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Waiting on the Customer

Crafting a cost-effective customer-centric claims environment takes a calibrated combination of high-tech and high-touch solutions.

Waiting on the Customer

Claims service is both one of the most important and most difficult tasks for insurers. A good combined ratio depends on spending as little on claims as possible, but overall success requires coming through for the customer in his moment of need. Technology continues to provide better means of crafting a claims environment that can deliver the level of speed, quality of service and fairness that customers increasingly expect. But to be effective, the high-tech element of claims service must go hand in hand with a high-touch approach.

Mysterious Process

Historically, one of the most unpleasant features of claims handling, from the customer's perspective, has been the opacity of the process. Once customers submitted claims, there was little clarity about exactly how and when they would see results. "Customers view claims as a sort of black hole," says Michael Costonis, a partner at consulting firm Accenture (Chicago). "Claims professionals need the kinds of capabilities that will help them demystify the process - keeping the customer informed and moving the process along - all the while protecting the financial stability of the company."

Budgets can differ greatly from insurer to insurer, but all carriers should strive for excellence in three areas: interaction, execution and insight, Costonis counsels.

In the first case, customers should be free to interact with their insurer and agents through the channels of their choice, be that phone, fax, e-mail or face to face. Secondly, carriers need to execute well, based upon accurately anticipated customer expectations. "It's performing essential claims tasks, whether arranging a preferred provider or organizing a site visit, or whatever else fits the customer," Costonis explains. "It's being able to organize and manage that to a high standard, leaving the customer with a positive feeling about the interaction."

But, within Costonis' view of customer-centric claims handling, the carrier's ability to meet those expectations also depends on excellence of insight. "If I'm going to have excellence of interaction, I need to understand who the claimant is; I need to have their policy information available to me, and I need to have the tools that will allow me to actually execute service practices."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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