When the rubber hits the road: Customer experience after a large loss
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When the rubber hits the road: Customer experience after a large loss

One of the common reactions that people have about being replaced by robots is that "a robot couldn't do my job." But, indeed, millions of dollars in insurtech startups are betting on the idea that machines powered by artificial intelligence can indeed automate much of the insurance process, making things faster, easier and cheaper for both the insurer and the buyer.

All well and good in terms of issuing a basic quote, but can machines deliver on more complex service?

Bill Wilson, former Associate VP of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America points out one important point of differentiation in what he calls the REAL customer experience: what an insured goes through following a loss. He points out that humans have the edge in such scenarios and notes that "traditional channels of agents and insurers have the opportunity to excel in a way a phone app never can." That's the good news. The bad news, according to Wilson, is that all too often we fail miserably. He talked about his own experience of filing his first auto claim in 50 years in his op-ed at Agency Checklists. Spoiler alert: mixed reviews.

Now, he points us to an even more compelling article on the same theme by Karlyn Carnahan in Insurance Thought Leadership: Customer Experience After the Camp Fire.

Karlyn walks us through the claims process with two big brand-name carriers that her sister experienced after a total loss of her home and business in the recent California fires. As head of head of the Americas Property Casualty practice for Celent, Karlyn is an informed observer. She found the process frustrating and offers her observations that the industry might learn. From the first notice of loss though the first adjuster contact to explanation of benefits, the process was slow and unfriendly, to a degree where the customer went from a feeling that "these people will help me" to "should a get an attorney?" Karen points out ways that the insurer might have improved the customer experience.

Her observations point to opportunities for agents to support, educate and advocate for insured in the event of a traumatic loss ... or really, any loss that is meaningful to the client. This can range from explaining coverage in clear, non-jargon language ways to providing a checklist of helpful and necessary steps not just to file the claim but also to recover from the loss. She says:

"You know what has to be done. Help your clients with a checklist both of insurance activities and of non-insurance activities. Give them a timeline of what to expect. Recovery is more than a check. And claimants generally have not had their home or business destroyed in the past. They don’t have basic information about what to do. Even as simple a checklist as “reroute your phone lines and get a P.O. Box” is good advice."

A series of recent customer satisfaction studies by J.D. Power shows that currently, customer reliance on and appreciation of the role that agents play is actually growing. That's good news, but it's not a given. Keeping that position will require keeping faith with the customer through superlative service -- particularly when clients need us most.

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