Showing vulnerable customers how caring counts in claims

September 21, 2023

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For anyone dealing with a property damage loss, it can be inconvenient at best and traumatizing and life-altering at worst. But for those who are already vulnerable, the experience can be exponentially more difficult.

In commemoration of World Alzheimer’s Day, here I will highlight some of the added challenges for those with dementia and other vulnerable groups as they navigate the claims process and how the insurance industry can take optimal care of these individuals when they need it most.

Identifying and accommodating vulnerable customers

Vulnerable individuals are especially susceptible to harm due to their personal circumstances — particularly when a service provider does not act with appropriate levels of care, according to the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.Though it is possible for any person to become vulnerable, there is an increased risk for those with characteristics of vulnerability, such as physical or mental health conditions, cognitive impairment, language barriers, financial distress or those who are digitally excluded. Life events, such as bereavement or losing a home and navigating temporary displacement, can also render a person vulnerable.

These groups may have additional needs that could limit their capability to make decisions or represent their own interests in the course of a claim, presenting a greater risk of harm. Such circumstances require us to dig deeper and pinpoint further means of identifying, supporting, and protecting these vulnerable customers.

To support vulnerable customers, we must think creatively — and outside the box. Everyone handles circumstances differently, necessitating an individualized level of care. Whether a policyholder is living with sight loss, memory loss, depression or anxiety, claims professionals must show added empathy and understanding, listen intently, and deliver focused, one-on-one assistance.

In our increasingly digital world, those who are not digitally engaged — whether due to financial constraints, distrust or lack of access — are left in a vulnerable position. It is critical to provide tailored support in navigating digital aspects of the claims process to prevent digitally excluded customers from being left behind.

We aim to create a supportive environment for policyholders to disclose any potential or actual vulnerabilities so we can best support their needs. In some cases, insurers will advise us of a customer’s vulnerability or we’ll receive a disclosure advising that a customer is not coping well. If, for example, we see a homeowner disengage and communication deteriorating during the claim, it may indicate a mental health struggle. At that point, the claims handler can engage our team of customer care specialists.

Tailoring person-to-person support

At its foundation, supporting vulnerable policyholders is about understanding their individual needs, responding to those needs, and then monitoring and assessing whether our tailored support improves the customer’s life. Because there is no one-size-fits-all, customer accommodations vary greatly.

Support can include providing comfortable lodging while repairs are made to the damaged home. If temporary relocation is too drastic or disruptive a change for a particular customer, their home can possibly be tailored to instead make life easier. In the case of one customer with physical disabilities, our care specialists arranged for the creation of a temporary flat — complete with a kitchen and bathroom — and tweaked the surroundings to allow her to safely navigate her home environment.

Damage to a home affects the entire family, and vulnerable children need support, too. In such cases, we work in collaboration with parents to lighten their load where we can. For children with autism, for example, routine changes can be extraordinarily difficult. One small act, such as helping a child access the kind of tablet or gaming system they normally use, can help alleviate pressure among the family unit during an already stressful time.

Caring for customers with dementia

Other circumstances requiring probable intervention are customers experiencing dementia, a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities that affect approximately 55 million people worldwide. Among the conditions that can cause dementia is the degenerative brain disease Alzheimer’s. With memory loss being one of the disease’s premier symptoms, the complications of a claim combined with dementia symptoms can upend a person’s routine and functioning in a multitude of ways.

We once handled a flood surge claim for a customer living with dementia who lived by herself and whose family could only visit occasionally. Despite experiencing varying levels of confusion day to day and her ground floor being severely damaged by floodwaters, she was adamant about remaining in her home.

In accordance with her needs and wishes, our team created a comfortable living space on the house’s first floor and installed a new door to ensure privacy. To prevent the customer from forgetting contractors’ scheduled visits, we erected a large wall calendar detailing key dates and instructed the contractors to tally each visit. Additionally, we liaised with the repair contractors on any queries.

Oftentimes, supporting an adjusting team in helping a vulnerable customer means assuming the role of single point of contact. It simplifies the process — for both sides involved — when the customer only speaks to one person about their claim. Adjusting teams can focus on the technical and procedural claim issues, while care specialists can devote their efforts to the policyholder’s specific needs.

At Sedgwick, we believe everyone should have access to the same outcomes, regardless of their level of vulnerability. I am very proud of our groundbreaking efforts to identify vulnerable customers early in the claims process and to adapt our services to do what’s right for the people who depend on us.

> Learn more — read about the Insurance United Against Dementia initiative (with which Sedgwick is proud to partner) and the vital work of our UK specialist care team in supporting policyholders with dementia and other vulnerabilities

Tags: caring, Caring counts, caring culture, customer care, disabilities, Disability, Mental health