Posted on 20th November 2019 by Jo Lothian
Recruiting For The Unexpected: Be Prepared Before Disaster Strikes
With the arrival of November, disaster season in Australia has officially started, but climate changes mean natural catastrophes are arriving earlier and lasting longer each year. In fact, the drought Australia is constantly battling has turned much of our forests and green spaces into tinderboxes just waiting for a spark. Bushfires have already ravaged NSW once this year and emergency services are caught in a never-ending battle between one disaster and another.
Even much prayed for thunderstorms don’t bring total relief because the lightning that accompanies them could ignite new fires. Which is slightly ironic as a report published by Munich RE claims that tornadoes in the USA, severe thunderstorms in Europe and floods in Australia were the costliest natural disasters for the first half of 2019.
According to another report from Swiss Re, the largest insured losses were a result of secondary perils. These smaller loss events include things such as river and flash floods, thunderstorms, drought and wildfires, among others. But just because these so-called secondary perils are generally less severe than primary ones, doesn’t mean they’re any less devastating.
In fact, the single costliest insurance event of 2018 was the Camp Fire in California, which resulted in insured losses of US$12 billion. In Australia, the most costly event was the 1999 Sydney hailstorm which resulted in $5.6 billion in losses. What the recent spate of natural catastrophes has taught us is that when it comes to any natural catastrophe, speed is of the utmost importance in the insurance industry.
Anything that insurance agencies can do to prepare clients at risk from natural catastrophes before an event occurs and then expedite the claims process after the event will not only improve the clients’ experience, but reduce insurance losses in the long run. In order to cope with each event as timeously and effectively as possible, every single insurance agency and broker needs to have a catastrophe plan in place.
Your agency's plan will differ based on a variety of factors, but here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Before The Event
There are a number of steps every agency can take to prepare themselves for any natural catastrophes before they occur. While it is near impossible to ensure a completely claims-free disaster season, you can take steps to simplify the entire process as much as possible.
- Make sure all your hardcopy and digital records are backed up and stored in safe offsite locations, such as a secure cloud storage platform.
- Phone and email activity will spike right before an event, as customers will want to confirm their coverage for major perils and may want to know about specific properties/items. So coach employees on what can and can’t be said and shift their duties so all calls can be handled.
- Take the time to let customers know how to respond to and protect their property from natural disasters, and send out alerts with links to disaster preparation checklists as an event approaches. You can also create a step by step guide on each claim process, which will not only mean fewer phone calls from unsure clients after an event but will also give them an idea of how long the process might take.
- Set up multiple emergency contact systems that include email, phone and text. Text them to clients, send them in an email and post them on any social media platforms you may use. Also, inform clients of your post-event plans and how they will be able to contact you.
- Make sure your employees know all the information they need regarding claims handling post-event. In the case of a brokerage, this could mean different processes and forms for each insurance agency you work with.
- If there are any restrictions regarding the hiring of contractors and repairmen for any of the policies you sell, make sure that your clients are aware of these beforehand and remind them about them with any alerts and NatCat news you may send out.
- Develop and maintain a list of temporary staff available to assist well before disaster season begins. Often, the best option here is to work with a recruitment agency like MAYDAY Recruitment. They already have automated sourcing systems in place and can recruit the right talented candidates easier and more quickly than you would be able to.
After a natural catastrophe is when the hard work really starts for an insurance agency. One of the most crucial factors in staying ahead of the flood of claims resulting from any event is having a workforce ready and waiting to deal with the calls, paperwork, site inspections and everything else related to the claims process.
Some of the most important positions you will need to fill as quickly as possible are the following:
Call Centre Personnel
Many insurance agencies use a 24/7 remote telephone service that has access to a mirror of the agency’s database. They handle customer inquiries if their communications are down and also the huge spike in claims that may occur after an event.
If your agency doesn’t have this, you’ll need additional people answering phones and getting the claims process going. Dealing with the emotions that occur after an event can also strain your call centre staff, so having a standby team to take over when it gets too much is a wise decision.
Make sure staff have scripts available with every conceivable question they may be asked, and also an experienced agent who can assist with answering any questions that may not be covered in the scripts provided. Your clients will want them to be experts on everything from wind damage to replacing an entire household, so prepare your call centre staff for as much as you can.
Once emergency personnel have declared that it is safe to enter a disaster area, your agency will need to send out claims assessors or adjusters in order to inspect and report on the overall damage as well as confirm the details of individual claims. These assessors should be able to evaluate both the existing damage and also the potential risk of further damage that may result from the former if it is not repaired immediately.
Also known as claims examiners, claims specialists are often confused with claims assessors. But assessors are “boots on the ground” professionals who carry out physical inspections, while claims specialists perform a more administrative task that involves processing claims, reviewing insurance cases, verifying coverage and negotiating settlements based on information provided by the assessor.
They play a vital role after any natural disaster as they determine which claims are valid and the compensation each client is entitled to according to their policy.
Whether you have an interactive online claims system in place or not, the claims process involves a ton of paperwork. Forms that need to be completed in triplicate, updates to emergency contact details and temporary addresses for clients, sending follow-up letters to claimants to ease their mind that their claim has not been lost in the chaos and making sure the right documents are filed in the right place.
Remember that this may require additional computers or sourcing candidates with their own laptops/computers and providing temporary access to your agency management system (AMS).
Preparation and Teamwork Are Key To Surviving Disaster Season
As continued climate change means natural catastrophe seasons that last longer and are more intense each year, it is absolutely vital for Australians to have insurance that can help them mitigate the financial knock the unexpected may deliver. And when these disasters strike, it is insurance agencies who are providing the main resource needed to start the rebuilding and recovery process – capital.
Don’t let the disaster season destroy your reputation by making your clients wait for the relief they so desperately need. MAYDAY are here to partner with you and your teams to ensure that when the time comes, you will have access to the highly skilled individuals you need to handle post-catastrophe claims as quickly and smoothly as possible.