spent at least a couple of years in the field, as well. 

At the beginning of the training, I took a few moments to address the group, and when I started discussing digital tools, I noticed a glazed look come over their faces. I realized I may have made assumptions about their depth of knowledge when it came to digital innovation in the insurance space, so I stopped and asked, “Are you all familiar with what digital transformation for claims means?” Not a single person did. So, I zoomed out even further and asked, “Who has heard of Insurtech?” Most everyone raised their hands, but when I asked if anyone could tell me what it meant, not one person could.

And therein lies the core issue of the problem: The left hand is not talking to the right. And when there is a lack of understanding, there is resistance to doing.

We are well into CAT season already, so there is no better time to fine-tune and improve your claims process. Frankly, the entire industry could do with a tune-up. We owe it to policyholders, insurers, and even ourselves. As an adjuster, you may ask, “What can I do to be better? I have my process, my methods, and my gear is always packed and ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.” This is by no means a recipe for failure, but we are in such an exciting time in our industry where innovative technology, data, and solutions can allow us incredible efficiencies—but only if we leverage them.

Adjusters are a crucial part of the claims process. However, they must remain agile and knowledgeable about changes in the industry to remain competitive. Insurance companies are highly focused on catastrophe response and, while the position of an adjuster on the roster may or may not change, adopting a growth mindset enhanced by flexibility and agility will make them a “go-to” resource for firms.

There is a fascinating speaker named Simon Sinek whose core philosophies always circle back to one question: “Why?” This mindset is particularly beneficial and impactful when utilized in leadership initiatives to overhaul practices and procedures. In the training for inside adjusters that I mentioned earlier, these seasoned professionals did not understand the “what,” so, understandably, they could not understand “why” insurers are making the move to digital, and, more importantly, why it should matter to them. This uncertainty leads to fear, which leads to low adoptions as well as process and workflow failures. So, how do we fix it?

Understanding the “What” and “Why”

What is Insurtech, really? Insurtech is leveraging technology and digital solutions to streamline processes and aid efficiencies of an insurance organization. Think of the transformation that banks went through when the process shifted from delivering paper checks into a physical location to being able to scan and deposit checks directly into your account from your mobile device. Insurtech solutions, similarly, focus on the creation, distribution, and administration of insurance solutions.

What about digital transformation? It’s commonly referred to as the adoption of digital technology by an organization in order to improve efficiency, value, or innovation. According to Salesforce, “Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new—or modify existing—business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”

Insurtech solutions typically focus on improving internal or behind-the-scenes efficiencies, while digital transformations focus on consumers or policyholders. Taken together, these solutions and changes in our industry will equip each of us to perform better, provide stronger service, and make our human interactions and contributions more meaningful.

It is also crucial for adjusters to understand and leverage the “why,” both in the field and inside the office. With decreased cycle times and phenomenal customer experience scores, there is less likelihood of an adjuster having to spend time on supplemental or reopened claims files. While it is not realistic that all of an adjuster’s claims will stay closed, the time, effort, and expense to handle reopened claims is monumental. Therefore, the adjuster should always take pride in efforts to align service, policy application, and estimate accuracy.

Understand the “How”

Every seasoned adjuster has a primary deployment firm, and every firm’s client has a different level of technological acumen. An adjuster must keep that in mind when considering the following:

Educate yourself. Taking the time to educate yourself is the most effective way to stand out among your peers. Conduct research before heading into CAT season. Review historic events to understand where the next event is most likely to take place, be it wildfire, hurricane, hail, or some other disaster. For instance, if you are going into an area where tile roofs are prevalent, learn about these products, how damages present, and what the normal wear issues or defects are. Write up a mock estimate for repair and another one for replacement, then complete a summary explaining your faux observations for each instance. When finished, submit it to a manager or mentor for review. Understanding the nuances of an area will dramatically streamline your process during the event.

Understand your impact. We all have perceptions about what people want and need. Understanding what drives the customer experience is the key to everyone’s success. As an adjuster or an adjusting firm, you have several stakeholders that you must keep engaged, updated, and satisfied. While you are working for the insurance carrier, satisfaction and success are driven by how you work with the policyholder and anyone else in between them and the insurer. You are an advocate, a liaison, a counselor, and a steward. This is a lot of responsibility, and thus is a role that should be taken seriously.

How to Be More Effective in the Field

Insurance adjusters are in a unique position: We work for the insurer, but are there to service the insured in a time of hardship and distress. Thus, we must act in the best interests of both parties, which, at times, can be polarizing. Regardless of the claim or outcome, leveraging technological solutions will enhance our speed of service, accuracy, and consistency.

One way to do that is by recognizing that speed of service is a large contributor to overall customer experience, so it is important to leverage technology that allows adjusters to communicate, update, and collaborate more effectively. Think about where the bigger chunks of your time would be spent in the claims process. Labeling photos, completing reports, and compiling inventories are just a few that quickly come to mind. Leverage solutions that automate these processes without burdening your workflow.

Accuracy is another area where technology can make a positive impact. This can also improve speed of service, since an accurate estimate and documentation streamlines quality control reviews and coverage applications. This all contributes to an indemnity check being issued more quickly to a policyholder. An application that systematically walks you through fully documenting the claims file, creating a scope sheet as you go, and allowing you to capture measurements with a few photos is a win in driving claims accuracy.

Finally, technology should enhance overall claims consistency in the way a file is documented, with the order of images, narrative, and estimate all aligning. This makes your file stick out above others as easy to navigate, and will lead to less drag in quality control reviews and coverage analyses. Consistency is the first step to quality; leverage a solution that can drive this first step

Leveraging Data

You might be familiar with the term “key performance indicators,” or KPIs. The industry standard for a claim timeline is 24 hours to contact, 72 hours for inspection, and 72 hours for reporting. But many adjusters have no idea what their KPIs look like. If you are unsure, contact your firm and ask them to provide you with the last 12 months of your KPI performance. Then take the time to review, understand, and drill into those claims metrics. In the interest of continuous self-improvement, focus on the claims where you underperformed.

Don’t justify the “why” of this, but instead investigate and understand the root cause for delays or lower performance. By doing this, you can better understand how to avoid these issues. When evaluating these metrics, try to focus first on those purely within your control: time to contact and time to estimate upload or reporting. If your firm tracks time to make corrections, then evaluate this, as well. There are very few instances where an initial report or estimate cannot be completed in 48-72 hours. Use this as a baseline and dig into any files that go beyond that timeframe to get a better understanding of what could have gone better.

It is also helpful to look at overall performance in each portion of the claim and identify any trends that emerge. Is your average time to inspect over five days? If so, why? This may help you identify claim capacity. Knowing this limit will help you close claims faster and will keep you on the storm site longer.

Finally, set goals on how you want to improve and continue to request your performance reports from your firm so you can measure your successes. This is also valuable information to have to share with your firm or when soliciting other firms for work.

When you are fully equipped with the technology that you are comfortable with and understand the data that demonstrates your potential, you can fine tune your processes from start to finish. From the moment you receive a claim, lay out every step and mishap you may encounter, identify bottlenecks in your process, and minimize or eliminate them by altering workflows. By taking your process into your own hands, you create a sense of ownership and accountability that will innately improve your performance. 

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About The Authors
Troy Stewart

Troy Stewart is president and chief operating officer of Brush Country Claims.  troys@bcc-ltd.com

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