“It’s all about that first call resolution”
He’s described it as the ‘moment of truth’ – the point at which your customer determines whether their choice of insurer was the right one. Now, Steve Molloy, Head of Insurer Services at data-driven motor claims management specialist Cobalt, explains how the businessand its handl Group partners are helping insurers make the moment count.
“We’ve always predicted that the number of unrepresented claimant would be relatively small – somewhere between 5 and 15%,” says Cobalt’s Steve Molloy of the new post-whiplash reform landscape. “Yet that 5-15% are going to demand 60-70% of insurers’ efforts. These will be people who don’t feel technically adept at navigating the official claims portal. The guidance is 60 pages long and, without help, they will hit a dead end. We’ve already experienced frustrated claimants who are struggling with the portal – as have other brands across the Group – so we know this is already an issue.”
For Steve, supporting claimants is essential but he recognises this presents a major issue for insurers. “The amount of time spent on each call will be longer, but these won’t be technical matters relating to the accident; these will be procedural questions about successfully navigating the online portal. That’s not what insurers are staffed and skilled to do. We are.”
The insurers’ shield
Just a few weeks into the new arrangements, Steve is already seeing the beneficial effects of Cobalt’s interventions. “We’ve spoken with numerous claimants who’ve already called us two or three times to ask for guidance. Because this is all new to them, some have felt daunted by the process. Some conversations have become really quite heated, and none of this ‘heat’ is being generated by the technicalities of the claim – it’s all about the process.
“Without our intervention, one of two things would have happened,” he continues. “Either the claimants would have tried to do this on their own, failed and left the system only to return later with representation, inflating time and costs for everyone. Or their call would have gone to an insurer who would then have to deal with OIC portal queries they really shouldn’t have to be dealing with. That, of course, has a knock-on effect in terms of dealing with the things they should be focusing on.”
“We’re taking customers through the portal so insurers don’t have to. In effect, that has made us the insurers’ shield. We represent their brand but we’re also protecting it by bearing the brunt of those difficult conversations so they don’t have to.”
It’s early days, but Steve is encouraged by the signs. “Ultimately,” he says, “our measure of success will be the percentage of people who start as litigants in person (LIPs) and remain LiPs.”
Removing the subjectivity of triage
When a claimant is injured, Cobalt triages them using an algorithmic tool that considers the areas and severity of injury and the individual’s circumstances. The technology uses the information to arrive at a score and the score is used to provide a recommendation of the best course of action to take.
“The good thing about our triage tool is that it removes subjectivity,” Steve explains. “Typically, one customer may present the same information to claims handler A and claims handler B and receive a slightly different score from each. That’s never ideal. Our tool takes a structured approach to the questioning and give an answer set that will always be consistent regardless of who’s taking the call.
“The customer and insurer both know there’s a consistency of application of the rules, and of the scoring. The compensator then has our scoring and recommendation for their file notes so, if an LiP later becomes a represented claimant, we have a record of the extent and location of the injuries.”
Shielding insurers from challenging process calls and removing the subjectivity of triage are not the only advantages Cobalt’s approach offers.
“We’re seen as being somewhat independent from insurers, which can be useful,” explains Steve. “We’re also genuinely 24/7. The person who’s looking to make a claim at midnight will get exactly the same level of service as someone calling in ‘normal’ office hours – that’s unique in the market. And because we won’t simply put a claimant in a holding pattern until 8am, we can start collecting information, triaging and making decisions right away. That lessens the risk that the claimant will leave the process.”
Steve also notes that the Cobalt approach means insurers benefit from a lower cost of claim and that its pricing methodology means there’s a fixed cost no matter how many calls a customer needs to make to help them through the portal process.
But perhaps the biggest insurer benefit is just as important to claimants. “We always look for first call resolution,” stresses Steve. “We want to put people’s minds at ease on the first call because we know that if we establish that customer relationship they’ll continue with our guidance throughout rather than seeking it elsewhere.”
Controlling third party costs
Cobalt is part of handl Group, a portfolio group of companies established to deliver joined up support for the legal, medical and insurance sectors. It’s “the only part that deals with vehicle repair,” notes Steve. Engage is handl Group’s new full service proposition for insurers dealing with the impact of the government’s personal injury reforms. The initiative brings together six of the group’s member companies to provide a complementary and holistic response to the reforms and Steve sees major benefits to the synergies Engage offers.
“Third party intervention is about to become far more important,” he explains. “As the reforms reduce personal injury income, so credit hire and credit repair charges are likely to increase. The more insurers can intervene and control that third party the more they can control costs. That’s where Cobalt comes in – it’s all about that first call resolution. We are able to work with the other handl Engage companies so where, for example, the first notice of loss may be taken by [handl Group stablemate] Coplus, Cobalt could simultaneously be attempting to capture the third party. It can’t get any quicker than that – and that saves the client money.”
The reform opportunity
“Insurers have it in their gift to keep people as LiPs rather than going out to seek representation, which will increase cost,” says Steve. “The reforms create challenges. But you can keep claimants ‘warm’ and wedded to the portal if you look after them correctly. We help insurers capitalise on that opportunity.”