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A puzzle that fits

I’ve always been the type of person who likes to have a plan—but knowing when to deviate from that plan when the opportunity is right has led me to some pretty great experiences. I learned early on that taking on a new challenge can only strengthen your will to succeed. Whether it be running a marathon, relocating multiple times in a career (including one move across the world to Singapore!), or my latest goal to travel Europe, I’ve certainly embraced my fair share of life’s adventures.

I’ve been in claims for almost 40 years now, and my many experiences prepared me for what was about to come next. After 33 years at my prior company, a fresh opportunity presented itself when I joined personal lines startup Berkley One as Chief Claim Officer.

While I hadn’t previously been involved with a startup, I found the past prepared me well for this next exploit. Across the many moves and new positions I’ve taken in my career, I’ve found each one to be similar to a startup in important ways. Going into a new environment or team, a key part of your work becomes developing relationships and culture. The business of building—teams, workflows, and trust with clients, to name just a few—has always been one of my favorite parts of the job. What struck me about Berkley One was the unique opportunity to build a claim department from the ground up, with a focus on every little detail that goes into an operation.

Building the Berkley One Claims experience became a tremendously fun challenge to solve. And, more than ever before, my day-to-day became a story of bringing together the right pieces of a puzzle—and then making sure they fit together seamlessly.

 

Laying out the pieces

 

In the early days, my work was all about considering what we wanted Berkley One claims to represent as a critical part of our client service offering. We focused on how to make the claims process different and better.

It came down to putting the client first. The Berkley One claim promise to our valued clients is to make the claims experience as simple, efficient and personalized as possible by combining technical expertise, innovative technology and the right resources. We exist to help restore our client’s world.

What this means at its core is that we take a solutions-oriented claims approach. In every covered loss, our job, first and foremost, is to look for ways to support our client, streamline the process, and get them back to the important things in their life that bring happiness.
In the case of covered damage to a client’s home, we offer a fully vetted and insured list of contractors to assess and repair their property, and also provide them the option to work with their own trusted resource. We understand that sometimes what a client wants most is fast resolution. Other times, they want more information and guidance as they make decisions related to their claim.

In the end, every decision we made in laying out our strategy was guided by our goal to create an experience that can be customized and flexible. We take great care to meet our client’s needs (which can be different for each person) and minimize their effort in the process.

 

Putting the puzzle together

 

To ensure this experience is delivered seamlessly every time, we considered every detail, process, and coverage situation.

John Wooden, who led the UCLA Bruins to 10 national championships as their head coach, is famous for saying “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”1 So, to create a claims experience that exceeded expectations, we started bringing together all the small things. One of the things I learned most from the experience was the remarkable attention to detail and the amount of coordination that was needed to get to where we are today.

We started by drafting dozens of process maps, and drilling into each step in the workflow. Our team knows from experiencing hundreds of claims that the most important thing to a smooth claims process is communication and making it easy for the client to understand their claims specialist in the midst of the potentially stressful experience of a claim. So at each and every step in the process, we made sure communication and hand-offs were crystal clear.

As we brought in vendor partners, best-in-class technology and responsiveness were essential. We looked for automated technology to allow us to be more efficient and user-friendly. For example, through our vendor technology we have access to 24,000 auto repair facilities across the country, which can receive appraisal assignments and upload estimates with photos directly to Berkley One electronically, streamlining the process. Our Direct Repair Shop Program shops provide updates on the repair process via text or email, keeping the customer informed.

When evaluating dozens of partners over the course of my career and my Berkley One journey, I firmly believe that whether you are selecting a vendor, adjuster, or new employee, the one who will be successful is the one with the right attitude. When you align with the right partners, you naturally have open lines of communication and positive results.

 

“Is everyone okay?” is the first, and most important, thing to ask

 

Nowhere is this truer than in the building of our own team. From the beginning, it was clear that in order for the clams build to be successful, we needed an experienced, dynamic and collaborative leadership group. That started with Paul Cuzzola, who brings 30+ years of experience as our VP of Property Claims and Risk Management, including previous experience with a personal lines startup. Marylou Rodden, our VP of Casualty Claims, comes to us with 30+ years of experience, and Robert Young, our Auto Physical Damage Claims Manager, brings 29 years of experience. In addition, we have a team of experienced property and casualty claims professionals.

One of the most impressive things about this team is that along with vast experience, each of these individuals has a focus on truly serving our clients. While technical claims experience can be learned, I believe you can’t teach compassion and empathy. When you hire people with these qualities, the client can feel that comforting presence each time they pick up the phone.

When a client who has been in an auto accident calls, the very first question we ask is, “Is everyone okay?” Even as you’re focused on learning the details of the claim, no matter how many claims you deal with each day, delivering a great experience still comes down to engaging at a personal level and being open and approachable. You can’t build a reputation for excellence without realizing that you are caring for people, first.

 

A plan in place

 

Anyone who has experienced a claim has a story to tell. That’s because when someone experiences a claim, it impacts their life. This is true whether they are driving a rental car as their vehicle gets repaired, their home is disrupted by contractors working to repair damage, or they are involved in defending a liability claim, to name just a few. No matter what the situation, it’s likely that it may cause a break to their daily routine, and that how it is handled will make a lasting impression. A meaningful claims experience happens when you offer solutions. It happens when you make the process as simple, and as human, as you possibly can.

Eighteen months after joining Berkley One, I’ve found that building our claims department required excellent collaboration between the claims team and all disciplines of the organization. Our people are our greatest value and we have brought together people who, from our very first meeting to our market launch, remained in sync. The decisions made at the very beginning—to offer solutions to our clients—apply now in every single contact with them. The foundation that began with our leadership team now extends to each new employee.

While we hope our clients never have to encounter a property loss, an auto accident, or a lawsuit, we know that when the unexpected happens, we are here to offer solutions. At Berkley One, we’re proud to stand behind this promise. We’ve put the puzzle together and we’re ready to help.

 

Dave McKeon is Senior Vice President, Chief Claim Officer at Berkley One.