One firm argues that hi-tech tools may be overplayed, particularly
in the area of content claims handling.

By Doug Grieve

An ever-growing number of software and Internet tools are
appearing, designed to assist adjusters with handling content claims. Some insurers see
the move to the Internet and technology as the sole means to improve productivity, a way
to reduce the claims cost and settlement times. From on-line replacement services to
out-of-the-box software suites, it seems that the industry is constantly being bombarded
with new technology products to speed up the claims process. But it’s not yet proven
whether the technology can really deliver.

What we, as an industry, may have lost sight of is that the
software and technology designed to aid adjusters is merely a tool to help in the process.
Perhaps there are other areas that deserve a sharper focus. As an industry, we must
realize that if we do not take the time to assess and evaluate the loss from the beginning
we have lost the battle, and the inevitable delays will increase all costs related to the
claim. Rapid assessment of the claim details is the absolute most important factor related
to gaining control of the claim, and providing a timely resolution.

Claims assessment is still a people-related business. Has
this age of technology replaced our need to control claim severity or provide customer
service to our policyholders? Not in our experience. In fact, we find that a customer
service focus leads directly to a better understanding of client behavior. If service
delivery is good, policyholders will accept fair cash settlements that are consistently
lower than policy limits in our experience. Their main concern is to have an experienced
assistant as they face a complex problem (completing the itemized “schedule of
loss”) for which they have no experience and no access to data sources on market value.

As an industry, we must provide the time required to help
gather the claim details from our policyholders. This must be supported by research and
pricing of lost or destroyed items to determine and control replacement cost values. At
e-djuster we have discovered that the activity with policyholders requires carefully
trained people, with the right approach to a client in crises, as well as knowledge of the
methods and technology available to support the new process.

With the proper information in the beginning the adjuster
is in control of the cost issues, and able to process the claim details without waiting on
replacement information to be provided by the insured.

Settlement Options first, Replacement second

If we control the severity of the claim we will save a lot
more money than any discount, and won’t spend time going through an expensive
replacement process. Industry efforts on sourcing “replacement” often take our
focus off the need to arrive promptly at settlement values. Policyholders may not want to
buy from a discount store, or accept a drop shipment of goods. They want a fair assessment
of their loss and a timely resolution of their claim.

The reality of current market conditions and claims volume
shifts the role of adjusters to that of claim managers, responsible for servicing the
policyholder and managing various vendors involved in a claim. While software helps in the
efficiency of claims processing, it can’t take the place of the one-on-one customer
service expected by the policyholder. The traditional job of itemizing lost or damaged
items has, in many ways, been left to the policyholder. Software or no software, in order
to begin to settle a claim, adjusters need the claim information and can not afford to
wait for the policyholder to provide that information.

If the process is not working, technology will not provide
a solution to the problem. Rapid response, expert assistance, and provision of accurate
item values have been found to have a positive impact for policyholders and adjusters
– these are the things that lead to overall better financial performance for insurers.

Technology is just a tool in the background, supporting the
process. With the evolution of the Internet and retail vendors offering their goods
on-line we must be looking for ways to manage information and provide functionality that
can assist adjusters with their day-to-day processing of claims. Technology will be great
as long as it is combined with a strong service orientation and is used to make processes
more efficient.

Doug Grieve is the National Accounts Manager for e-djuster,
which provides on-site and/or on-line content assessment and services to adjusters and
policyholders. For more information call their Claims Line at 1-866-779-5950 or visit
online at

(reprinted with permission from Canadian Insurance – March 2001 Issue)