This blog was first published in PropertyCasualty360º.
An increase in natural disasters means insurers are seeing a surge in traumatized customers who must be handled with compassion and care.
The impact of climate change is no longer debatable. A McKinsey & Company report concludes that stronger and more frequent natural disasters “are destroying homes and businesses at record-breaking rates and putting entire food systems at risk.” Further, McKinsey warns that changes in global climate “are locked in for at least the next 10 years.”
For property and casualty (P&C) insurers, this means business-as-usual is insufficient. These companies no longer can afford to treat climate-related catastrophic events as isolated incidents. Numerous white papers have been published on the need for new pricing models, coverages and stress tests. The one component insurers should not lose sight of amid the upcoming surge of natural disasters is their client experience. They must develop permanent strategies to help clients whose homes, properties, and businesses are damaged by fires, hurricanes, floods, deep-freezes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters. Here are several strategies insurers should implement immediately to prepare themselves and better assist policyholders in their times of urgent need.
Be agile in the customer journey.
As a result of the surge in natural disasters, insurers are being inundated like never before with calls from traumatized customers seeking immediate help. These disaster victims, many of whom have lost homes, are facing a major crisis in their lives. To properly serve their clients, P&C insurers must be agile. They must ensure they have nimble and scalable infrastructure and support resources in place to respond immediately and effectively. Anything less compounds the distress for clients already disoriented and in shock.
To a great extent, this requires insurers to shift from static “client journey” maps to dynamic customer journeys, adaptable to the given circumstance. Typically, that involves developing different customer routes through the interactive voice response (IVR), moving more distressed clients ahead of the queue, servicing more transactional requests digitally, etc.
The existing static journey-mapping has proven to be insufficient because, for example, a person who might have lost her home in a blaze faces an entirely different circumstance than the client with an everyday problem, such as a car windshield crack or change of address request. In this case, agility might mean that insurers should give fire-affected clients fast-lane access to a claims expert so they don’t have to wait in a queue to speak to a human being who can help them.
When a natural disaster strikes, it is essential that insurers are properly staffed to help clients affected. Further, these support staff professionals must be trained to respond with not just knowledge – though critical – but also with empathy.
Focus on empathy.
First and foremost, insurance is an empathy business. For example, when family members whose home was destroyed by a tornado are standing in a parking lot of the local strip mall trying to figure out where they will sleep that night, insurers must respond as fast as possible and interact with those clients in a way that conveys an understanding of the trauma they are enduring. The clients are going through more than just being without a home. Chances are they might have their children next to them – scared, hungry, and thirsty, or just bearing enough of the day. How their insurer responds on that call matters. Support agents cannot sound as if they are reading robotically from a script.
Create an ecosystem to provide additional services beyond traditional coverage policies.
Another thing insurers should consider for clients affected by natural disasters is providing additional help beyond what the policy might cover. Create a “wow” effect for the customer by giving them an extra service. This could be a vendor gift card to buy food or clothing, or connecting them with preferred services by a contractor, additional data and mobile minutes or, even before a disaster happens, access to a disaster preparedness service.
These kinds of additional services require P&C insurers to build and maintain an ecosystem of partners that can step in when needed if disaster strikes. The value of these services extends far beyond addressing the immediate situation and can lead to grateful policyholders developing lifelong loyalty to the insurer.
Climate change has unfortunately created a new normal for insurers and their clients. Natural disasters are only going to become more frequent. By being agile, dedicating staff, ensuring empathy in the service and offering options beyond coverage, P&C insurers can better serve their clients while strengthening their businesses.