February 05, 2024

It’s Time to Disrupt the Total Loss Customer Experience

Navigating the automotive total loss process is far from straightforward. The journey from first notice of loss to payment is known for being circuitous and complex for customers and adjusters alike.

As Wayne Sharrah, SVP, Chief Claims and Operations Officer, Wawanesa, said during a recent Hi Marley webinar, “This specific type of claim has not innovated materially in 35 years, and it’s time we’ve got to force that.. a complicated claim—there’s no doubt about it—but there’s no reason why we should let that be the case.”

Insurance carriers know there’s room to innovate, streamline the total loss process, use tools that reduce settlement time from weeks to days, and improve the customer experience.

Improve Cycle Times

Hi Marley found that, on average, total loss cycle time takes 20 days between the first notice of loss (FNOL) to vehicle release.

The assumption is that total loss has to take longer than other claims because of the number of steps involved—including body shop communications, total loss determination and title transfer.

And longer claims processes have an impact on customer satisfaction. According to Accenture, if a claim isn’t settled within a month, dissatisfaction rises 30 percent.

Wayne said it’s incumbent on the industry to do better, “Why aren’t we saying cycle time needs to be a week or less? Then, we go to our partners in the industry and say, ‘Help us build this and help us figure out how to find the important information.’ Those are the things that materially impact cycle time. If we can figure all that out, there’s no reason why we can’t settle total losses in two or three days.”

Focus on Fast Resolution

And in situations where the total loss is very clear, customers appreciate a quick, simple resolution.

For example, Copart’s VP of Insurance Services, Natalie Kaschalk, said that flooding during Hurricane Harvey damaged many cars in Houston, Texas. The carrier she worked for simply asked customers how high the water was. If the water reached a certain point, the car was considered a total loss, and the claim was settled within a day or two. As a result, JD Power customer experience results from the Houston flooding were through the roof, Natalie said.

She added, “For me, that was a real affirmation of my belief around speed matters. Accuracy matters, too. But speed really matters, because the only thing a customer wants to do when they’ve totaled their car is move forward, get another car, and get their life back on track.”

Streamline the Process

Hi Marley research shows that delays in total loss result from communication breakdowns that appear during total loss determination, total loss assignment, including clearing belongings from the vehicle, and customer release.

Playing phone tag with an adjuster doesn’t help. “The very simple thing that we’re working on is to get the process down to this: there’s one person that the customer needs to contact. They’re going to own that loss process, they’re going to basically be there to answer all those questions,” said Wayne.

Technology can help simplify and speed up communication. Studies have also shown that 90 percent of texts are read within three minutes.

“The more that we can utilize the technology at our disposal, to help make decisions, automate decisions, automate the communication, streamline things from a customer perspective, that trust will build with the customer,” said Aaron Wheaton, SVP, Head of Claims at Clearcover.

Simplify Communication

Understanding the total loss process is core to customer satisfaction. Too often, the process is unclear to the customer and to the adjuster.

Wayne shared an example of an auto carrier customer survey. A customer shared that they were confused by all the total loss acronyms they heard, including ACV, CCC, and VVR.

“Let’s just speak in everyday language,” said Wayne. “I think that’s the starting point. Educate our customers about what this process should be and how simple it can be.”

Provide Clear Expectations and Process Explanation

In addition, total loss is a particularly emotional process—customers are often contending with losing their ride to work and the prospect of replacing their vehicle. Plus, the event that led to the total, could’ve resulted in an injury.

“Total loss is unique because it’s usually a pretty good impact [on the customer],” said Natalie. “A lot of times, you’re dealing with the shock… And you’ve got to receive all this explanation of all these different parts and pieces. It’s just so overwhelming.”

The more complex the loss is, Natalie said, the more important it is that the customer receives more hand holding throughout the process. Aaron said that streamlining the process is “as simple as trying to understand, maybe proactively, what the customer needs to do or what’s going to happen to them next, so you can get ahead of that.”

He recommends that carriers do what they can to help adjusters serve customers and explain the process; “So to the extent that we can connect them at the appropriate points in the process easily, we should. If a customer calls, they can understand what’s happening and educate the customer. We just have to give them the tools to do so.”


Catch the full replay of the “Why Auto Total Loss is a Pressing Priority for Claims Leaders” webinar.


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