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New ways of working: Digital tools add value to large and complex claims

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Authored by AXA XL Claims Practice Leader, Property & Construction, Asia, Brian Weifu Yang and First Party Team Leader, Spain, Guillermo Hoces Hurtado

Remote claims technology is helping make claims handling faster and more flexible, according to Brian Weifu Yang, Claims Practice Leader, Property & Construction, Asia and Guillermo Hoces Hurtado, First Party Team Leader, Spain.

The insurance industry has long been digitising its claims offering, using drones and virtual surveys to assess claims remotely, and artificial intelligence to streamline processes. However, the pandemic has given digitalisation a boost, with greater awareness of the benefits and more acceptance of technology.

At the start of the pandemic, insurers and clients had to quickly switch to digital tools in the absence of face-to-face meetings, the main form of communication for large and complex claims. While initially a challenge, the shift from a physical meeting environment to remote tools helped maintain high levels of claims service throughout lockdowns and restrictions.

Fast forward two years, and remote tools have demonstrated their value. Face-to-face interaction is making a welcome return to the commercial claims arena, but digital tools continue to support and enhance the claims process, giving clients greater choice and more flexibility.

Proven benefits in various situations

Digital tools had to be used during the pandemic, when lockdowns and travel restrictions limited the movement of the specialist claims professionals required to handle certain large and complex losses. In such cases, AXA XL’s claims teams, together with our appointed international loss adjusters, were able to use technology to carry out surveys virtually and conduct complex negotiations remotely.

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For example, we successfully used remote survey technology to conduct a preliminary assessment of a large fire loss at a plastics manufacturing plant in Southeast Asia during the pandemic. By using digital tools, we were able to assess the damage first-hand before the site was cleaned up and were able to progress the claim process faster than would have previously been the case.

For a recent aviation claim in Spain, we instructed the adjuster to carry out a remote claims assessment of a damaged aircraft engine. The adjuster worked quickly with the insured to assess the damage via a remote video survey, and following a second survey, was able to complete the release report in little over a month after being instructed.

Remote technology, including drones and satellite imagery, have also proved invaluable in disaster situations, such as floods and wildfires, where access is limited, and where on-the-ground claims resources are likely to be stretched. Digital tools enable insurers to quickly get a handle of the extent of damage, allowing them to allocate valuable specialist resources and make intermediate claims payments were appropriate.

Rapid response and restitution

One of the biggest benefits of digital claims solutions is the speed of response. Technology can help insurers establish an almost immediate connection with clients and support them through the claim process. Using digital tools, insurers can quickly carry out a preliminary assessment of the loss and help businesses get back up and running as fast as possible.

A fast response is essential for a swift recovery. The quicker an insurer can assess the damage; the sooner clients will receive financial support and advice. In the case of the fire loss in Southeast Asia, the client was able to clear the site and start restitution a week earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

Early intervention and mitigation can help clients to restart their activity quicker and limit the extent of damage and business impact, in particular business interruption. Every day shaved off a business interruption can have significant reputational and financial benefits, especially in high value industries where daily output can be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or where customers depend on the supply or products or services.

At your convenience 

Face-to-face interaction will remain central to large and complex claims, and is likely to be the preference for many clients. However, more and more clients are choosing to make use of digital claims tools, seeing the value in the speed and convenience of virtual meetings and surveys. Digital tools can help save valuable time by reducing the need for unnecessary travel, as well as potentially giving more timely access to claims professionals and specialists.

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Digital tools have been shown to provide an efficient way of handling certain non-complex claims, accelerating the insurer’s response and shortening claim handling cycle-time while freeing up an insurer’s resources to focus on other value-added claims services. The appropriate use of technology can help reduce frictional costs of claims, as well as help control the overall cost of claims through expedited loss mitigation measures.

While offering benefits to clients and insurers alike, remote tools do have their limitations, however. The experience of using remote technology during the pandemic showed it is not always possible to accurately assess the extent of damage and advise the best course of action. In one claim, a physical examination revealed that damaged equipment could have been repaired in situ, a fact not picked up by a preliminary virtual survey.

Digital claims journey

Remote claims assessment is only part of the wider digitalisation of insurance. Insurers continue to explore technology solutions that improve quality of service, mitigate costs and support a tailor-made approach to claims resolution and client relationships.

Several digital tools are currently in-development within the commercial insurance space, including the use of artificial intelligence to assess damage and calculate claims settlements. Although still in its trial stages and focussed on high-frequency low-value claims like motor, such solutions may one day be applied to claims in other lines of business. AI is also being used to automate and streamline claims processes and will increasingly reduce the burden of administration for clients, with fewer –and more targeted– questions and increased transparency.

Technology accelerator

Digitisation will make for exciting times for large and complex claims. The pandemic has opened minds to new ways of working and demonstrated the potential benefits for insurers and clients of embracing remote technology. Expect to see further developments and more tools that will improve the claims experience and increase choice for clients.

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