Harvey, Irma and the Flood of Claims

September 07, 2017

So far, 2017 Hurricane Season is one of the worse ever recorded. Eventually, after the storms pass, insurance call centers will need to deal with a new type of flood.  

In Houston, the water is receding. In Florida, the fury of Hurricane Irma drove more than six million people to flee in search of safety.

Eventually, after the storms pass and the rescue teams leave, the time will come to rebuild. When that happens, insurance claims will be on everyone’s mind.

Just think about the situation. Anxious home and business owners, by the tens of thousands, contact their insurance companies to discover if their insurance policies cover the damage. “They know that insurers handle claims on a first-come, first serve basis,” said J. Robert Hunter, Director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America.

The call center will be suddenly inundated with a flood of its own:

“Does my claim exceed my deductible?”

“Where do I obtain estimates for damages and repairs?”

“How long will it take to process my claim?”

Thousands of customers will need help to fill in the myriad claim forms. They will be in repeated contact with their agents throughout the long processing time.

According to NBC News, “[Texas’s] big insurers have been going into action. State Farm tweeted that it was adding hundreds of staff to help customers file claims. Allstate tweeted, ‘We're moving into the areas affected by Harvey, ready to help start the recovery process.’ "

We can expect a more urgent, Florida-style repeat in the wake of Irma.

Unfortunately, nothing focuses attention like a disaster. The levees of the call center will be overwhelmed by a deluge of calls that come in from the uninsured. Confronted with catastrophe, they are acutely aware of the need to buy insurance before the next storm strikes.

How will insurance companies, agents and call centers cope with the volume? What must they do to ensure quality of service and a positive customer experience for all claimants as well as new customers?

Digital Collaboration for Great Customer Experience

IVR systems are used all over insurance claims centers. But they are going to be overloaded. Customers will be facing long wait times and mass confusion – just at the time when fast and efficient service can make a huge difference. What can insurance companies do now to change that situation?

They can turn to digital collaboration with Visual IVR.

Visual IVR enables collaborative engagements that are much more efficient – and pleasing. It presents callers with a satisfying digital self-service journey that they will want to use from then on. Engaging and intuitive customer journeys boost rates of success and reduce call volumes and time spent.

With digital collaboration, customers can enjoy a host of self-service options, allowing them to

  • View bills
  • File claims
  • View policies
  • View claim status
  • And much more

A simple, intuitive visual menu on the mobile phone or computer screen enhances customer experience as it guides customers through the process. If, at the end of the process, a customer still needs or wants to speak to an agent, the agent will quickly be able to see the entire journey that customer undertook before arriving. The conversation need not start at the beginning, but where the digital-self-service left off. What a time-saver for customer and agent alike!

Like a team, the agent and customer can co-browse, sharing the same screen to complete claim forms, sign them digitally and even share photos of properties and assets and add them to claims in real time. At a stressful time, customers are relieved by with the high level of service and cooperation.

Other collaboration tools are available as well.

Intelligent service BOTS can guide users through online sessions. The BOTs can be exploited in a variety of helpful and efficient ways, from answering simple questions to helping customers fill in forms online. Even near-human chat (in free text) based on artificial intelligence is available to speed things along.

Faster Resolution Makes Happier Customers

Standard IVR technology is widely used by most insurance companies. Yet, on many occasions, it fails to respond to the needs of the modern customer. The desired "caller journey" in the mobile computing age is both audio and visual: swipe, type and talk. Insurance companies need to take note.

Augmenting traditional call center technologies with digital capabilities adds visual presentation of information and process flows. The convenience of visual presentation of information choices for mobile devices is crucial to successful customer response. Visual menus are intuitive for customers to use as they provide for the transfer of information and choices directly to the customer service (or sales) agent as necessary.

Customer Service can deliver digital media – such as web pages, images, forms, data and video – throughout the entire IVR session. Some interesting use cases include the following:

  • The customer dials any number, as normal, and gets the standard voice response menus, but at the same time the screen on the mobile phone shows all the messages, navigation menus and self-service options. While in the call, the representative can push images and explanations onto the caller's phone. When the call ends, the caller can be presented with a summary and a survey.
  • When customers dial a number associated with a visual service, they will get a set of predefined menus. At this stage, they can choose to be disconnected and will be able to navigate the menu without keeping the phone line busy.
  • While the caller is on hold and waits for the next available customer service representative, the rich visual layer acts as a "billboard", providing relevant information to make the call shorter, requesting relevant information from customers or promoting self-service, showing commercial content to turn the call into an opportunity or even entertaining the caller to make her waiting time more pleasant.


In the wake of dissipating Hurricane Harvey and his onrushing mate, Irma, we can expect huge pressure on insurance companies – along with huge opportunities.
Advanced collaboration tools and visual IVR

  • Alleviate the pressure on call centers by deflecting many of the simple tasks to digital self-service
  • Ensure that all callers enjoy a high-quality customer experience
  • Allow for quick and efficient first-call resolution

At a time of crisis, the last thing we, as customers, want is a long wait for a phone conversation with overworked agents. Digital platforms that enable visual IVR and agent-customer collaboration make customer journeys much faster and much more enjoyable. Using these platforms, insurance companies can significantly enhance the quality of service they give to their customers, allowing them to dry out and focus on rebuilding their homes and businesses.

Learn more about CallVU's Digital Engagement Platform in our pre-recorded webinar "Omnichannel That Works