In 2015 we issued a three part series on the challenges facing the industry in relation to Schedules of Rates (SoRs) and Scoping for claims validation and management. In Part 1 of this series we discussed the issues that the property insurance industry faces with the plethora of Schedules of Rates (SoRs) it has created. In Part 2 we turned our attention to the challenges that the claim validation scoping and surveying models are creating and what this means for the future of our industry. We also considered the impact of the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 and how it affects the industry. And in Part 3 we looked at the feedback we had for Parts 1 and 2 and talked about how the future should look.
Since then the debate has continued (recently there was a lot of debate on social media about SoRs) and the MA Group has introduced new products and services designed to address the issues we raised in 2015 about claims validation and management. We have “put our money where our mouth is”, so we thought we would update you on what we have achieved and how it has all worked out so far.
Following our Primary Authority advice (see below), our opinion pieces and all of the data we have gathered over the years, we felt compelled to try and make a difference – to “put our money where our mouth is”. All of our investments in new products, technology and services have been carried out with the Primary Authority advice in mind as well as the feedback we have received from customers through our NPS and detractors process. We have invested in:
Primary Authority advice
In 2015 we wanted to understand the law in relation to consumer rights a little better, so we set up a Primary Authority partnership with Northamptonshire County Council to consider the implications for claims validation and management in relation to the new consumer rights regulations. This advice sets the framework for Trading Standards Authorities all over the UK for consumer complaints in relation to property insurance claims.
The two key pieces of legislation that were addressed were The Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the findings were significant.
An omission of information or misleading statements given to consumers can be a criminal offence if they cause the consumer to take a transactional decision they would not otherwise have taken. When information is given to a consumer it should be sufficient for the average consumer to take an informed transactional decision. Specifically, a criminal offence could exist if:
It is not sufficient to assume that a consumer is aware of all of the facts and information that has been provided to them, e,g, the details of a policy document, particularly in relation to vulnerable groups. A misleading omission can occur if a consumer is not “average” and is unable to make an informed transactional decision with the information provided to them at the time of the survey and/or cash settlement.
A breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 could occur when a surveyor is not given sufficient time on site to ensure that the work is carried out with reasonable skill and care and within the terms of the insurance contract. Where the consumer suffers a loss as a result (e.g. an under-valued cash settlement and/or inadequate repair works) and a suitable remedy is not provided by the insurer, damages can be awarded through the Courts.
MA Group Price Book
Our Part 1 opinion piece, Schedule of Rates – a SoRe point, argued that there are too many SoRs in the industry. There are so many SoRs used in the property insurance sector that making a comparison of SoRs is very difficult. And the existence of so many SoRs, combined with the cost and time pressures that surveyors face, creates the perfect environment for excessive use of provisional sums and therefore perceived inaccurate scoping – leading to poor claims experiences for customers and inaccurate reserving.
We asked why the property insurance industry doesn’t use one consistent SoR, like other industries involved in construction (such as Local Authorities). There is no competitive advantage to be gained for an insurer by designing and using a SoR from scratch when there are already suitable, well-researched SoRs that can be used. If the industry used just one SoR then progress can be made by all insurers to provide that seamless experience that customers want for claims validation and management.
So we decided to develop one SoR suitable for the whole property claims reinstatement industry. In 2015, with the help of The National Schedules of Rates (NSR), we analysed several years of our own data, identified where the majority of spend takes place and issued a new SoR called the MA Group Price Book. The aim of this project was to:
With only 600 line items we designed the MA Group Price Book to deliver scopes where scheduled line items accounted for 80% of spend (volume and value). The Price Book includes all of the documents and information required to ensure an insurance claim is scoped accurately, with no ambiguity, minimal use of provisional sums and with little variability on cost.
The Price Book provides clarity to all parties in understanding what is and isn’t included within the schedule of rates. It was designed to provide best practice on how to scope insurance claims and what information is required for property claims validation and management.
