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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Three Crucial Tips for Financial Institutions Servicing Victims of Natural Disaster

By Valerie Elkins
July 1, 2019

Topics:
Valerie Elkins
DIMONT
Natural Disaster Servicing


ValerieElkinsValerie Elkins is Vice President of Business Innovation with DIMONT, a Dallas-based provider of insurance claims adjusting and collateral loss mitigation services to the residential mortgage and auto lending industries. Tips for disaster preparedness and additional information about DIMONT's loss draft platform is available at www.dimont.com.

In 2018 the United States saw enough weather and climate disasters to total over $90 billion in damages nationwide (Climate.gov, statistic from Disrupt the Status Quo Expert Panel (Radian Green River Capital Real Estate Symposium 2019). As lenders took action to assist distressed homeowners, we observed a less-than-ideal phenomenon:

The process of handling insurance claims and loss drafts--the multiparty checks issued by insurance companies when settling claims--becomes its own disaster when the sheer volume of claims interferes with homeowners receiving the customer service they deserve.

Most financial institutions have a reputation for delivering high-quality customer service in all circumstances, and now they face a heightened dilemma when servicing disaster-affected customers. These customers have already had their lives turned upside down. In many cases, homeowners can't even live in their homes while damages are being repaired.

The claim settlement and repair management process is complex and heavily scrutinized. While the lender has a duty to ensure that loss draft funds are appropriately utilized for home repairs, the average homeowner distressed by property damage will view their bank as an interference to getting their homes and lives back to normal, making it essential for financial institutions to stay on the customer's good side while managing loss drafts.

Homeowners shouldn't have to endure additional inconveniences when dealing with the stress and financial strain of home damages, and financial institutions can play a crucial role in easing customer worries while repairs and payments are underway. To help stabilize focus on providing exceptional customer support, we've outlined three crucial tips for financial institutions handling natural disaster-related insurance claims:

1. Give Customers Easy Access to Claims Information
Customer satisfaction is more achievable than ever in today's digital era, and property damage insurance claims are no exception. Customer service is the key indicator in the success of a loss draft claim. If a homeowner feels as though their lender was not expedient in managing the repair funds and the process was complex and cumbersome complaints escalate.

Financial institutions need to provide faster, more effective loss draft resolutions for homeowners, who should also have complete visibility of every step in the process. The only way to do this is to rely on technology, such as an online communications portal with the ability to share digital documents, provide real-time visibility of loss draft status and enable a servicer to be seen as a helpful partner rather than an impediment. Customer support portals can dramatically reduce complaints and loss draft repair timeframes are often much faster.

2. Implement a Customer Notification System
When a customer support call center is used to assist lenders with the volume of loss draft-related calls, a pattern can develop. Customers will constantly call to check if documents and checks have been received, straining the support team's ability to provide the level of customer service necessary for such a stressful ordeal.

Financial institutions nationwide can appease customers by providing proactive communication on case updates, notice of check deposits, and notifications received--all while avoiding excessively busy phone lines. If an online customer service system is adopted, best practices are to have notifications automated so the customer is constantly informed of the status of their case.

3. Maintain Communication Consistency Among Support Center Staff
One of the best ways for financial institutions to put customers at ease about their loss drafts process is to keep consistent messaging within all communications between lender and homeowner. Sometimes information consistency is lost when people trained to assist natural disaster victims get moved around within departments. Their replacements aren't always trained to assist customers with the same level of depth, leading to confusion and added stress for disaster-affected homeowners. Having a team of well-trained staff who understands the loss draft process--including their own role in administering inspections and progress payments--would allow financial institutions to convey reliable information to customers and increase the likelihood of customer satisfaction.

Balancing the proper handling of insurance claims with the nuances of providing ideal customer support is no easy feat for any financial institution, especially when properties damaged by natural disasters are involved. Financial institutions wanting to focus on their core tasks while keeping their reputations in good standing have options and best practices to improve the experience of customers who are going through the recovery process in the wake of a natural disaster.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policy of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA Insights welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Mike Sorohan, editor, at msorohan@mba.org; or Michael Tucker, editorial manager, at mtucker@mba.org.)

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