Tag Archives: insurer

Return to Work Remains a Problem

According to one published report, (WorkCompCentral, March 4, 2016, “$100 Million in Workers Benefits Sits Unused”), only 3,955 checks have been issued to injured workers from the Return to Work (RTW) Fund established in Senate Bill 863. The checks total slightly less than $20 million, leaving an additional $100 million untapped by injured workers. According to regulations of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) that administers the fund, workers receive a $5,000 allowance if they have been issued a Supplemental Job Displacement Benefit (SJDB – commonly referred to as a “voucher”). The voucher is issued if the employer at injury fails to make a qualifying offer of employment to the worker.

While the provenance of the RTW Fund has been criticized – largely by those not in the room to witness its birth – there are more fundamental issues with the fund and its administration. First, the RTW Fund really has nothing to do with return to work.

It can be fairly assumed that the use of that particular section of the Labor Code – Section 139.48 – was a legal accommodation because there was existing statutory reference to the RTW Fund in Labor Code Section 62.5 – specifically Sec. 62.5(a)(1)(B). Section 62.5 is the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund statute. That reference, in turn, was to the RTW Program that was originally created more than 15 years ago in Assembly Bill 749 as a mechanism to partially subsidize certain employers who brought injured workers back to work. The employer subsidy as originally enacted was for wages and worksite modifications. Later, Senate Bill 899 further revised the RTW Program to limit the reimbursement to worksite modifications and to expend funds on an “as available” basis. The RTW Program sunset on January 1, 2010, but while Labor Code Sec. 139.48 was taken out of the code, the reference to the RTW Fund in Sec. 62.5 remained.

See Also: A Physician’s View of ‘Return to Work’

Once one gets past the title of “Return-to-Work Program,” however, there is no evidence to suggest that Sec. 139.48 has anything to do with returning a worker to employment with the employer at injury – or anyone else for that matter:

“139.48. (a) There is in the department a return-to- work program administered by the director, funded by one hundred twenty million dollars ($120,000,000) annually derived from non-General Funds of the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund, for the purpose of making supplemental payments to workers whose permanent disability benefits are disproportionately low in comparison to their earnings loss. Moneys shall remain available for use by the return-to-work program without respect to the fiscal year.

“(b) Eligibility for payments and the amount of payments shall be determined by regulations adopted by the director, based on findings from studies conducted by the director in consultation with the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation. Determinations of the director shall be subject to review at the trial level of the appeals board upon the same grounds as prescribed for petitions for reconsideration.

“(c) This section shall apply only to injuries sustained on or after January 1, 2013.”

The history of Labor Code Sec. 139.48 is also influenced by the Commission on Health & Safety & Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) publication, “Report on the Return-To-Work Program Established in Labor Code Section 139.48” (2009). The most telling aspect of that report was the “alternative” recommendation to the Legislature: “California may wish to consider eliminating the program. California may wish to consider a program that more directly assists injured workers who are unable to return to their previous jobs.” (p.7) Given that the program sunsetted roughly eight months later, the commission’s recommendation is almost prophetic.

Three years later, as required by SB 863, the DIR conducted an independent study to determine how best to structure the RTW Fund in the new and improved Labor Code Sec. 139.48. That responsibility fell upon the ubiquitous RAND Corporation, whose 2014 report, “Identifying Permanently Disabled Workers with Disproportionate Earnings Losses for Supplemental Payments” is the foundation for the current RTW program. Among its recommendations were to make eligibility for the program dependent on receiving a voucher. According to RAND, approximately 20% of injured workers receiving permanent disability benefits receive a voucher. (p. 12) Under RAND’s scenarios, and anticipating utilization of the RTW fund at the same approximate levels as the vocational rehabilitation program repealed in 2004 by Assembly Bill 227 rather than their observed voucher utilization figures, RAND estimated roughly 24,000 injured workers would access the RTW Fund, thus resulting in about $5,000 per recipient to exhaust the $120 million annual assessment.

So while that explains where we are today, it also raises questions about whether the current RTW program suffers from the same lack of awareness that caused its statutory predecessors to go quietly away. But that also raises the bigger issue: What has happened to re- employment as an objective of the system over the past 20 years?