More accurate scoping and reserving is achieved when scheduled line items are used rather than too many provisional sums. Also, a fair set of simple rates also allows the contractors to scope their work fairly and efficiently, without having to interpret many different line items and sometimes getting it wrong.
Since we published our opinion piece on SoRs more of our clients have decided to use the MA Group Price Book and are seeing the benefits. It is also interesting to see that others in the property insurance supply chain have decided to turn to NSR for help with SoRs as well.
The Price Book is performing as designed and expected. Those clients using the Price Book are seeing less than 20% of the indemnity spend as provisional sums, compared to up to 33% for the other clients. In addition, the average claim value is up to 22% lower for claims using the Price Book compared to some clients that don’t use the Price Book.
We are also seeing the benefits of the Price Book in Virtus. These fair rates are accepted by multiple industries and reduce the costly rework and complaints which can be damaging to a brand. We are seeing much quicker settlement times due to less rework and fewer challenges to the settlements, and we are seeing even loss assessors reducing their valuations because the rates are fair and transparent.
But the SoRs are only part of the problem, commercial models have a big role to play as well. Our clients use many different models and we have a lot of data that demonstrates how well or poorly each model performs – please get in touch if you would like more information.
Different commercial models drive different behaviours in the supply chain and a client’s fixed SoR drives one set of behaviours which is different to those delivered by another SoR. Scoping the quantum of a claim is subjective and variable, and different indemnity claim values will be created by different SoRs.
A clients fixed SoR allows cost control only though scope validation, which can be subjective, but other models can create incentives to carry out reinstatement works in a much more cost effective way. Being able to negotiate terms with individual suppliers based on geography, volumes and payment terms not only creates better cost outcomes but it can also give us the tools to motivate the supply chain to prioritise MA Group’s work and deliver a better claims experience to the customer.
The claims management fee model used by many insurers provides little incentive for the supply chain to minimise indemnity spend, however a model that shares risk and reward amongst all parties creates much better outcomes for all involved.
In our Part 2 opinion piece, Scope for Improvement, we were critical of the surveyor led model particularly in relation to consumer rights and cash settlements. We believe there is a role for surveyors in the property insurance industry if it’s done well, but we have also argued that surveyors can create delays in the reinstatement process due to the high level of under-scoping and the resulting need for multiple variations. A surveyor does not have the time or the incentive to foresee works that may not be obvious during a 20 minute survey.
We were also concerned about consumer rights and, in light of the findings of the Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017 survey where half of customers admitted they didn’t fully understand their insurance policies (see below), we are still concerned. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 puts real scrutiny on the information provided by businesses that the consumer relies on in their decision/buying process. And as our Primary Authority advice makes clear, it can be a criminal offence if an insurer, or a party acting on behalf of the insurer, assumes that a consumer is aware of all of the facts and information that has been provided to them, such as policy details.
By including an additional party into the supply chain, regular and clear communication and a seamless experience become more difficult as the customer doesn’t understand the process and generally doesn’t know who to contact and when. These are two “innovative” ideas that customers in the Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017 survey said they wanted (see below).
Investment in technology can help alleviate the challenges on inconsistent scoping and improve the customer experience by enabling better communication and information sharing amongst many parties. So we decided to invest in technology to tackle some of these issues.
Scoper is our cutting edge mobile surveying and validation app which is being used by Virtus surveyors and some of our contractors out in the field. It is designed to minimise job lifecycles, ensure accurate scoping and validation and improve the customer experience. Its built-in efficiencies allow the surveyor or operative to spend more time collecting key information and preparing scopes, whilst still engaging with the customer effectively.
The surveyor can build an accurate schedule of works using any agreed SoRs through a clear and easy-to-use process.
Scoper integrates with our Pulse claim management system so claim and client information, including the correct SoRs, are uploaded into the app saving time on site. The final report and the detailed schedule of works integrate back into Pulse once the surveyor has finished on site and has transmitted the information back to the office – no re-keying or end of day report writing for anyone. Voice to text data capability ensures fast and efficient report writing, and video capture with voice over and written annotations allows comprehensive capture of damage and causation.
