Late March 2017 MA Assist was assigned a new storm claim by a well-known property claims surveying business on behalf of a mutual insurance client that involved a vulnerable customer.
No detail was provided in this case, and we were simply informed that some tiles had been blown off at the front of the house, the chimney stack looked unstable and the fence had blown down.
We assigned one of our contractors, Frank Rogers, to the claim and they booked in a visit for 31st March.
Frank Rogers visited the property and prepared a report stating that the damage to the roof and the fence was not caused by the storm and was consistent with age and poor maintenance. Not knowing we were dealing with a vulnerable customer, our report was sent to the insurer’s agent recommending repudiation.
We were then informed that the insurer was prepared to cover the works as there had been a storm event in that area and we were asked to carry on with the reinstatement.
At this stage no-one had informed MA Assist or our contractor that the customer was elderly and vulnerable. We had tried to contact the customer several times but couldn’t get through on the telephone, so we were completely unaware of her concerns and the issues that were specific to the area she lived in and her age.
Unbeknown to any of us, while this process was taking place some mysterious builders turned up at the property and repaired the customer’s roof.
The first we knew about it was when the insurer and the surveying company contacted us about a complaint because the wrong tiles had been used.
After contacting Frank Rogers we confirmed that we hadn’t done any works on the job as we had only just validated the scope of works and authorised the contractor to proceed.
After some investigation the insurer asked us to carry out the works and to rectify what had already been done. Again, no information was given to us in relation to the customer’s vulnerability.
On 3rd May one of our control centre staff, Danny, called the customer to confirm the authorisation to proceed. It quickly became clear that she was old and a vulnerable customer– and also scared!
She told Danny that someone had turned up and repaired the roof without using reclaimed tiles and without consulting her. She was very concerned that they were going to come back and ask her for money – she had previously had someone take her to the bank to withdraw £800 for works that she didn’t want done. At the time she was too scared to call the police, and was too scared to call the police on this occasion too.
Following this conversation Danny called the insurer to make them aware of the issues on this job. The insurer told us to complete all the works related to the storm peril. Any works that were completed by the other contractor were to be redone too.
Danny the diamond
At this point Danny’s training kicked in. He took control of the claim and made everyone aware that customer was vulnerable.
He arranged a conference call between the contractor and the customer to introduce Frank Rogers and to reassure the customer that the right people would be coming to mend her home.
When Danny tried to call the customer a few days later to arrange a start date he was unable to contact her despite several attempts. He enlisted help from the insurer who, along with the local broker, tried to get in touch as well, unsuccessfully.
Much to Danny’s relief he finally managed to contact the customer on 16th May to arrange the start date. He explained the process and told her that the scaffolders would be arriving first.
The customer was very worried about someone climbing the scaffolding at night, so Danny contacted Frank Rogers who advised they would make sure that the job was done in one day so the scaffolding could come down the same day.
Danny then made sure that someone called the customer first thing on the day works were to be done and at the end of that day. He also made sure that we contacted the contractor to make sure the works were all complete as promised within one day, and the scaffolding had been taken down.
The customer was delighted with the service MA Assist and Frank Rogers had provided, and had special praise for Danny: “Within the first 2 minutes of speaking to him I knew he was an honest, caring and trustworthy gentleman. It was so refreshing to speak to someone so lovely in this day and age” She called him “a diamond”.
This claim demonstrated how important it is for everyone in the supply chain to identify a vulnerable person and to share the information with everyone involved. If we had been informed at the start that the customer was old and vulnerable we would have been able to set our SUPPORTING Pledge into motion much more quickly, and perhaps much of the customer’s stress could have been avoided.
Once we were aware, our control centre staff and our contractors acted quickly and took control of the situation. They were able to provide reassurance and information to the customer, and to tailor the plan of works to meet her needs.
Danny demonstrated all of the values set out in our SUPPORTING Pledge. He shared information and took time to understand the customer’s needs. He was patient and took control, acting as primary contact. He also put in the time and effort needed to give regular and appropriate updates to the customer and relevant parties.
As set out in our opinion piece, “Looking after vulnerable customers” we believe it is important to ask the right questions at FNOL and to share information. All staff need to be trained to identify vulnerability and to provide the right support and information. Also, a sole claims manager should be appointed to ensure strong project management and to give one point of contact for the customer.