Technology is speeding up the motor claims process like never before, with damage estimates by photo apps, virtual treatments online and eco-systems of third party companies helping insurers to make handling claims easier and quicker. IE spoke to Graham Pulford CEO at handl Group, and Chief Commercial Officer, Chris Chatterton to find out more.
IE; 2020 was a relatively quiet year for motor claims, do you see a return to normal in 2021 and what are the general trends affecting the market?
GP; Overall we have 13 separate businesses within the handl Group and there’s a synergy between them all – in the end, you are managing a supply chain with any claim, and each claim is slightly different too. If you take a sector like Expert Witness for example, you can see that it has to be virtual to match all the changes that have affected the Justice system over the last nine months or so, plus it has to be flexible and more on-demand, almost like Uber.
Whether we get back to normal traffic volumes on UK roads this year remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that insurers need a panel of expert witnesses in particular, specialised fields. The beauty of providing this online is that it allows you to see the history of the expert, as much as it can give you a viewpoint on the policyholders and anyone else involved in the incident.
CC; There are going to be some adjustments in the system this year as regards the impact of the Civil Liability Act, and that will affect all PI claims of course, but especially the lower value ones and how they are dealt with.
GP; Those changes which surround the Civil Liability legislation also offer a great deal of opportunities too. We could be looking at acquisitions later in 2021, and niche sectors like legal expenses look likely to change significantly by the end of the year.
IE; Covid has driven many people to get used to online GP appointments and so on, do you see more new technology affecting injury claims and rehab from a claimant point of view in 2021?
GP; Yes tech will be a very big trend this year, in every aspect of rehab and recovery. The great thing about apps for example is that they give the user a certain amount of control over the process, the patient can engage at their own pace, set goals and so on.
But although remote appointments and online rehab plans, or physio, can seem a bit distant, the use of technology does let people access a specialist more easily. So instead of waiting a week or two until the next physical appointment to see a treatment specialist and ask a question, the patient can find out information online much quicker if they have a particular concern. That’s going to be a big step forward in many PI claims.
CC; How people interact with technology is going to be a learning curve this year, for insurers, claims companies and the justice system. This is where we can make things work better overall in Claims, by analysing in detail how people adapt to digital services, and by making things flow naturally. We will always need face-to-face contact at key points in a complex motor claim but there is a benefit for insurers in understanding how people respond online too.
IE; So is insurtech really a streamlining process that reduces the cost of getting things done and adds value as a side-effect?
GP; One thing we have noticed in 2020 is that policyholders are now much more willing to use an arbitration service to settle matters, rather than let things drag on for months or years by battling things out in court.
Partly this was due to courts being closed of course, but there is a bigger picture here. If people feel that they are being heard, in-person or online, then they are happy to let someone make a decision on the claim. Now, the value of insurtech in those cases is huge, not just in terms of money being saved but also the reputational factor for the insurer.
Claims are the pinch point for many people and the time taken to settle them becomes a reason to take to social media and complain. Improving your brand online really can add value for insurers because insurance is founded on trust, so if you can utilise tech to build trust, then that’s got to be a better way.
CC; The court system backlog could actually get longer in 2021 as the return to office life, managing people in closed courtrooms etc. will remain a logistical challenge. We could see a big uptake in arbitration services this year as it becomes a default setting for many claims.
IE; Modern cars are packed full of ADAS systems, monitoring driving and offering useful insights after an accident too. Do you think that in-car technology will supersede some parts of the claims process eventually?
GP; In the end getting the car back on the road will always involve dealers and repair shops, so whatever the initial data suggests from the car’s tech systems, someone has to fix it, then recalibrate and test all those ADAS systems again. There is a battle for control going on in the car market as regards data, and manufacturers are in the strongest position since they design and fit the devices that gather so much data.
CC; There has been a great deal of progress in telematics too. In the early days of black boxes you could get some false positive readings, plus there was the issue of fitting them correctly, and two or three boxes being found on cars that had changed hands – and insurers. The modern telematics device is more reliable and it allows you to cross-reference the data gathered at the scene of an incident against what the in-car ADAS is telling you.
IE; What is the biggest single time-saver when it comes to motor claims?
GP; That has to be first-call resolution. The opportunity is now there to assess various sources of data, from in-car, to policyholder smartphone photos, and then make a decision on how the claim will proceed, often with minutes. Now in complex, or multi-vehicle claims, that might be the right way to do it, but most claims don’t involve injuries to the person and are
relatively low value. By reaching an agreement in that first phone call on who takes the car away, prices the work, supplies a hire car, and more, we can really save a huge amount of time further down the line.
For example, if you send the car to a repairer who hasn’t got staff trained in calibrating the latest ADAS systems, then you have wasted a load of time. And money too, because each transport of the car subsequently could cost another few hundred pounds per trip.
So the important thing is to have the right data available BEFORE that first contact with the policyholder. Having the car make, model, exact specification, any telematics being used, driver history etc. means that you enhance decision-making capability. You want to be able to direct the claims process with accuracy right from the start and that’s where the biggest potential for saving time, money and improving the customer experience all lies.