Data collection abilities are cutting edge. Not only does Scoper collect dimensions and photographs, it also collects video footage and voice recordings to ensure that relevant details are gathered effectively to validate the claim. Voice recordings and video footage can also be used to monitor surveyor performance and to ensure they are complying with consumer rights laws.
The information, videos and photographs gathered can be used to illustrate and explain decisions to the customer, making sure they fully understand the outcome and the next steps moving forward. Cash settlements can be agreed on site with the customer and the surveyor can use the app to explain the valuation and to provide an unpriced schedule of required works to help the customer arrange their own repairs if they want to.
This technology is helping us deal with the scoping issues set out above, and it generates a comprehensive report with information that can be easily transferred to all parties involved in the claim – this includes information on the customer’s vulnerability, personal circumstances and any other issues that will affect the progress of the claim. All of this is collected quickly and easily through the app while the surveyor is on site. As the surveyor is often the first person on site, we believe it is important for him or her to capture as much information as he or she can to help the claim progress smoothly for all parties involved.
The app frees up the surveyor’s time to talk to the customer and explain the process and options available, whilst collecting comprehensive data and scopes that aid accurate validation and scoping and the claims validation and management process .
Feedback from surveyors has been incredibly positive:
“Your software is spot on, it supports an effective way of working, allowing me to get on with my job and spend more time looking at the damage and also speaking to the customer”.
It is too early to see the results on variations but we can certainly see the positive impact it is having on the Virtus Validations business.
Set up towards the end of 2016, Virtus aims to be the first choice in independent building validation solutions by providing the best customer experience, accurate validations and fair settlements. The business and processes were designed with the Primary Authority advice in mind, ensuring that consumer rights are not infringed by our validation and cash settlement process.
The Virtus service puts the customer at the heart of the claims process:
Virtus has been signing up new clients of all sizes this year and the operational results have been exceptional. Virtus and its surveyors have been consistently achieving NPS of over 75% on a return rate of 70%. And remarkably the NPS exceeds 75% even for claims that have been declined.
All of Virtus’s clients have been using the MA Group Price Book and are seeing much quicker settlement times and fewer complaints and reworking. Every time a claim is touched by the client or supplier creates additional cost, so having a transparent process that stands up to any challenge regardless of the route the customer chooses, cash or BRN, ensures there is a fair and swift conclusion with next to no rework.
Virtus makes full use of Scoper and has benefitted from the efficiencies it brings. It has also enabled Virtus to monitor the performance of surveyors and to incentivise them to deliver a great service – Virtus surveyors are actually paid a small bonus per survey after three months if there have been no issues with their performance on a claim.
The combination of Scoper and the MA Group Price Book means that Virtus’s average lifecycle for claims is just 3.8 working days. The cutting edge technology and the fair and transparent process and rates means that there is little rework, re-keying or complaint management by the surveyors, Virtus claims handlers and the insurer’s staff.
Virtus have also been nominated for several awards this year, mainly for their use of technology.
Examples of quotes from customers are: “Everything has been super!” “Say thank you to Darren for yesterday, he was ever so lovely.” “Thank you very much for your help, it’s been great.” “Thanks for ringing so quickly…that’s lovely.”
One of Virtus’s recent new clients had this to say:
“The transition was a very smooth one for us, our handling staff have been greatly impressed with the service and reports. The detail is excellent and supports them when needed.”
Home Insurance Repair Estimator (HIRE)
In times of surge, it is incredibly difficult to deploy surveyors and process claims through to cash or reinstatement quickly enough, no matter how well prepared the insurer and supply chain. And in BAU times it is not cost effective to send out a surveyor to scope and validate smaller claims.
As the Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017 survey found (see below), customers want a variety of options to communicate with insurers and regular, clear communication and a claims process that is clear and easy for them.