The history of vocational rehabilitation in California’s workers’ compensation is a long one – culminating in the repeal of the mandatory vocational rehabilitation program in AB 227 and the repeal of vocational rehabilitation as a compensable benefit with the amendment to Labor Code Sec. 3207 in SB 899. Legislative efforts trying to suggest that return to work is still important in the workers’ compensation system have largely been limited to the voucher, an at-best-meager program that is intended to try to put the injured worker on the path toward gaining skills to find new employment. In no way, however, is it as robust as the former vocational rehabilitation program. It is, regrettably, a $6,000 check, with some restrictions, that is intended to finalize the severing of the tie between an injured worker and the employer at injury.

See also: Return to Work Decisions on a Worker’s Comp Claim  

To paraphrase Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean, “That’s not good enough!”

As we move forward and discuss a whole host of issues in the workers’ compensation system, such as utilization review, the use and abuse of opioids, prescription drug formularies, independent medical review and permanent disability ratings, perhaps someone, somewhere, likely in either Oakland or Sacramento, should talk about re-employment of disabled workers.

Not some resurrection of vocational rehabilitation and what became its abuses but, rather, simply how to help workers unemployed due to a disabling injury at work to have the same access to re-employment assistance as disabled or otherwise unemployed workers whose access to re-employment assistance is defined by multiple state and federal programs and not by extracting some form of payment from the employer at injury.

There is no shortage of programs that could provide such assistance. And perceived unintended consequences that expanding the scope of re- employment assistance beyond the employer at injury would increase the number of workers unemployed after a workplace injury are unlikely given the protections of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Labor Code Sec. 132a.

According to the Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB), in calendar year 2014 roughly $29 million was spent on vouchers. Labor Code Sec. 139.48 assesses $120 million annually. One should ask whether that money would be better spent providing access and coordination to the host of re-employment programs offered by the Department of Rehabilitation, the Employment Development Department (CalJOBS), non-profit private companies, such as Goodwill Industries, that offer re-employment assistance, and a host of federal programs, including those offered from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Social Security Administration’s Plan To Achieve Self-Support (PASS).

In today’s complex world we simply cannot expect the employer at injury – especially the small to medium-sized employer – to provide all the resources necessary to facilitate meaningful re-employment for injured workers who are permanently disabled. Expanding the concept of re-employment and coordinating programs designed to create jobs for the disabled is a logical step forward to address this problem. No amount of vouchers or RTW fund disbursements will ever be a viable substitute for a job.

The sooner we realize this and look to Sacramento and Washington to break down the barriers created by the workers’ compensation system to full access to re- employment resources for disabled workers, the better.

 

CEOs Expect More From Finance Function

Banking and insurance chief executive officers (CEOs) think it’s time for their chief financial officers (CFOs) to shine. But many also have deep misgivings about whether the finance function — and its leadership — is ready to deliver real value to the business strategy.

Winds of change keep blowing

Anyone that thinks that the financial services industry has been slow to change has clearly not spent much time in the finance function. Indeed, the last decade — the past 5 years in particular — have been all about change for finance executives.

Change has been driven from all sides: new accounting standards, increased capital adequacy and/or solvency rules, heightened reporting requirements, new regulatory directives and the recent shift towards more integrated reporting are just part of the change sweeping through the financial services industry and flowing into the finance (and risk) functions at financial institutions.

At the same time, bank and insurance CFOs also need to support the organization and its business strategy. New products are being introduced, businesses are being sold or acquired, non-strategic assets are being divested and new markets are coming into scope. And with each change, the finance function has needed to respond.

Rise above the fray

While bank and insurance sector CEOs seem to sympathize with the plight of the finance function, most clearly expect their CFOs to rise above the challenge. In a recent global survey of more than
370 CEOs commissioned by KPMG International, 67 percent of financial services respondents said they expect the role of their CFO to increase in significance over the next 5 years, the highest percentage among all c-suite executives.

The problem is that few of these CEOs seem to think their finance leadership is currently ready to take on this high profile role. The same survey found that just 53 percent of the financial services CEOs thought their CFO was viewed as a valuable business partner
by the business. Only around a third of respondents believed that their CFOs truly understood the challenges they face as CEOs. Just 19 percent thought that their CFO was currently playing a critical role in supporting the CEO and the board. Simply put, the data suggests that CFOs of financial institutions still have a long way to go if they hope to live up to their CEO’s expectations.

