Metadata driving the future for claims management firm Crawford & Company

Mark Chillingworth Profile picture for user Mark Chillingworth October 10, 2022
A bespoke claims management platform, centered on a flexible metadata design, is at the heart of digitizing insurance claims management.

An image of a model house and some keys lying on an insurance document
(Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pixabay )

Metadata is the small but influential key to improved business processes, as well as customer service at insurance claims management firm Crawford & Company. In order to meet the varied needs of its clients, as is typical with insurance carriers, Crawford & Company self-developed its claims management platform. This has resulted in a technology that is delivering service improvements and new insights to customers. 

Director of IT & Strategy, Chris Tunnecliff, describes the claims management sector as: 

It's about the speedy and fair resolution of claims. Increasingly customers and partners also expect the provision of data, which can be used for a variety of purposes, such as risk management.

Crawford & Company is the largest publicly listed independent provider of claims management and outsourcing. The US-headquartered business works for many of the leading insurance companies that readers will have their homes, cars, pets, travel and health insured with. Established back in 1941, today Crawford & Company has 700 offices in 70 countries. As a specialist outsourced services provider, Tunnecliff says the firm has to deliver a service that reflects the insurance carrier. He adds:

So that for the claimant, it feels like the same company. Therefore, the customer journey is key.

To improve the customer journey, Crawford developed its claims management system that is metadata-driven, which enables greater connectivity between elements of an insurance claim. These elements include the different business processes that support a claim. Tunnecliff explains: 

Metadata provides simplicity and ties all the different elements of a claim together. As the metadata creates a series of claims objects. Take fire damage in a factory; for example, there could be a number of unique aspects to the claim which creates a lot of complexity as you need to settle issues like business interruption, contents and buildings insurance claims, all with their own data needs.

Internal benefits 

Not only does the claims management platform simplify the process, but it is enabling Crawford to meet the myriad of different needs that their clients have; Tunnecliff says: 

The system has so much customization that we can tailor it to the client, so there is a fully audited log of a claim at any moment in time, whilst ensuring data integrity.

Metadata allows Crawford to deal with structured and unstructured data with comparative ease; Tunnecliff says: 

We take integrated data from multiple potential sources, including Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, WhatsApp messages, email, calls, photographs and forms. RPA and APIs are used with our clients systems to validate the policies or documents. This means we streamline the process without creating huge tables, and it allows us to tailor the claims process to what the customer needs. 

You then bring in the human element - the claims handlers who can look at how to get claimants back on their feet as fast as possible. And this can be a minor claim such as a stone breaking a window or the Suez Canal blockage that impacted global supply chains.  By using metadata in our design, we can easily extract data to instruct loss adjusters or contractors.

In addition, the metadata feeds various systems for real-time reporting of risk exposure as well as updating claimants on progress and resolution. Traditional technology designs could not cater for this level of personalized service within the right response times, Tunnecliff says. The core of the system then allows data to flow, via automation, to other areas of Crawford.

Tunnecliff, who joined Crawford in November 2021, says of the capabilities of the company's digital claims ecosystem: 

I have run lots of policy administration systems during my career, and the weakest part of most of them is the claims management. I have been blown away by what the technology team has achieved at Crawford.

The core claims management engine and processes are bespoke and have been developed by the Crawford IT team, with external data feeds, fraud management tools and a multitude of links into most off the shelf policy administration systems. 

Data driven loss

The claims management platform is also at the forefront of digitizing the Crawford International business. On behalf of their clients, the company is able to do more in-depth data analysis of a claim, adding weather information to a road traffic accident claim, for example. As climate change begins to impact the bottom line and operations of businesses, claims management companies have the ability to analyze data and advise organisations on how to mitigate potential associated risks and reduce the possibility of a claim. 

One example Tunnecliff shares is that an analysis of claims data is able to advise companies on where to locate fire hydrants or improve flood defences based on past and future weather patterns. In addition, Crawford can use the data to understand what business partnerships to form, so that when damaged equipment is received as part of a claim, Crawford can ensure that salvage or on-selling revenue benefits the client. Tunnecliff says of the data focus: 

With any insurance company, they want to help clients mitigate potential risks and in-turn minimize the number of claims, and the best way to do that is via advice based on analytics or predictive analytics.

Digitization is also key to enabling the business to focus its people on the complex claims; he says: 

If a claimant has a travel cancellation, most travellers are tech-savvy, and they prefer a non-human experience. But for a corporation, if there is an incident in a factory, you may want to talk to a specialist that understands your complex claim needs.

There is, however, a reducing the need for manual, in-person visits to a major claim. Increasingly 3D technology using mobile phone pictures or videos are collected by the claimant or a third party. This allows an adjuster to virtually walk through the incident scene to assess the damage more quickly and start the process of recovery. Tunnecliff says: 

Take fire damage in a home; we are now able to contact the customer and let them know there is a potential issue, and we are evaluating and acting on it before they are aware. If the worst happens, then we can use our loss adjusting team to instruct our contractors. This is why we are in the claims industry, to restore lives. 

Typically claims management companies have a workforce that is highly experienced, but technology adoption is strong across the sector. He says: 

The pandemic has acted as a major catalyst for the adoption of new claims technology.

He adds that technology based claims handling has now become prominent, along with the integration of digital claims capabilities by the insurance carriers. 

To keep the momentum of technology-oriented change going, Tunnecliff has adopted a product-focused development approach, to ensure strong involvement of all areas of the business. He says of the benefits: 

With a product, everyone in the business is able to prioritize and see the value being generated. A lot of people see products as systems; it is not. A product is a business outcome with value.

Insured heritage 

Tunnecliff has spent the majority of his career within insurance, including a decade with business insurance specialists Hiscox, QIC Global, Markel and Aspen Re. He says of the sector: 

Insurance is a wide and varied world, dealing with incidents and events ranging from accidental damage by a landscape gardener, kidnap and ransom through to processing claims after a catastrophe.

My take

In the buzzwords and hype surrounding the digital transformation of organisations, the value and importance of metadata is easily lost. Perhaps considered a term from Web 1.0, but if organisations are to be data-oriented, then a simple way of creating objects and connected processes can lay claim to good management practices. 

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