Diary of an Insurer: Sedgwick’s Kristina Bahari

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Kristina Bahari, customer care specialist at Sedgwick, kicks off 2024 by helping those whose homes have been damaged by Storm Gerrit and juggles the school run with helping a customer with medical difficulties find suitable temporary accommodation.

Kristina Bahari, Customer Care Specialist, Sedgwick

Monday

This particular week starts on New Year’s Day. After a busy Christmas, I am making the most of the bank holiday and heading back from a day out with my family in the Cotswolds. 

As I travel back north with my seven-year-old son, I am already thinking about the work I’ll be doing over the coming week. 

The area devastated by Storm Gerrit, which saw a small tornado tear through parts of Greater Manchester, falls under my remit. I’ve already begun handling claims from affected customers since the storm first hit on 27 December.

When I get home I catch up on emails and make sure everything is in place for me to hit the ground running the next day, including making sure I have the right personal protective equipment to stay safe in severely damaged loss sites.

Tuesday

old woman destroyed house disaster insurance

I travel to one of the worst affected areas – Stalybridge – in the early hours. Often, what’s reported in the news isn’t always the site you walk into, so I’m always keen to arrive early to assess the situation beforehand. 

In this instance the damage to certain properties on the street was worse than expected – with hazards such as burst pipes, flooding and roofs with exposed gables presenting serious concerns.

This is where the priorities of my job come into focus: the specialist support required for the anxious and distressed customers who have the most serious of circumstances. 

My role is first and foremost to provide these customers with reassurance and guidance as well as assessing the damage and sourcing repairs from suppliers. With customers experiencing a range of difficulties, no one claim is the same, so it’s crucial to see the human side of the story while managing the claims process.

As it is my first day on site, before we finish we have to make sure that all displaced customers had access to temporary accommodation. 

This can often prove difficult due to limited housing supply in the wake of major losses, but after some long negotiations with landlords and hotels we were able to secure all the accommodations needed, and I log off for the evening at around 7pm.

Wednesday

A group of people sitting in a social club enjoying an alcoholic drink while playing a game of bingo together in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. The main focus is one woman holding her bingo card in the air and calling

Today involves making sure that customers are settled into their accommodation, and answering any questions they have regarding next steps.

I have to do the school run but am very much in work mode at the same time, so once I’d sorted everything at my end I needed to crack on with checking on all of the customers I was responsible for in the area.

One issue we had was that a customer had medical difficulties that meant she could no longer stay in her temporary accommodation past the end of the week, and we have to act quickly to resolve the issue. 

Fortunately we manage to get what she needs from her damaged property and arrange for her to move into a longer-term rental. 

This is one example of the ways in which each customer’s claim and their circumstances are unique, and often require solving individual challenges which are particularly important when vulnerable customers are affected.

Working in my particular line of work often involves supporting people when they’re at their lowest. This makes what we do so important and at times incredibly rewarding, but it can also be emotionally exhausting. 

This is why when I get the chance I like to look after myself by switching off in the evenings. We’ve just adopted a Shiba Inu called Jazz, who is amazing at helping me decompress after a challenging day, and I also like to unwind by going to the bingo – which sometimes get a laugh when I tell people in the office.

Thursday

woman standing in front of burned out house and holding her head with both hands

As the week progresses, we continue to ensure our vulnerable customers are being looked after properly. 

Some want to re-enter their properties to recover some of their items, which can sometimes be impossible due to safety concerns when the building has become unstable. 

This can lead to difficult conversations with customers, but we always do everything in our power to take the right precautions and retrieve everything we can.

I speak with a customer whose close relative had passed away some days earlier. She wants her family member to wear a specific outfit for his funeral. Given her property had been directly hit by the tornado, the ceiling had caved in and water was everywhere, meaning it was unsafe for her to enter. 

Luckily one of our surveyors manages to retrieve the outfit in time for the funeral. It means a lot to her – it’s times like this when you really do see the positive impact your work can have.

Friday

Sad man on ruined house. Hopeless, homelessness, result of military conflicts and natural disasters concept.

At the end of the week I need to make sure all my vulnerable customers are properly looked after. 

This is where the administration side of the job comes in. Although I spend a lot of time on site and in person with customers, on a Friday I review my files and make sure I’ve spoken to all the customers I need to and that I’m up to date with all of their situations and needs.

It’s also crucial to have regular check-ins with vulnerable customers, so they know they’re being heard, and that things are moving along. 

A lot of customers have issues with technology and don’t own a phone. These customers prefer written letters, so part of my every day is typing these up and getting them out for next-day delivery.

When my working week is done, I’m often found in one of my local area’s parks or green spaces walking the dog, before I’m ready to do it all again the next week.

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