When Sun Prairie, Wisc.-based General Casualty upgraded its relationship with First Notice Systems (Boston) last fall to include the call center service outsourcer's water damage referral program, it was the latest development in a seven-year relationship. While much attention is given to offshore outsourcing, onshore relationships are a tried-and-true feature of the insurance industry economy. And as the case of General Casualty's relationship with First Notice demonstrates, outsourcing is not only a means of unburdening an insurer of non-core functions but also of acquiring the ability to deliver services that would otherwise remain out of reach.
Before commencing its relationship with First Notice, claims were reported directly to agents, who notified the carrier in turn. A quick response to a claim typically depended on an agent being in his office and available to receive the call. "There are many times when that's not possible, especially after business hours, on weekends or even during business hours when agents are busy," says Dick Kuzenski, director of claims, General Casualty Insurance Co. ($1 billion in annual premium). "So we felt we needed to provide a service to our insureds where they could call and report a claim any time of day, especially for those claims that required immediate service."
General Casualty decided that it was worth investing in providing a call center service so that its customers could report claims directly to the insurer. "We value that our customers get quick service, and it's also, the sooner a claim is reported, the sooner we can react to it and control costs," Kuzenski observes.
However, providing the service internally would have been costly -- in time, money and human capital. "We're not in the call center business, so we recognized that building a call center and staffing it for 24 hours required a skill set, technology and experience that we didn't have," remarks Kuzenski. "We went looking for someone who did and saw First Notice as the best out there at that time."
Upon taking General Casualty policyholders' calls, First Notice's call center representatives focus first on the well-being of the caller, then seek to get as much information up front for processing the claim. The system generates a claim number for the case, and the claimant is told what to expect, and in what time frame, as a follow-up to the call. Important phone numbers are provided and a claims adjuster is immediately assigned to the case.
The value of the solution is not only in expanding what General Casualty can do for its customers, but doing so quickly, according to Kuzenski. "If I had asked to have [call center capability] done internally, it would probably have taken a lot longer because of other priorities and commitments, both for IS and other sections of the company," he says. "We were able to call First Notice about the idea and implement it in a very short period of time."
Starting last October, First Notice began referring qualified General Casualty policyholders on a 24/7 basis to home cleaning and restoration contractors specializing in water damage mitigation. Once the calls are received, the claim data is electronically transmitted to both General Casualty and the assigned vendor. The vendor then locates the franchise within its network to respond to the job and call back the policyholder within one hour. The assigned vendor will then arrive at the loss site within four hours. The quick response limits the extent of damage by preventing the development of mold and other water-damage-related problems.
The results so far have been "probably better than we expected," Kuzenski says. "It's been a good solution for all sides -- for the insured that get the quick response; for the insurance company, because it minimizes the loss; and for First Notice, because they now have something additional to offer besides just taking the loss."
Kuzenski says that General Casualty is currently looking at the possibility of receiving claims via the Internet, a capability that First Notice currently offers. Other possible next steps include expanding automobile accident response capabilities, according to Kuzenski.
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