When Cyclone Oswald hit Queensland in January 2013, insurers faced a deluge of claims, and homeless families faced weeks of uncertainty. Insurance restoration firm, Arcbuild, acted. In a lightning-fast, two-week deployment of Microsoft Office
365, they created an online file-sharing tool so claims could be assessed, estimated and approved within four hours. Arcbuild tripled capacity, insurers slashed backlogs and families returned home faster.
||We tripled our capacity, and got through the workload in less than half the time … Overall, we were giving residents their keys back approximately 30 percent faster than before.
| Darren Paxton
The past few years have been tough on Australian property insurers. A succession of natural disasters – from floods in Queensland, to fires in Tasmania – has heaped pressure on commercial and residential insurers to rapidly assess thousands of claims and
rectify damage quickly. They need to get families back into their homes, and companies back in business as fast as humanly possible.
One company that has risen to the challenge is New South Wales insurance restoration firm, Arcbuild. After a catastrophe, the firm dispatches teams of assessors to the disaster area, who inspect damaged properties, make repair assessments and report back
to cost-estimators at Arcbuild head office. Once the insurance companies have approved Arcbuild estimates, they authorize rectification, and Arcbuild contractors move in.
“As large-scale disasters kept coming, we decided our existing processes were just too slow,” says Darren Paxton, Managing Director, Arcbuild. “Assessors worked with hard-copy documents, including forms, spreadsheets and photographs, but it typically took
four days to collate that file on-site, send it back to our head office, and then for our supervisors and estimators to work through each file in turn.
“With thousands of families left stranded in acute uncertainty, we needed a faster way to get our files to insurers, so they could instruct us to start the physical work.”
As Arcbuild looked for a solution, a new disaster struck. On January 26th 2013, ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald slammed into the Queensland coast forcing 7,500 residents to evacuate the Bundaberg region. Over 3,000 properties were inundated by flood waters, and
tornadoes destroyed hundreds more. Within days Queensland insurers submitted 28,000 claims.
Paxton contacted Les Einhorn, IT specialist at Logical Effective Solutions. “Arcbuild needed a solution—fast,” he says. “Their concept was simple enough: a shared-file service, that would allow site assessors to enter data straight onto electronic files
on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, and then send the file to supervisors at head office,” says Einhorn.
“This was not just a mobility challenge, however,” he adds. “To speed up claims, assessors, supervisors and estimators needed to work on files simultaneously, but without any risk to version control.”
Einhorn advised a rapid deployment of Microsoft SkyDrive Pro, the online library service that uses Microsoft-hosted SharePoint servers, available as part of Microsoft Office 365.
As a hosted service, it would be quick to deploy, and free Arcbuild from the cost and complexity of installing on-site servers. Arcbuild gave the go-ahead.
“We designed assessment template forms in Word and Excel, and then uploaded them to SkyDrive, keeping them synced with master copies on an Arcbuild file server,” says Einhorn. “Then we used workflows to insert a web link into each claim notification email,
so that assessors just had to click on the link, and they could instantly start adding data, comments and photos to a new claims file.
“The SkyDrive file is synchronized in real-time, so all assessors, supervisors and estimators can work on files simultaneously. They don’t even have to press save, and no-one has to worry about version control.”
“The beauty of the Office 365 was that it was all off-premises,” adds Paxton. “We didn’t have to spend several thousand dollars on servers and backup. We bought 11 licenses, issued assessors with tablet devices, and off they went. And we deployed at the
speed of light: by March 18th, we were up and running.”
As the enormous repair operation got underway in Queensland, Arcbuild claims-processing times immediately accelerated.
An immediate leap in productivity
“We used to take four days to submit an estimate to insurance companies; after switching to SkyDrive Pro, we took four hours,” says Paxton. “And because our assessors filled in data live and on the spot, they worked far faster, covering 30 properties
per day, instead of 10.
“We started to process Bundaberg claims at a terrific speed. We tripled our capacity, and got through the workload in less than half the time, processing over 200 claims per day.”
Families back in their homes faster
As a result families got back into their homes faster. “It wasn’t just a case of bureaucracy speeding up, the technology had a human impact,” adds Paxton. “The process became so slick that insurance companies could give authorization for rectification
works the same day we did our assessment.”
Arcbuild also started using SkyDrive to expedite rebuilding works. When contractors encountered on-site challenges, they used SkyDrive to pass up requests, data and photos to head office staff, for immediate consideration. “With all the information immediately
to hand, we could authorize out-of-scope works in 15 minutes,” says Paxton. “Overall, we were giving residents their keys back approximately 30 percent faster than before.”
A boost to the insurance business
With SkyDrive, Arcbuild is helping insurance companies provide a better service to their customers—and shareholders. “The insurers could see our assessments weren’t just arriving faster, they were also more detailed and more accurate,” says Paxton.
“They immediately started allocating more work to us, to get through their backlog faster.
“We also made our own business more adaptable because we can expand and consolidate as and when needed by adding and removing users After the Bundaberg claims subsided, we reduced the number of monthly Office 365 licenses we bought. If another disaster hits,
we can scale up again without delay. We’re helping insurance companies react faster than ever before, getting disaster victims back on their feet in the shortest possible time.”
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