Viewpoint: The Future of Contents Restoration
The insurance industry has made great strides in embracing and implementing technology to go beyond customer service and create the customer experience. The result? Higher policyholder retention rates, shorter claim cycles and reduced claim costs. To maintain these results, the industry vets it’s vendors. Content restoration companies are expected to utilize the latest technology, and, in the near future, I predict that expectation will become a requirement.
Recognizing this trend, the contents restoration industry is undergoing a transformation. No longer will it suffice for a company to conduct business via outdated business practices, like handwritten inventories. Instead, contents restoration firms are starting to embrace and implement the latest technology, such as 3D mapping of loss sites, real-time data and tracking of contents including pack out inventory and claims management software.
This “new” trend actually started a few years ago as program work. In it’s infancy, it established service measurables that needed to be tracked and reported; time to contact the homeowner, time to arrive at the loss site, estimated bill within hours and final bill within days, just to name a few. These service measurables needed to be tracked and “graded” without adding multiple calls and emails to a field adjuster’s hectic schedule. To meet these new demands, franchises developed their own claims management software and independents partnered with software vendors.
Despite the demand, and with multiple technology solutions available to meet the demand, there are still restoration companies without even the most basic reporting software.
But this complacency has been replaced with immediacy as homeowners and adjusters who have grown up with technology (like millennials) won’t accept the traditional sifting through boxes to locate a belonging stored in a warehouse.
More and more, carriers and their policyholders expect contents restoration companies to keep up with technology or lose business for lack of trying.
What is the disconnect, why has our industry been slow to implement technology? Embracing technology is as much attitude as it is action. It’s about being proactive versus reactive and a failure to recognize industry trends. As a business in today’s competitive market, you can’t stay where you are. You’re either moving forward or you’re losing ground.
The trend toward offering more services in-house is another strategy that relies on adopting new technology. In the past, there was an expert for everything: hard contents, soft contents, electronics, artwork, document drying, furniture refinishing, etc. Now, more companies are bringing those services in-house, as opposed to sending them out to subcontractors or vendors. This trend gives restoration companies more control of the claim, greater oversight of how contents are inventoried and tracked, and the ability to streamline workflows.
The benefits don’t just apply to the restoration company. An insurance industry survey conducted by J.D. Power illustrates that having just one point of contact on a claim elevates customer service to the point where the policyholder is more likely to remain with the carrier and more likely to recommend the carrier to family and friends. The survey also found that the more points of contact faced by the policyholder, the lower is customer satisfaction, referrals, and policy retention rates.
Embracing technology is just the first step. Steve Jobs once said, “Start with the customer experience and work your way backwards towards the technology.” What that means is having technology, in and of itself, isn’t as important as how we use it to create the customer experience. There is a big difference between experience and service, and in today’s market, good customer service alone is no longer good enough.
The trend behind the one-stop service model, where the restoration firm specializes in all types of contents, saves adjusters time and shortens the claim cycle. Shorter cycle times improves customer service and saves the carrier time and money.
Contents restoration firms that offer a variety of specialized services also see additional revenue and an increase in market share. To use an analogy, if a restaurant has no dessert menu, they’re losing out on a revenue stream from a customer that’s already there. Is every patron going to order dessert? No. But if you already have the customer seated, why wouldn’t you add revenue streams on things you’re already serving?
Purchasing and implementing technology is not just an investment in your future; it just might secure your future. It’s not just about adding a revenue stream, it’s about creating the customer experience. Complacency and delay will separate firms into two camps: Netflix and Blockbuster. You obviously want to fall in the former. Let’s embrace technology to become the contents restoration leaders that our clients want to work with.