Supply and Demand – the changing face of customer service

Changes in customer demand, emerging technologies and an increasingly “connected” society have impacted the way the property insurance industry manages claims. Customers no longer expect to be kept “on hold” as they log a claim as suppliers use integrated systems to provide real-time updates. In this article, we explore how the customer journey is evolving and what the future holds for property insurance claims management.

They way in which we communicate has changed considerably in the past decade. Social media, smartphones, web chat and email have all become an integral part of the customer service experience and have helped to streamline the claims process.

This is not to say that the traditional service centre is a thing of the past. Human interaction is still essential when it comes to providing reassurance in an emergency and an automated system cannot be expected to aid every customer with every potential enquiry.

As technology has evolved, so have customer demands. In almost all aspects of life, we have come to expect an instant response. We can order items for same-day delivery, instantly log enquiries online or use apps to transact from mobile devices. Why shouldn’t this immediacy of service be available to customers when it comes to home emergency response?

At CET we have embraced new ways of working, while improving existing services. The development of our own smart phone app has helped address the demand for instant updates on claims and provides full visibility of the claim journey. Currently in use by our suppliers, we hope to make the app available to customers soon; so they can track their claims in real-time.

Suppliers that are using the app are able to log arrival times, confirm health and safety compliance, request replacement parts, gather customer feedback and automatically generate an invoice when the job is complete.

This way of working has enabled our claims process to become a lot more fluid and allows us to update the customer every step of the way. All information from the customer site is logged directly to the claims database; including photos captured pre-and-post work to support claims reporting and aid in dispute resolution.

Our ongoing investment in technology has helped us to add more value to our client relationships. Our client portal is a web-based service that provides our customers with real-time claims’ status updates. Not only does this provide transparency of the entire claims process, it also empowers agents with the tools and information they need to deliver an excellent customer experience.

Mobile applications, web portals, multi-media communications. Technology continues to impact on both customer experience and supply chain management. However, technology is not the only factor in customer service excellence.

Our people will always play a crucial role in delivering a consistently high standard of service. Whilst scalable IT and telephony solutions can help us to cope with sudden increases in customer demand - such as the high winds or flooding we saw across much of the North of England this winter – they are no substitute for an experienced call handler.

A home emergency can be a stressful time for our customers. They want to be kept informed throughout the claims process and expect a fast and effective resolution. Flexibility and empathy are important. Some of the more complex parts of a claim, such as an explanation of policy details, do not lend themselves to process automation.

There will always be a need for a 24/7 service centre. Home emergencies do not have office hours. No matter what time of day or night, when a claim needs to be logged, there will always be a person on the end of the phone.

Our ability to offer a 24/7 response is key to the service we provide to our clients. Some of the UK’s leading insurance companies come to us for a specialist outsourced service; one that features capabilities beyond what they are able to offer themselves. It is important to us that our customers are confident in our ability to handle large call volumes and seasonal variations whilst maintaining a quality service and faithfully representing their brand.

What does the future look like? As we move further towards the Internet of Things (IoT), we will see more and more connected devices. In an era of “home automation” self-regulating, self-diagnosing devices will be able to report issues directly to service centres; triggering either routine maintenance or emergency repair calls.

Do not think for a minute that this will make the traditional call handler redundant. There are, and always will be, elements of claims management that do not lend themselves to process automation. In fact, investment in people is going to be just as important as new technology.

In terms of what’s next, several sectors are already recognising the capabilities of home automation and controls. For example, a component such as a boiler could report a problem directly into a service centre as well as alerting the home response system to take steps in maintenance and repair, avoiding major issues if left and reducing repair costs. However, investment in people is just as important as the investment in technology and over the next five years it is predicted that employment will actually increase to accommodate the demand for convenience and human contact.

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