Chubb Insures Customer Satisfaction with Collaboration

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2008-11-26

Few words hold as much sway in corporate America these days as “collaboration.” But at Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, a Warren, N.J., homeowners, commercial property and liability insurer with more than 4,500 independent agents and brokers scattered across 50 states—plus 8,500 agents worldwide—sharing documents and data is more than a productivity goal: It is essential to business.

“Collaboration is at the heart of what we do,” points out Linda Dodson, e-business manager at Chubb Group. “Our brand revolves around claims, and our reputation depends on handling them efficiently.”

The company is no stranger to ambitious IT initiatives. For the past quarter century, it has relied on computers and specialized software—including electronic data interchange (EDI)—to ratchet up its ability to speed claims processing and develop a closer relationship with agents.

However, beginning in 2004, Chubb Group began building a sophisticated internal claims management system that would create the foundation for sharing information with agents and help build a competitive advantage. “It has become the focal point of our business and IT strategy,” Dodson explains.

A proprietary collaborative platform offers the firm’s agents and brokers the ability to automatically view personal and commercial lines claim information at the click of a mouse. Those using the system are able to provide more responsive claims service to policyholders throughout the entire claims process—from loss to final resolution. Although the system is already fully functional, Chubb Group continues to add features and hopes to roll out more advanced capabilities by early 2009.

It’s an ambitious program that has helped the company take the lead in moving the insurance business online. Executives at Chubb Group believe that its agency claims tools provide a state-of-the-art environment for handling the complexities of the insurance industry on a day-to-day basis. Already, the company has captured industry attention and awards with its e-business initiative.

Let’s Work Together

As the Internet and online communications have become integral to the business world, the need to provide faster and better service has grabbed the spotlight. Unfortunately, many organizations talk a good game when it comes to providing superior customer service, but few actually deliver. Chubb Group aims to break away from the pack and distinguish itself as an IT innovator. “Our core goal is to deliver information to people when they need it,” says Cecelia Puglio, claim IT solutions manager for Chubb Group.

A variety of systems—including claims service solutions, e-applications (including e-forms and e-signatures) and e-business solutions—have emerged as the foundation for Chubb Group’s business and IT strategy.

“We have worked within the industry and internally to drive new technologies that support the way we need to communicate with our agents and disseminate information to them,” Dodson explains. “Our vision has been to put all the data and information they need in their hands—as they need it. We want business to take place quickly and efficiently.”

New agency tools handle an array of claims-related tasks. They provide automatic updates, including initial loss notifications, payments and key status updates. Agents and brokers receive near real-time (every two hours) information about important claim activities—including loss notifications, status information and changes in adjustor assignments.

The e-business platform also reduces phone calls, faxes and written exchanges between the company’s service center and its agents. By using the Agency eLoss module, agents can submit a loss form, along with PDF and TIFF images, and receive an immediate reference number, which automatically passes into an agency’s management system for future reference.

In addition, Chubb Group has simplified the claims inquiry process. Agents can use a Web interface—from a desktop or notebook computer—to view detailed information about a customer’s claim status, along with any notes an adjuster has entered into the system.

Agents can also monitor payment information about claims within 24 hours of the company’s issuing a check; view historical data dating from Jan. 1, 2004; and conduct custom searches.

“Only a few years ago, an agent or broker would call in to a customer service representative and have to wait minutes, hours or days for required information,” Dodson notes. “Today, they are able to get immediate service through their computer, and we are able to use the phones to resolve more strategic issues.”

Building Better Connections

One thing that makes the collaboration platform so powerful, Puglio says, is the ability for agents and brokers to customize their data feed and obtain information in a format that suits them. One agent might choose to receive policy downloads electronically, while another might opt for billing and commission details online. Still others might use all the available options.

Using EDI, Chubb Group connects the agent’s systems to tables residing on an IBM DB2 mainframe. The application platform is compliant with ACORD, an insurance industry standard designed to facilitate data sharing across companies and systems.

For agents, it’s all fairly straightforward. After the agent selects the desired data elements, the software connects to the central database and requests the specified files, which are downloaded into a secure central mailbox. The entire process takes place automatically and transparently.

“When agents arrive at the office in the morning, they’ve got the most up-to-date claims information at their fingertips,” Dodson explains. “The information is presented to them, and they are ready to act on it.”

Because approximately 90 percent of the Chubb Group’s agents use one of two agency management systems—and the company has tapped into EDI since the late 1980s—developing the system was a fairly straightforward process. Nevertheless, Dodson says that getting the entire industry on the same page with the ACORD standard has proven to be challenging.

“We have a solid foundation in place, but we are still working with other agency software vendors to adopt the standards,” Dodson says. “With the standards, it’s like flipping on a switch: We’re ready to go.”

Another challenge has been spurring widespread adoption. Despite the clear advantages of using a near real-time system, some agents have been slow to adopt the technology. Others have had to obtain additional site licenses and upgrade agency management software, which can require a fairly significant investment.

Finally, IT initially had to set up test systems to improve the data quality and ensure that agents were getting the specific information they needed when they needed it. “There was a lot of data work that went on before we could go live with the system,” Puglio explains.

So far, a few hundred of the firm’s U.S. agents have adopted the platform, but the numbers are growing rapidly. “More of them are coming online every day,” Dodson reports.

Chubb Group has planned additional improvements, including the ability to receive real-time alerts for particular cases or scenarios, such as when an adjuster has finished reviewing a case or when any activity has occurred on a certain account. The company is also considering a Web-based dashboard interface that would provide a snapshot of various activities and indicators.

Chubb Group is marching forward with its collaboration-based e-business initiatives. It has captured three major industry awards for its e-business systems, and Dodson believes the company has only begun to tap into available opportunities.

“We’re putting information in agents’ hands so they can manage their work—and ours—faster and more proactively,” she observes. “We are build-ing on the brand name and, ultimately, helping customers receive better service and support.”