Thoughtful Software Could Make the Insurance Claim Process Less Awful

Have you ever had to file a homeowner’s insurance claim? I was graced with the good fortune of needing to do so after a large tree limb fell through my garage. Since insurance is such a large and profitable industry, I was very surprised by how manual (and painful) the claims process was.

Fortunately, part of my job is to help companies understand who their customers are, what their needs are, and how they can meet those needs with software. I spend every day doing this work, so it’s inevitable that I find myself daydreaming about how I might solve experience issues for companies who aren’t even my customer.

I firmly believe that thoughtfully designed software could make the insurance claim process significantly less awful. In this post, I am going to walk through my experience while pointing out opportunities for improvement (often via software). I’ll even give insight into the emotions I was feeling along the way.

1. Beginning the Journey

On June 19, 2020, at about 6 a.m., I was abruptly awoken by the loud crash of a large tree limb snapping and plummeting into my garage. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

Aerial view of tree damage.

After quickly extracting my motorcycles from the garage for safekeeping, I got to work on contacting my homeowner’s insurance company.

My Emotional State

😱😭

Recommended Improvement

Don’t have large trees near your property? 🤷‍♀️

2. Contacting My Insurance Company

After a quick online search, it became clear to me that I needed to call my insurance company. I am a Millennial; I hate talking to people on the phone. But alas, I had to do it.

I called the number listed online and was greeted with a series of automated messages. Then, I sat on hold. After what felt like the longest five minutes of my life, I was greeted by a real human. I explained to her what had happened. She asked a few additional questions, seeming to be recording the information.

I had a lot of questions, but when I tried to get answers to them, she simply informed me that an agent from the insurance company would be assigned my case, and they would contact me in the next 24–48 hours.

My Emotional State:

😫😑

Recommended Improvement

Provide an Online Claim Portal™️ for folks to file their initial claim. Include information about what to expect from the insurance claim process, as well as a status indicator for their specific claim.

3. Talking with My Claim Agent

I was pleasantly surprised when I received a call from my claim agent later that night. For the sake of this post, let’s call him Steve.

Steve got right down to business. He gave me a lot of information about what would be happening and had me write down my claim number. He asked me to text a few photos of the garage damage to him and then informed me he’d be out to inspect the garage himself in one week.

I was grateful that Steve gave me a plethora of information. However, it felt like trying to drink from a firehose. It was too much information to process at once. I found myself wishing it was sent via email so I could refer back to it.

Steve also really wanted me to know that the insurance company would reimburse me for the cost of a tarp to cover the hole in the garage. I don’t think Steve quite understood the extent of the damage — an entire wall of the garage was missing, and it was on the verge of collapsing.

I felt like I was not being heard and was frustrated at the thought of waiting an entire week for more answers.

My Emotional State

😠😓

Recommended Improvement

Allow folks to attach images to their claim via the Online Claim Portal™. Provide a way to schedule in-person claim inspections. Include any information about next steps in writing.

View of the garage after the removal of tree debris.

4. Meeting with My Claim Agent

A week later, Steve showed up to inspect my garage. It was very clear that the damage was far more than he had assumed during our initial phone call. I felt justified when he exclaimed, “Oh yeah, a tarp isn’t going to do this any justice.”

Steve took photos and measurements, then informed me that a claim settlement report would be sent to me within the next few days. He said it was likely I would receive the maximum amount allotted for a garage structure and that I should start contacting contractors to get quotes for tearing down the remaining garage structure and building a new one.

I was relieved to hear Steve acknowledge the damage but still concerned that the amount provided would not be enough to build a new garage. The thought of getting quotes for new builds without knowing my budget yet was stressful.

My Emotional State

🤨😰

Recommended Improvement

Indicate the status of the claim settlement report via the Online Claim Portal™.

5. Receiving the Claim Settlement Report

I received the claim report the following day via an email from Steve. It included additional information about the timeline I had to complete the garage build in order to receive the full claim amount. I was informed that there would be two checks, along with information around how to receive them.

I was also informed that I’d need to contact my mortgage company, since most would require the claim money to be rerouted through them. Once again, I was left feeling like this process was overly complicated. I was dreading going through it all over again with the mortgage company.

My Emotional State

😕😳

Recommended Improvement

Provide the claim settlement report via the Online Claim Portal™. Indicate the status of each claim check, along with information about each status (i.e., how to receive the “recoverable depreciation” amount).

Stretch goal: partner with mortgage providers to allow the entire process to take place in the Online Claim Portal™.

View of tree impaling the garage.

6. Next Steps

As I am writing this, it has been six months since the tree limb fell through my garage, and I have yet to begin the rebuild… but that’s a whole other story involving city codes.

I won’t go into full detail about the process with the mortgage company, but the short story is that I had to mail the first check from the insurance company to them. They then issued me a check for 90% of the original check. Upon completion of the garage build and passing an inspection from the mortgage company, I will receive the remaining 10%.

After that, I will also need to email Steve with the total cost of the rebuild to receive the final amount from the insurance claim.

Are you curious how I’m feeling now?

My Emotional State

😡😭

Recommended Improvement

Provide a todo list via the Online Claim Portal™. Include tasks related directly to the insurance claim (e.g., “send Steve your final construction invoice”) and also ones related to the lender (e.g., “contact mortgage company about loss draft process”).

Summary of the Journey

  1. I called the insurance company.
  2. I talked on the phone with the claim agent (Steve).
  3. I texted photos to the claim agent.
  4. I met the claim agent in person.
  5. I received emailed reports from the claim agent.
  6. I called the mortgage company.
  7. I emailed the mortgage company.
  8. Todo: email final invoice to Steve when build is complete.
  9. Todo: schedule inspection with mortgage company when build is complete.

We Can Do Better

The current process for filing a homeowners claim includes phone calls, text messages, emails, and in-person conversations. There was no one place to house all the information I’d received, to track where I was in the process, or to help me remember what the next steps were.

Filing a home insurance claim is stressful. If you’re doing so, it means something traumatic has happened to your home. The process to alleviate a difficulty should not be even more difficult!

Software could make insurance claims less awful! Creating an online tool to store all the photos and documents, provide status information, and allow for better communication would be a massive win — and could alleviate stress from a homeowner who is already swimming in it.