Taking an enterprise-wide view of performance

A number of CFOs at the top global banks and insurers are now starting to focus on developing and improving their enterprise performance management (EPM) capabilities. Essentially, they are starting to recognize that — by combining financial data with operational and customer data through the latest wave of integrated EPM solutions — CFOs can start to take a leading role in helping to dynamically manage the planning and execution of the business strategy.

EPM delivers benefits across the organization. At the finance level, improved EPM capabilities enable finance functions to optimize their finance operations and dynamically generate more value-adding reports, allowing the finance function to become a more vital business partner across the enterprise.

It can improve the speed, relevance and access to the type of performance reporting and analysis that creates real business insights when and where it is needed most: in the business. And it can help create better alignment between the organization’s diverse back-office functions (such as risk, capital management, compliance and operations) to drive better end-to-end decision making based on a single set of balanced key performance indicators (KPIs).

Improved EPM capabilities also allow the finance function to become a better — and more strategic — business partner.
In some cases, this is achieved by driving valuable forward-looking analysis and planning through the EPM’s integrated business and financial planning features. Using these advanced EPM functionalities enables finance functions to better anticipate and even predict business outcomes, leveraging sophisticated ‘what-if’ scenario-based analysis capabilities based on key business drivers, events and relationships. And, in doing so, it can help the finance function become more integrated with the organization’s sales and operations planning processes.

This forward-looking EPM feature is especially important for financial institutions, as new accounting standards like IFRS9 for financial instruments and IFRS4 Phase 2 for insurance contracts (both life and non-life) forces them to disclose fair market values and net present value (NPV) calculations on their financial assets and liabilities. This, in turn, will likely make results more volatile and more transparent, which will lead organizations to demand even greater control than they have today.

Many financial services organizations are also seeking to improve their end- to-end performance in key areas such as customer performance. Some have even defined new roles specifically to support improvements in their end- to-end processes. As a result, some organizations are finding that EPM helps deliver a consistent end-to-end framework that ensures consistency in definitions, improves connectivity to show correlations and encourages the reuse of data to improve reconciliation.

Aligning the Risk and Finance functions of insurance companies with EPM

For insurers, one of the big benefits of EPM is closer alignment between the finance and the risk functions.

Creating this alignment is more important today than ever. The finance function is critical to measuring and reporting financial metrics such as gross premiums, investment returns, claims paid and overall profitability, while the risk function needs to estimate the technical reserves based on a complex array of actuarial models covering insurance, market and operational risks. Together, these two form the basis for the all-important equity and solvency ratios of the company.

The latest generation of insurance- specific EPM systems can bring both worlds more closely together. Not only are they able to generate the usual financial and certain regulatory reporting requirements, but they can also support the integrated business planning and management reporting needs of the company through innovate data cubes, on-the-fly dashboard generators and real-time analytical capabilities.

From discretionary to mandatory

Perhaps most importantly, a strong EPM capability can enable management to make better business decisions. It can help improve speed and access to information. Leveraging new technologies (such as those on offer at the KPMG Data Observatory), EPM can deliver improved visualization and analytics capabilities, thereby empowering the organization with competitive insights. And it can make sure everyone is looking at consistent data from the same source, improving decision- making confidence. Essentially, it can help management answer the big questions that they are struggling to answer today.

This is exactly what CEOs say they want from their CFOs. Indeed, when we asked CEOs of large financial institutions what their CFO could do to deliver more value, three initiatives boiled to the top:

1. applying financial data analysis to help the organization achieve profitable growth;

2. using financial data analysis to create and implement new operating models; and

3. finding ways to turn the regulatory environment into a competitive advantage.

All three can be achieved through improved EPM capabilities.

As a result, most CFOs are starting to recognize that investing into EPM is no longer a discretionary activity. It is a source of potential competitive advantage, a way to better manage regulatory requirements and a path to improved efficiency and cost savings. As such, EPM is quickly becoming a mandatory capability for finance functions in the financial services industry.

More than just a reporting tool

We have used words like ‘discipline’ and ‘capability’ when we refer to EPM, rather than ‘software’ or ‘solution’. That is because EPM is much more than simply a tool or software package that is ‘bolted-on’ to consolidate and analyze global data from existing ERP systems. In fact, the real value of EPM comes only when the organization — led by the finance function — starts to turn that data into real, reliable and actionable insights. And that requires a holistic approach to EPM that spans the enterprise and the whole operating lifecycle (as illustrated in Figure 1).

