The blizzard of ’13 hit the northeast pretty hard this past week. Communities still reeling from Sandy now have to deal with feet of snow too. Power outages and downed communication lines make it extremely difficult for people to contact utility providers to report problems, as well as to receive information regarding service restoration. Many providers are turning to social networks and to text messaging to help them get the word out and to keep their customers informed. Others are leveraging mobile apps to assist customers, allowing them to report problems and follow repair progress. Some utility companies are doing both. Utility companies have to provide service 24/7; but, while insurance carriers will accept claim reports outside the regular work week, their work really begins on Monday.
Like the utility companies, many insurance organizations, carriers and agents, communicate via their social network accounts and some communicate with mobile apps. Customers may have already reported the tree limbs falling on their cars, collisions from sliding on the roads, or restaurant food spoilage when refrigeration goes out, and now they need to know when they will hear from the claims representative or damage appraiser to move things along as quickly as possible. If the power and phone lines are still out, your smartphone becomes your only window to the world. This is where the carriers that have embraced and leveraged smartphone technology shine, and those that are still dependent solely upon on web sites and telephone communication fall behind, and lose customers.
Thousands of customers could be trying to contact you via your phone lines, and find the never ending phone tree wildly frustrating. When that becomes exasperating, maybe there’s a mobile app to download, but all you can do with that is pay your premium. Next, look at Facebook for updates, but that’s just a Hall of Fame for charitable acts and follower counts, nothing on the company’s efforts to reach out to customers about the storm. How about Twitter? Maybe the company is broadcasting where mobile claim centers are being set up, tips on how to minimize damage, or special phone numbers that have been arranged? What about the agent? They may be without power and communication as well, but they may still be able to provide support taking reports and providing information for claims – if they can get it.
This is the time when the rubber meets the road for insurance, and if you can’t keep in touch with your customers and help them when they need it most, they’ll solve the problem for you – they’ll find out about the companies that do, and they won’t be your customers for much longer. Now is a good time to rethink and update strategy for carriers who aren’t where they should be.