If I've learned one thing in my first six months here at Insurance & Technology, it's that there is an excellent pizza place on 5th Avenue, just around the corner from my office. If I've learned two things though, the second, after pizza, would be that big-time insurers consider their catastrophe response efforts a top priority.Companies like Travelers, State Farm, Safeco and Farmers have all made news recently by innovating in the area, as they consider CAT response as place where they can establish competitive differentiation. After all, you can't underestimate the value of one neighbor -- frustrated by his insurance company's slow response to a claim -- looking over the fence at another neighbor that's insured by a competitor and has already been visited by a mobile technology-equipped claims adjuster and [possibly] issued a check on the spot.
Leveraging Technology at Chubb
Warren, N.J.-based Chubb Group of Insurance Companies ($14 billion in revenue, 2006) is the latest carrier to tout its CAT response capabilities. Last week, the insurer announced that 95-percent of its insurance customers affected by strong April storms in the Northeast United States were "very satisfied" with how their claims were handled, according to a survey. More than 29 percent of Chubb claimants from the April storms responded to the survey, which assessed promptness, service, claims submission ease, damage assessment satisfaction and settlement fairness.
"The integration of our service center, field resources and preferred vendor networks enable us to quickly assess the level of expertise needed to assist the customer and engage resources that can help mitigate loss, minimize customer inconvenience and move forward with repair and restoration," says William Turnbull, Chubb senior vice president, claims.
Turnbull credits Chubb's two call centers, located in Chesapeake, Va. and Phoenix, Ariz., with jump-starting the response process by effectively handling the dramatic spikes in claims activity that accompany a catastrophe. When a catastrophe can be anticipated, a dedicated catastrophe manager helps ensure that Chubb-trained field adjusters are among the first on the scene by pre-positioning them just outside of areas likely to be affected.
In the field, Turnbull says recent technology purchases are helping to mobilize adjusters and make them more efficient. New to Chubb field adjusters this year are GPS units and cellular modem cards. Approximately two years ago, the organization equipped its adjusters with pen tablet PCs. The company declined to discuss the specific vendors or products it uses.
Previous to the tablet PCs, adjuster used laptops, which proved too cumbersome for catastrophe response situations.
"Imagine walking around a loss site with a laptop," Turnbull explains. "It's like walking around with an open pizza box. It's difficult to balance, measure a loss and enter data via the keyboard."
The laptops forced Chubb adjusters to operate in two worlds at once -- a electronic world for data entry and a paper-based world for diagrams and note taking. "The pen-based tablet PCs enable adjusters to electronically capture text, data, handwritten notes and diagrams by writing directly on the computer screen with an electronic pen. It further enables the utilization of software that takes advantage of the streamlined nature of drop down menus for easy point and click entry of information," Turnbull says.
At the end of the day, Turnbull says that the technology Chubb has deployed helps field adjusters process claims more efficiently, which in turn enhances the company's retention rates and creates new customer acquisition opportunities.
And that brings me back to my original point: big insurers are making catastrophe response a priority, you need only to search the recent issues of I&T to find that to be true. Yet while there are many large insurers innovating in this space, regional carriers are making less noise. So, I guess I'm wondering if CAT response is less of a priority for smaller companies, because I don't think it's an issue of capability.
Plymouth Rock Assurance, for instance, is a Boston-based auto insurer with $302 million in annual written premium with an impressive mobile claims operation. Checks are issued on the spot and appraisers can upload images and appraisals back to office-based adjusters in a matter of minutes. If Plymouth Rock can do that, then a similarly sized insurer that offers a wider array of P&C products should be able to compete with the big guys when it comes to CAT response.
So why don't I hear about it? Maybe it's a matter of priorities. Or maybe I just need to spend more time looking for smaller carriers innovating in CAT response and less time at the pizza joint around the corner.Warren, N.J.-based Chubb Group of Insurance Companies ($14 billion in revenue, 2006) is the latest carrier to tout its CAT response capabilities. Last week, the insurer announced that 95-percent of its insurance customers affected by strong April storms in the Northeast United States were "very satisfied" with how their claims were handled, according to a survey.