To start, organizations may want to consider flipping the historical ‘plan-do- check-act’ approach on its head. Indeed, creating a robust and appropriate EPM program requires finance functions to start with the ‘act’ (i.e. what insights does the business need in order to act), and then ‘check’ what information is required and whether it is available. Only then should finance functions move onto the ‘do’ of building the solution and, ultimately, the planning that can be achieved once the information is available. Once EPM programs are in full swing, finance functions can then go back to the traditional and continuous ‘plan-do-check-act’ lifecycle process and culture.

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Become a value player: Solve the business’ problems

Securing ‘buy-in’ from the business for a new approach to EPM is not easy; fatigue with new change programs is high and executives are competing fiercely for resources for their own programs. But buy-in is critical, not only at the executive level but throughout the business and across the enterprise.

In this busy environment, CFOs may want to start by helping the business answer one specific (yet critical) management question: “How can I best help you achieve your business goals?” Maybe it’s about finding the optimal pricing mix for their products and services. Maybe it’s about identifying the right acquisition targets to drive profitable growth. Or maybe it’s about identifying the most profitable customer segments and channels.

The key is in working collaboratively with the business to solve their problems and then using that opportunity and outcome to drive greater appetite for more advanced EPM capabilities within the business.

Bank CFOs leverage EPM to become more strategic

Most banking CFOs are already well on their way to moving from being a scorekeeper to becoming a business partner. But EPM enables CFOs in the banking sector to move one step further by allowing the finance function to combine multiple sets of data — financial, customer, risk and operational, for example — to provide the organization with deeper, more valuable and more strategic reports.

Our experience suggests that the ability to leverage and adopt new technology and approaches will be key. Some of the leading banking CFOs are already using data visualization and predictive analytics to collect, analyze and communicate key data sets. And early adopters are now investing into robo-advisors and other automated technologies that can reduce or eliminate manual intervention.

A business-led approach

When we work with banks and insurance CFOs to create stronger EPM lifecycle discipline and improve their EPM capabilities, we focus on creating a holistic enterprise performance management model and approach that recognizes the transformation
that is required in process, people and technology to allow CFOs to drive real value from their finance teams.

In doing so, we lead our clients through a business-led technology transformation that instills the necessary EPM awareness, capabilities and skills across the enterprise and throughout the business, helping CFOs meet the evolving and increasingly sophisticated demands of their organization.

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Questions to evaluate if your organization needs improved Enterprise Performance Management capabilities …

  1. Doesyourexecutiveteamhave real insight into the group’s true profitability by product, service/ channel, country/region and customer?
  2. Is your organization combining financial, operational and customer data to make better decisions and create a competitive advantage?
  3. Are you able to anticipate future regulatory changes and use those insights to gain entry to new markets using innovative channels faster than your competitors?
  4. Do you know which channels currently provide the best growth and profitability and do you have a plan for optimizing them?
  5. Are you able to conduct collaborative planning across all of your business functions to optimize investment decisions and improve shareholder return while at the same time maximizing capital efficiency?

Reprinted from (Regulatory Challenges Facing the Insurance Industry in 2016,) Copyright: 2016 KPMG LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership and the U.S. member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. The KPMG name and logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of KPMG International.

All information provided is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act upon such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the facts of a particular situation.

For additional news and information, please access KPMG’s global web site.

Power of ‘Claims Advocacy’

“Claims advocacy” is fast getting the attention of workers’ comp claims leaders as a powerful approach to better claims outcomes. The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity, and some claims leaders have already figured out how to deliver.

The workers’ compensation industry is in the throes of internal debate about mission and purpose.  Employee-centric claims models have become a large part of this debate. Some claims leaders say that payer organizations should move away from a compliance-oriented and, at times, adversarial style to an “advocacy” style of claims management.

Research, too, indicates that claims advocacy is top of mind for industry executives. The responses of 700 participants in Rising Medical Solutions’ Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study confirm that many claims leaders know the building blocks of advocacy and recognize its potential value. 

We recently interviewed claims leaders to better understand the practical meaning of the concept, as it applies to all claims operations, from self-administered employers to insurers handling claims for thousands of policyholders.

What Is Claims Advocacy?

