Empty shelves. Empty streets. Curfews and concerns. The coronavirus has been a wake-up call for firms to carefully review the strategies and procedures currently in place to keep their policyholders and employees safe.
The nature of claims and catastrophe handling requires adaptability. When reports of travel restrictions, event cancellations, and social distancing recommendations began, we realized things wouldn’t be ‘normal’ for a while, but we were prepared. In fact, we were ready months ago.
We saw the potential for a major hurricane on the Gulf Coast disrupting claims handling. So our in-house Systems Operations team designed an all-new cloud-based network, allowing team members the agility to work from anywhere. We never could have guessed a global virus would be the first use of our new remote environment.
Our approach started with a secure, scalable environment with remote routes to our home campus network. All users were migrated to our cloud desktop environment allowing access from anywhere in the world, from any computing device. Next we moved all of our storage and server workloads to the cloud, adding real-time sharing and collaboration capabilities.
A robust cloud-based VoIP phone and video solution was needed to complete our design. We started testing and toward the end of 2019 migrated our team to a new system with voice, fax, SMS, messaging and video from anywhere on any device.
With the workforce able to fully function remotely we knew the user experience could be better, so we implemented a new Remote Monitoring and Management solution. We’re able to proactively monitor and address issues before the CNC team member sees it, regardless of where they are.
As restrictions on travel and public health guidelines rolled out, the discussion to implement working remotely company-wide was a matter of when to start, not how to do it.
While we watched the number of COVID-19 cases rise nationally, our Property, Flood, Auto and Fire teams conducted preemptive remote tests for individuals at home to ensure they had the appropriate systems and equipment for remote work. The team responded nimbly, with no major challenges, and we knew we were in great shape when the call would be made to ‘stay home.’
We made the difficult decision to postpone our annual CNC Summit, a popular conference designed exclusively for the adjusting community and scheduled for late April. We didn’t know what would happen over the next several months, but we knew postponing was the safest thing to do for our employees, adjusters, and community. We offered ticket purchasers a postponement option or a full refund. By the following week many other conferences had followed suit around the US, as the impact of COVID-19 continued to build.
Behind the scenes, our leadership team was paying close attention to reports coming out of the CDC and trying to determine when to take our entire operation remote. This included Claims, IT, HR, Marketing, Accounting, Operations, and of course Customer Service.
We had performed several remote tests with our desk adjusters while building the infrastructure over the course of the last year, but this would be the first time we took every single CNC team member completely outside of the office.
Our entire claims department was confidently working from home. Teams began daily video conferences and chat to conduct interdepartmental communications. Each team has adopted a different system to fit their specific needs.
For example, the CNC Fire and Auto teams meet virtually each morning. Once logged in they have their normal morning meeting that includes input from all participants. Once the meeting is over, they convert the conference to a digital office space, disabling their cameras and microphones but remaining together. Throughout the day when any of the team has a question or comment they only need to enable the microphone and all participants can hear and interact in the conversation. They have another organized discussion at noon and a final one in the afternoon. During the three planned meetings all participants are required to enable their camera. The mandatory camera use promotes interaction and ensures the team members are fully engaged.
For field inspections, we recognized the need to protect our adjusters and policyholders early on. We quickly activated our Virtual Team setup to work alongside the adjusters and equipped desk adjusters to take a larger, vital role in the claims process. This starts with the pre-inspection interview. Our enhancements provide a better customer experience and ease the concerns of the policyholder regarding a field inspection.
Accordingly, we compiled a list of recommended “best practices” for our adjuster community. This included steps like the pre-call where the policyholder is asked if they’re comfortable allowing an adjuster to enter their home. Should they feel uncomfortable, a Virtual Team member follows up with instructions on handling the claim virtually.
For the safety of all involved, adjusters must report any symptoms to CNC prior to inspection, and all adjusters are required to wear gloves and a facemask at this time. We stress the need to stay healthy and safe.
Our team has met and exceeded all expectations with zero interruption to claims operations. While things won’t be ‘back to normal’ maybe ever, we’re analyzing and working through challenges as they come, with the best possible preparation we have. We believe that quality infrastructure and amazing customer service is still a winning strategy, even during a global pandemic.
Virtual and remote work provides huge opportunity in the insurance adjusting industry but faces its own unique set of challenges. The right tools have to be in place, and the right team! Does it take getting used to, getting comfortable with a new way of working? Absolutely.
Besides the software needed to make all of this work efficiently, we’ve continually made sure each team member has up-to-date hardware such as monitors, laptops, hotspots, and connectors. A virtual claims handling platform is offered to policyholders as an option to get their claims done from afar, safely and securely, using their cell phone camera and microphone. Training remains a vital tool we offer to our adjusters. We have temporarily suspended all onsite training and pivoted to entirely virtual training. It’s been hugely successful, and adjusters love the feeling of connection when they log into a virtual class!
Lastly, we consider empathy one of the most important tools in our toolbox. We charge ourselves with stewardship to policyholders, taking care with each person and individual claim. Policyholders may be stressed during the claims process, more than they otherwise would be, and there is a general sense of confusion and uncertainty pulsing through the world right now. It’s an unprecedented time for everyone, but we are indeed in this together.