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Claims & Culture: Imperial Fire & Casualty

—April 01, 2014
Claims & Culture: Imperial Fire & Casualty

By Chris McMahon, Senior Editor, Insurance Networking News

At Imperial Fire & Casualty, management makes a point of giving employees the technology they need, says Duane Heady, COO of holding company Imperial Management. "Traditionally, great customer service was defined as to the customer: the insured. But it's just as important that we consider our internal customers; we hope they see management cares enough to give them the tools to do the best job they can. Then we measure them."

Imperial sells direct to consumers as well as through independent agents, Heady explains. Several years ago, management realized it should be measuring the company's ability to offer positive customer experiences against the largest and most technologically advanced insurers, just as independent agents and consumers do, rather than gauging themselves against other mid-sized insurers. "We were matching up pretty well, but we were lacking that claims piece; it's the most important," Heady says.

In addition to offering direct sales and self-service options on the Web, Imperial has undertaken a revamp of claims processes and technologies to continuously improve the customer experience, and lower costs and premiums. Two years ago, Imperial implemented Mitchell Medical Claims Billing software.

"That made a profound impact on our PIP [personal injury protection] experience," including speedier decision-making about paying liability claims, Heady says. Since then, Imperial also has implemented Mitchell ClaimIQ, an application that systematically guides adjustors through liability assessments, and Mitchell Estimating, which helps users write more accurate and consistent vehicle repair estimates by systematizing parts look up, labor rates, automating calculations and building in auto prompts and inclusions, which helps to contain costs and limit addendums.

"These are tactical tools, but they help us realize our strategy, which is being consistent within our claims organization," Heady says. "In the past, it was all over the board. We are very metrics driven and this comes down to: how does 'adjustor A' compare to the peer group with the same type of loss. They should be very close," Heady says.

Imperial also has improved the customer experience by training recent graduates to become claims adjustors and live up to Imperial's "Guard Values," Heady explains, which include fair dealing, accessibility, reliability and dependability. "The goal is for customers to experience those values every time they interact with a representative. Not only have we tackled this from a technology standpoint, we've approached it from the human capital side. With that, we are getting higher marks from insureds and claimants as well," Heady says.

Imperial commits to contacting customers within four hours after a reported loss, Heady says, and all appraisals are done in-house, rather than through an independent agent. This has lowered its loss-adjustment expense through more accurate estimates. Severity declined 12 percent, Heady says, and the days-to-close has been reduced by more than 40 percent, substantially improving customers' satisfaction.

"We are smaller; we have to be better at something, so we are more agile than the big companies. We are large enough to matter and small enough to care," Heady says. "We are going to have to reinvent this insurance experience for the millennials and make it easier for them to do business with us."

Published in Insurance Networking News, April 2014

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