Fierce advertising and competition for premiums have forced insurance carriers to distinguish themselves by the level of customer service they can provide to the consumer. In this world of instant gratification, customer service standards are constantly being pushed to new heights. This is especially true on the claims side of the business. These days, it seems that the two most important criteria for satisfying insureds are a quick initial call and a prompt, adequate payment of the claim.
An innovative process for meeting these consumer needs has been the development of fast track claims handling. Fast track is a process whereby the adjusting firm employs a team of adjusters to handle claims directly with the insured by telephone, utilizing estimating software and construction knowledge to achieve an appropriate claim value. In catastrophe or high volume claim situations, fast track handling allows the carrier to resolve a large number of low to moderate-complexity claims in rapid fashion while still providing a professional product to the consumer. The claims are constructed and presented in current estimating software formats that can be transmitted electronically or by hard copy to both the insured and the carrier.
Although some level of trust is placed on the insureds to provide an appropriate scope of their damages, there are several advantages to employing a fast track unit. For the insured, the main benefit is that compensation for damages is obtained much more quickly. Under traditional claims handling, the insured could potentially spend days or weeks waiting for an adjuster or contractor to come out and inspect even a small claim. They would then have to wait for the adjuster to complete an estimate and get back to them to discuss settlement.
Under fast track handling, the insured is often able to provide a complete scope and resolve their claim in one phone call to the fast track adjuster. Even if the insured is not able to initially provide a proper scope, they are typically able to resolve the claim on a subsequent call shortly thereafter. Thus, while their neighbors may still be waiting on an adjuster, the insured handled through fast track already has payment in hand and can begin repairs.
Another benefit to the insured is that the process also allows them to participate in the resolution of their claim. Instead of an adjuster advising the insured what is damaged and how it will be covered, the insured takes some ownership in the settlement by presenting and discussing the scope with the adjuster. The insured then receives an itemized estimate explaining the damages and the basis for settlement. This ownership and understanding often alleviates the potential that the insured will pursue a supplement on the claim.
The insurance carrier greatly benefits through the efficiency by which a large number of claims can be resolved within a short period of time. This is especially invaluable during high volume claim periods when staffing is being stretched. An experienced staff of fast track adjusters can expect to resolve 1.3 claims per hour per adjuster, whereas an adjuster making inspections typically can only expect to conclude claims at just one-third of that same rate. In addition, the carrier’s field staff then has more capacity to focus on the more substantial claims that require inspections. Further, these claims are handled at a much lower cost and these savings quickly multiply during catastrophe situations.
Another carrier benefit is that fast track handling can operate on shifts running well into the evening, inclusive of weekends. The expanded hours allow a target hit rate of 88 percent settlement upon initial phone call and 92 percent total settlement rate, leaving 8 percent that will have to be routed to the field for an inspection. As such, the insureds are contacted at times often convenient to them, and claims are resolved outside the normal insurance carrier’s hours of operation.
I believe fast track handling will continue to grow in importance and efficiency as the claims environment becomes more computer-based and driven by customer satisfaction. As we all know, the insurance carrier is measured by how well it responds to the customer in a time of need. Fast track is tailored to help insurance carriers cost-effectively exceed these measurements and give insureds a streamline method of resolving their claim.
There is much more I could get into, such as reversing the insured’s premium bank draft information to directly deposit the insured’s settlement funds. However, we can save that for another article.
Scott Griffin is the founder and president of (ACI) Atlantic Claims based in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. Web site: www.atlanticclaims.com
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