We asked Noreen Olson, workers’ compensation manager with Starbucks, for a definition of advocacy.  (Starbucks employs 180,000 “partners” worldwide and has close to 12,000 outlets in the U.S.) Olson proposed this:

“In workers’ comp, advocacy is a process grounded by the values of dignity, respect and transparency that coordinates activities to assist the injured worker effectively and promote expectancy and engagement in recovery, efficiently restores (and often improves upon) health and well-being, and resolves the experience in mutual satisfaction.”

Others we spoke with endorsed this or a similar definition. They all have in mind not a checklist, nor a charm offensive, but a culture.  A claims culture that makes access to benefits simple and builds trust – and one that must be supported by executive buy-in, organizational values, technology and operating systems to be successful.

Access to benefits from the worker’s perspective includes ease of filing a claim, ease in obtaining prescribed medications, access to medical specialists and help in navigating the healthcare maze. Along the course of injury recovery, there are many opportunities that affect access and trust as perceived by the worker. The highly respected Workers’ Compensation Research Institute reports in its Predictors of Worker Outcomes Series that “trust” is a key driver of claims outcomes.

See also: How Should Workers’ Compensation Evolve?

Why Now?

Tom Stark, technical director of workers’ compensation at Nationwide Insurance, told us that advocacy has been around for a long time. He’s practiced advocacy since the 1980s Several forces converge to promote advocacy in claims today. Claims leaders are emphasizing, or perhaps “reemphasizing,” the importance of interpersonal relations. As claims handling has shifted from onsite home visits to lower contact models, the importance of emotional intelligence, soft skills and customer service skills is greater than ever to dispel uncertainty and engender trust.

Perhaps the biggest driver of customer service and transactional speed is the American retail sector. Its massive engagement in these areas has shaped everyone’s expectations – of all generations. Millennials, born in the 1980s and 1990s, in particular have grown up with this customer-focused approach and therefore bring to the claims environment high expectations for both delivering and receiving quality service. Slow, bureaucratic responses can shock injured workers. Darrell Brown, chief claims officer at Sedgwick, says, “We are now an on-demand economy. That is the way it is.”

Why Is Claims Advocacy Attractive?

Brown says that engaging the injured worker is key. Fast and helpful response to injury pays off in worker satisfaction and lower claims costs. “People file claims, but they don’t know what is going to happen. If you lose injured workers at the beginning of the claim, to anxiety and fear, they go to litigation.” Brown also says that when claims professionals engage more constructively with injured workers, their own experience is better. This leads to better morale and talent retention.

For employers, claims advocacy provides a special opportunity to directly align work injury response with their corporate brand, core values, employee communications and benefit delivery.

Walking the Walk

Albertsons Safeway, with more than a quarter million “associates” in 34 states, has crafted its claims approach to reinforce engagement and confidence for the injured workers. Director of Managed Care and Disability Denise Algire, who is also the principal researcher for the Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study, says that staff talks with injured employees on the day of injury. “We focus on education and reducing uncertainty,” she says.  They avoid potentially intimidating or antagonistic terms like “adjusting,” “examining” and “investigating.” They also start with the positive expectation that every employee wants to return to work. “Workers’ compensation has become adversarial because we manage the system based on the deceptive few versus the deserving many,” she says. “Our claims approach is based on the majority, not the minority.”

Brown talked to us about tangible actions. “If you can make a compensability determination in two days, even though the law gives you 14 days, imagine how much uncertainty and anxiety is removed,” he says. “The same applies to indemnity payments. The industry is often guided by regulatory requirements. If you can take action and make payments sooner, why make it later? You’ve got to walk the walk.” Starbucks, for example, direct deposits indemnity checks into employees’ accounts to increase speed.

Advocacy does not hinder organizations from being compliance-minded. Rather, it becomes one aspect of a holistic, customer-driven framework that aims higher than the bar often set by regulatory standards.

See Also: How to Win at Work Comp Claims

Barriers to Overcome

Stark sees lagging technology as getting in the way of engaging the injured worker. To him, claims tasks grew exponentially while support staff in claims offices were cut. Claims technology has often not kept up. He says, “Look at the work-arounds – count the number of sticky-notes on the adjuster’s screen. If technology is not there to support effective claims management, even in its most transactional form, you are really stressing the model. How are you going to be an advocate?”

