Traffic volume in the U.S. is often worse during the summer months, with sunny skies and warmer temperatures bringing people out of their homes and into their cars. This year, in particular, as pandemic restrictions ease across the country and Americans feel more comfortable traveling, we’re likely to see traffic volumes surge. In turn, this will mean increased potential for vehicle breakdowns and accidents. Auto insurers would be wise to prepare for a busier than normal season.
What will the surge look like?
While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly how many vehicles will require assistance over the next few months, we have a few predictions:
- We’re already seeing breakdown volume bounce back from 2020 lows, and it is likely volume will increase beyond 2019 pre-pandemic figures.
- Rather than growing in a spike that starts – and ends – quickly, summer volume will be consistently high beginning from late June through early September.
- Fourth of July will represent a significant peak.
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How can insurers prepare?
In many cases, roadside breakdowns or accidents are a policyholder’s first – perhaps only – interaction with their insurer. These events therefore constitute a tremendous opportunity for insurers to please and impress their customers. Ensuring these events go as smoothly and efficiently as possible, particularly if a driver is frustrated, worried or nervous, is important. Managing these events can always be complex, and factoring in the scale at which these events will be handled in summer 2021 can make for some additional difficulties. The best way to be prepared is for insurers to optimize processes and systems now:
1. Offer seamless, self-service communications: Consumers increasingly want easy-to-use digital options to engage service – think requesting a Lyft or ordering pizza on the Dominos app. This interest is extending into breakdowns, disablement and accidents, where help request channels like buttons within a branded mobile app, mobile web pages or web applications can deliver a fast, convenient experience for those who want it (trained agents can also be available via toll-free number or an “out” provided within the digital channel). These capabilities also open up agent time, allowing them to support more complex cases. Mobile web and web app options can be easily stood up so that digital options are ready to go by the time volume really starts to pick up.
2. Consider a digital-first accident management process: Accident management is typically an expensive process, but an early-response digital and cloud solution can improve efficiency and responsiveness. More importantly, digitization can enable insurers to remain nimble and agile, quickly and easily ramping up accident-related services and allowing them to focus more effort on other aspects of the business. When done right, digitization can save insurers millions of dollars in claims loss costs annually. An example would be an accident platform that can provide transparency to all authorized employees, allowing them to conduct self-service activities such as reporting, checking status, entering a new accident claim case, etc. The ability for agents to digitally request an accident tow, either a primary tow from the accident scene or a secondary tow from storage, will also greatly reduce reliance on oftentimes lengthy logistical calls with contact center agents.
3. Leverage digital photo-enabled claims: The accumulated cost of vehicle storage fees, rental days and a secondary tow following an accident can add up to as much as $1,050. By using images of the vehicle captured at the scene of the accident, claims processers can identify damages earlier. This speeds the decision-making process on whether the disabled vehicle should be sent to a repair facility or a salvage yard, helping to avoiding costs. With the right tools, photos can be easily channeled into an insurer’s method of inspection for expedited appraisal.
4. Streamline vehicle tow and storage release: If a vehicle involved in an accident is towed to a storage location, negotiating the release can require significant knowledge about local regulations, processes and market rates. As accident volume ramps up, insurers should consider augmentating their current platforms and workforce with a partner that can provide a dedicated team of agents – armed with robust data – that are experienced at identifying opportunities to negotiate and decrease vehicle storage fees. These agents should be able to manage every aspect of the release process, including reducing checkpoint and approval calls, conducting cost-trend analysis, handling payments directly with the storage yard and managing tow-out service.
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A summer driving, breakdown and accident surge is right around the corner. Agero’s recent research shows that the way in which these disablement events are handled has a significant impact on policyholder loyalty. By taking steps now to update, optimize and digitize processes for maximum efficiency, insurers will be prepared to more effectively help their customers through this likely difficult time.