We have developed HIRE, an online self-service tool that allows the customer to submit all the information required for a claim and generate a claim settlement value. For many customers managing their own claim in this way is very attractive. Ideal for smaller claims, HIRE collects information and photographs on the property claim and creates a priced schedule of works that can be used for desktop validation or cash settlements.
This easy to use service is convenient for customers as a self-service tool. It is designed to help them prepare a comprehensive report for their insurer to help speed up the claims process. It is just one way of providing those contact choices that the Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017 referred to (see below).
We have also developed a HIRE Desktop tool, an easy to use desktop validation tool for high volume, lower value claims. Ideal for EOW and storm claims where up to two rooms are affected, this cloud-based system creates real efficiencies for insurers and helps them manage surge events more effectively.
HIRE Desktop has been designed for the non-technical claims handler to validate and cash settle or triage simple property insurance claims. There is no need for expensive IT systems to settle smaller claims, it is ready to use through a simple url. HIRE Desktop will create a priced scope for works with an overall value that takes account of the settlement route.
Ideal in times of surge, this simple tool frees up resources to deal with more complex claims whilst less experienced claims handlers can process smaller claims and settle them within hours rather than days. It can also be used to validate quotes sent in by customers, identify issues on a claim that require specialist support and collect information for the supply chain. It makes small claims validation and management easy.
HIRE Desktop has the added advantage of being based on the MA Group Price Book so not only does it ensure that smaller claims are settled quickly, but it also ensures that the settlements are fair and transparent.
In line with our Primary Authority advice on consumer rights, HIRE Desktop ensures that the customer receives all of the information he or she needs to make an informed decision. The benefits of HIRE Desktop are:
Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017
The Consumer Intelligence Awards 2017 recently published the results of surveys done with customers of home and motor insurance companies. The findings in this survey are in tune with what we have been saying in previous opinion pieces and support the rationale for the investments we have made.
The report states that customers expect a seamless experience across all touchpoints, from the advertising or website, to webchat, phone calls, emails and policy documents. Brands need to maintain a consistent look and feel across all their channels and maintain their level of service throughout. Ensuring that customers know how to reach an insurer and providing contact choices that suit their needs are all part of the provision of good service, whether customers want a self-service approach online, or to speak to someone in person.
The survey goes on to find that overall one in five home insurance claimants did not agree that it was easy to make a claim and a quarter felt they had not been kept fully informed at all times about the progress of the claim. When asked “What innovative idea would you suggest to insurance providers to improve their service?” customers replied that they wanted:
The Awards also asked customers “Overall, to what extent do you feel you really understand the insurance policies you currently have and the terms and conditions within them?” Only 7% said they understood the policies completely. Worryingly 40% said they understood a little bit and 4% didn’t understand anything at all.
We have argued for a while that the claims process is too complicated, involves too many parties and that insurers cannot achieve a seamless experience with the current models for managing claims. The findings about customers’ understanding of insurance policies should also ring alarm bells for any insurer concerned with consumer rights and the need to ensure that customers are able to make informed choices during their insurance claim.
The future is here
In our part 3 opinion piece, Survey the Future, we set out a vision for how SoRs, scoping and validation should work and the technology needed to support this. Since then we have “put our money where our mouth is” and invested in delivering the fair and transparent services and products that we think the property insurance industry needs.
We have taken time to understand what customers need and want and how we can provide it in a seamless way, supported by technology but not at the expense of empathy and human interaction.
We are thrilled that the initiatives we have started are working as we had hoped. We are now in a strong position to provide insurers with that end-to-end claims validation and management service that is fair and transparent and that delivers a seamless customer experience with regular and clear communication as well as empathy.
The insurance industry does not do well in customer satisfaction surveys and we are convinced that we can help change that. So insurers and brokers, please get in touch so we can help you and your customers. And we can save you money!
Seems too good to be true? Well, to coin another metaphor, we are also prepared to “eat our hats” if we don’t deliver!