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Coronavirus: Keeping the contact centre claims journey alive at home

Coronavirus

A lot of the rules that dictate best practice in times of traditional weather surges also hold true now for the coronavirus pandemic, argues CET Property Assurance's Paul Wozencroft. Not least the need to utilise digital capabilities to connect everyone within the claims process while self-distancing.

The coronavirus pandemic and guidance to curb the spread of the virus will have highlighted the stark need to digitise the claims journey by having access not only to company policies, claims, supply chain and payment systems, but also access to integrated tools to run a successful contact centre remotely.

The reality is very different. Having caught up with many of our peers over the last couple of weeks, it seems many in the industry are dramatically behind in terms of its digital infrastructure and business continuity planning still relies on outdated systems, providing limited availability for business as usual activity.

The pandemic should alert us to the opportunity within our industry; to develop the digital capabilities to connect everyone within the claims process while self-distancing.

The pressure for claims businesses has come from getting their staff to the ultimate social distancing goal – working from home. Supply chains are under pressure to cobble together systems by using the best of what they’ve got, which includes relying heavily on diverting phone calls to home workers via their mobile phones. Dialling in remotely to a claims system is not new technology, however taking and controlling customer calls at home is not that common within many organisations.

The dilemma many in the industry are facing is that on the one hand, we want to have our people safe at home, but on the other we want to be available to customers. Without technology, you have to man offices to access a functional contact centre system, meaning an increase in the risk of infection.

When we were looking to develop our own digital capabilities, predominantly with surge management in mind, the scope of requirements seemed simple. The system needed to enable us to scale up our operation as quickly as possible in times of surge; utilise cloud technology so that colleagues could carry out duties from home including a fully functional management of phone traffic; and connect everyone within the claims journey with one system, creating a smooth feedback loop and the swift exchange of information.

As it turns out, these requirements are similar to what is needed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak in terms of operating a 24/7 home emergency claims service centre, as well as a network of thousands of contractors and engineers.

For customers, availability during a crisis has always been the priority. Any surge for the claims industry is usually in unprecedented circumstances – the recent UK flooding comes to mind – and being available, human-to-human, is crucial to helping customers to feel supported. Even if the claim is not urgent, at the very least by having someone to talk to, to register a claim or have an update, the customer’s need is satisfied.

Having a fully functioning contact system that is linked to policy/claims/contractor/customer files, that can be managed from the comfort of your own home on a basic laptop and headset, is going to be a part of many future business continuity plans. When we come out the other side of this crisis, the hope is that the industry will ramp up the digitisation of the claims process to include an integrated contact centre platform that can be accessed from home.

As well as building bespoke systems, the industry needs to consider further technologies in the workplace. Utilising the tools that are already available on the market (such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) will dramatically change the way that we work together.

Since moving to working from home, we’ve seen a host of benefits to our business and customers including people flexing their hours of work easily to meet demand, contact centre information and functionality remaining intact, no one being late to work (there’s little traffic on the stairs), home training of new talent has not halted recruitment and home working still allows us to see each other every day, including team meetings.

Coming out of this pandemic, we should all feel more connected to each other in different ways and we are pleased to see businesses getting into the neighbourly spirit that Covid-19 has inspired; helping each other out by sharing technology and techniques and I hope we see this continue.

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