Okay, so it’s not easy to feel sorry for a monolithic insurance company. But you can at least sympathize with the claims adjuster. These road warriors spend their days criss-crossing a territory dealing with customers who are almost invariably distraught and frustrated.
Ironically, for any insurer the claims adjuster is often the only face-to-face contact the company will ever have with the customer—and that customer is usually ticked off before the adjuster even shows up. Allstate, America’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, has realized that by equipping its mobile adjusters with new technology, the company can streamline business processes, save millions of dollars and take the edge off the interaction between adjuster and perturbed customer.
Allstate’s Auto Insurance division, which insures one out of every eight cars on U.S. roads, has deployed a wireless automated scheduling and dispatching system to optimize its adjusters’ work style and expedite information flow to and from the field. Adjusters employ IBM ThinkPad laptops, equipped with Sierra Wireless 550 modems connected to Sprint PCS’ cellular data network, to access the company’s Work Flow Management Solution (WFMS).
In the past, Allstate adjusters created their own schedules at the beginning of each workday, and spent the end of each day doing follow-up paperwork. Now Allstate runs scheduling and dispatching software from ServicePower to craft schedules and route adjusters from one service call to the next. Their workdays are intelligently designed, allowing for fewer gaps and more efficient travel.
According to Allstate, after-hours paperwork has been reduced and, in some cases, eliminated altogether, boosting morale and easing user acceptance of the new system. Adjusters not only arrive at appointments more punctually—improving customer satisfaction—but they also feel less pressured and are able to produce higher-quality work.
With wireless access to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook, adjusters can also respond to time-sensitive e-mails. The untethered Internet connection enables them to search for car parts on the Web. They can also upload claims estimating files and accompanying checks, as well as verify and update case data before and after inspections, speeding the claims process on behalf of the harried customer.
Besides increasing adjuster assessments from 3.5 to 4.5 per day, the new solution is driving savings at the bottom-line level. One significant expense cutback involves the reduction of waivers. At times an insurance company is required to waive the need for an adjuster to personally inspect damage to a vehicle, instead relying on body-shop assessments, which can be higher. Now that adjusters update their schedules on a real-time basis throughout the day, controllers, who handle escalations and complaints at headquarters, can scan a graphical view of a Gantt chart to see, company-wide, the current day’s workload and the run-up of work for future days. Urgent inspections, re-inspections and incomplete assignments can be more efficiently scheduled, thus increasing the volume of assessments and reducing waivers.
With streamlined scheduling and claims processing, Allstate has also reduced the amount of time customers require rental cars (and the amount of money it lays out for these rentals) while customer vehicles are in the shop.
The solution was first rolled out in March 2003 to 30 locations across the U.S. It has currently been deployed to 700 users with an additional 300 primed to be running by the end of this year. The next phase of the project will address 3,000 more mobile workers. The Auto Insurance group represents only 10 percent of Allstate’s mobile workforce, and, according to the company, the success of the WFMS program will be the foundation for future divisional deployments. •