Olson brought up two challenges that Starbucks has solved but still confront most employers. She believes that it is important to make it as easy as possible for a partner to report an injury. At Starbucks, they not only have web, mobile and call center options, they also allow partners to self-report their injuries versus going through their manager or HR.

Olson additionally stresses the importance of easily moving the partner to other benefit programs if the injury is not compensable and to avoid language like “your claim is denied.” She says that placing the award of benefits in the “right benefit bucket” needs to be done seamlessly so that the partner does not feel on the hook. In addition to the state mandated language in these instances, Starbucks includes its own letter that communicates that, while the claim isn’t eligible for workers’ comp, the partner may be eligible for other benefits to help with their injury/illness.

One barrier that Algire notes – simply “rebranding” claims adjusters as advocates is not enough. “A true cultural shift will require organizations to move beyond performance metrics that are based primarily in cost containment to those based on clinical quality, functional outcomes and patient satisfaction,” she says. This shift is critical to “walking the walk” and reinforcing the advocacy approach with claims staff.

Conclusion

The on-demand economy has created cultural and multi-generational expectations around service, speed and simplicity – giving workers’ compensation a blueprint for claims advocacy. Embracing consumer-driven models around injury recovery is emerging as a competitive advantage, both from a claims outcomes and a talent recruitment/retention perspective.

The 2016 Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking Study will be surveying claims leaders on advocacy, among other pressing topics, to better understand its current application and perceived viability.  A copy of the 2016 Study report may be ordered here.

How to Win the ‘Micro-Moment’

The P&C insurers that will win in our increasingly data-driven market are the companies that embrace the possibilities of technology and are able to own the “micro-moment”: Companies that reach consumers when they are making decisions and forming preferences will be ahead of the curve.

Communication technology now makes it possible for insurers to reach out to customers using automated voice, text, social media, email and other platforms. For example, when catastrophe looms, such as a major weather event, insurance companies have a great opportunity to protect policyholders and minimize losses by contacting customers.

This is not only good for the bottom line, because it avoids losses; it’s a great way to deliver an exceptional customer experience, which confers a competitive advantage. Insurance company executives instinctively see the value of using personalized communication to build loyalty and strengthen relationships. But not all companies are fully ready to take advantage of the possibilities of a closer connection with customers.

See Also: Data Science: Methods Matter

Executives worry about the quality and accuracy of the data they have on hand. That’s because many insurance companies only contact customers when processing a claim or following up on a late payment. Some use these opportunities to update their customer data, but since records verification only happens around transactions, a sizable portion of the company’s customer information is always outdated, and that can stymie efforts to own the micro-moment.

Take the connected catastrophe scenario, for example — because much of the customer base is always connected and has higher expectations around personalized communication than ever before, it makes sense to conduct customer outreach when a catastrophe is likely. By reaching out to customers, companies can contribute to customer safety, reduce losses and strengthen relationships.

A P&C company, with an insured population in the path of a hurricane or wildfire, might reach out via automated voice message, text, social media (e.g., Facebook or Twitter) or email to alert customers of the danger, provide advice on documenting insured property and inform customers on how to file claims once the event is over. The P&C company might also identify the location of mobile service centers.

The message this type of initiative sends to customers is unmistakable: The company is looking out for the customer and stands ready to assist during a tough time. And with modern communication technology, companies can implement a system capable of managing affordably customer outreach across multiple platforms, using automation to handle most of the workload.

Another issue is that many P&C companies don’t make a practice of asking for permission to contact customers or recording customer communication preferences. In addition to up-to-date contact information (including landline and mobile numbers), companies need to request communication preferences, such as whether the subscriber prefers to be contacted by voice, text or tweet.

Getting P&C company databases where they need to be to conduct widespread customer outreach in a personalized manner that respects customer communication preferences will take a large-scale data scrubbing effort at most companies. It can be conducted in-house if the insurer has sufficient resources to tackle such a project, or the company can choose to hire a third-party vendor.

When P&C insurers have the clean data they need, they can contact policyholders to help keep them safe, but that’s just the beginning. With clean data and the ability to automate communications using customer preferences, companies can reach out to customers about changing coverage needs, inquire about policy lapses, address late payments and much more.

The first step in fostering closer relationships with customers via personalized communication is making sure the information on hand is clean — data that has been verified as accurate. With clean data, forward-thinking insurance company leaders can ensure that consumer demand for greater personalization is met and that their company thrives in an increasingly data-driven economy.