With tropical storm Ana forming east of Bermuda on May 23, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season began about a week earlier than its official start date of June 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts the season will be above normal with up to 20 named storms, including three to five major hurricanes. While we hope forecasters are wrong, Nationwide Claims is prepared to serve our customers whenever and wherever disasters happen.
One of the biggest challenges all insurers face when responding to widespread disaster is access to impacted areas. Local infrastructure is usually severely disrupted, and hazards like flooded streets and downed powerlines are significant safety concerns. But in 2020, with necessary COVID-19 protocols and record-breaking catastrophe events, we proved that remote inspection tools can increase the speed at which we connect with our customers, reduce the time to inspect their property and cut the time it takes to get them an estimate. With the accelerated adoption of remote claim handling, our strong customer satisfaction results remain steady.
Pre-COVID, we used virtual claim handling tools and tactics on 50% of homeowner losses. In 2020, we expanded our use of remote capabilities to manage 93% of homeowner claims virtually. Not only do these remote tools speed up the claim process for customers, they allow us to handle multiple loss events, like hurricanes or wildfires, with claim professionals across the country, improving our availability and response times for customers. Utilization of remote settlement tools has also reduced reliance on independent adjusters.
Speed and Connection
During user experience conversations with our customers, they tell us they value speed and communication during a claim above all else. With the traditional way insurers respond to catastrophes by deploying large numbers of claim professionals into the region, these customer-centered priorities are sometimes lost in the complexity of mobilization. With expanded use of remote inspection tools, customers are at the center of the claim experience by contacting them quickly, keeping them informed and partnering with them to settle their claim in a fast and reassuring way.
From their desks, adjusters can use remote tools to collaborate with customers via video to evaluate interior damage and ask questions. Cutting-edge technology also allows homeowners to take 8-12 smartphone photos of their home that can be used to obtain a 3D rendering of roof and exterior elevations that include accurate measurements of roof pitch, windows, surface areas and other openings. Adjusters can additionally order ariel imagery of the roof and call on ladder inspection vendors to capture additional information as needed. In addition to these remote inspection options, two-way texting enables quick and easy conversations between the claim associate and customer. This capability supports images and files to be shared through text and directly uploads them to the claim file, keeping the claim moving forward.
Responding with the right approach
When we compare our handling of CAT events during first quarter of 2021 to the same time period in 2020, our customers saw a significant improvement in key performance metrics related to average days to contact, inspect and complete an estimate.1 New low/no touch automation and artificial intelligence capabilities are anticipated to further reduce these cycle time measures.
During catastrophes, we’ll still send large loss experts from our national catastrophe team into impacted areas to inspect damage, collect information and meet with customers. This includes a drone adjuster team that can capture and send aerial footage to desk adjusters to expedite the inspection process of multiple loss events. We’ve also invested in two new mobile response vehicles for 2021 where we can process claims, perform onsite auto inspections, answer questions and offer humanitarian support.
New digital payment capabilities have also been added to get payments to customers faster.2 Aside from traditional payment choices, we now offer the ability to issue digital disbursements via JP Morgan Chase Portal, Zelle and EFT/ACH transfer. Capabilities also exist to issue direct payment to an On Your Side Property Repair Network vendor with customer consent.
You can be confident that Nationwide will go the extra mile for your customers, and we are prepared to respond during this year’s summer storm season. Our claims professionals are ready to assist virtually and onsite with the empathy and care that is core to Nationwide’s mission.3