Instacart: Lessons for P&C Insurance Claim Management

Continuing to live with our COVID-19 lock-down / self-isolate / stay-at-home experience just like most of the world, we have tried both delivery from a local grocery store and Instacart. We were happy with both services.

However, I believe that Instacart has lessons for P&C insurance claim management, particularly if the insurance company or third-party claim adjudication firm want to improve customer experience.

Please keep in mind that being a ‘creature of the insurance industry’ I know full well that insurance is not a commodity and neither is an insurance claim process. Having stated that, there are lessons that insurers, their internal claims management department, and the third-party claim adjudicators can learn from Instacart.

What lessons?

What lessons can P&C insurers and other participants in the claims adjudication and management processes learn from Instacart?

I believe the lessons involve:

  • claimant visibility into the claims process
  • claimant interaction into the claims process
  • claimant personalization into the claims process (if another claim happens which, of course, we sincerely hope for the claimant’s sake as well as for the sake of an insurer’s loss ratio and combined ratio does not happen again).

Let’s start at the beginning of my first use of Instacart …

Starting at the beginning of my use of Instacart

We, my wife and I, decided to try Instacart to deliver groceries from one of our major grocery stores: Market Street (an Albertsons store). (BTW, having lived in the Boston area for 30+ years I had never heard of either store. Finding out there were grocery stores in Santa Fe that were new to us was part of our ‘transition’ experience. Fortunately there is also a Whole Foods in town and a Trader Joe’s for folks who prefer them. We prefer Whole Foods, Market Street, and that ‘local grocery store’ I referred to above. Each has their own strengths.)

Here are the steps I took to first use Instacart:

  • Downloaded the Instacart app on my smart phone (an iPhone, of course). I decided later to download the app on my iPad and MacBook later that morning.
  • Create my username and password and give them my email address and my phone number (so they could send me alerts or messages while the Instacart shopper actually, well, actually shopped).
  • We decided not to become Instacart subscribers at this time but if it seems as if a COVID-19 treatment is not available by Fall we might change our minds. Regarding a vaccine, I doubt it will be available by 2Q21 but who knows?
  • Clicked on the Instacart app on my iPhone and saw the list of local stores they will shop for you in Santa Fe. (In full honesty, I had checked the list of local stores a week before we decided to try Instacart.)
  • I chose Market Street from the list.
  • I then chose ‘to shop’. (You can browse all you want before beginning to actually shop.)
  • A list of ‘popular’ departments came up. I could also enter a name of a department or a product.
  • I decided to enter the names of each product I wanted, one at a time just as if I was taking the items off of the shelves (instead of first using one of the ‘popular’ departments).
  • Once I entered the name of product, a screen of products came up with: a (color) picture of the product (just as if you were in an aisle and looking at the product), size of the product, price of the product, and whether there was a sale for the product.
  • Proceeded by entering each product we wanted, I quickly filled our cart. (Personally, I enjoy shopping with or without my wife. Somehow, as if by magic, products fall into my cart even if they’re not on our list.)
  • At this point after completing our list, we could decide when we wanted Instacart to actually shop for us: today (with many two-hour periods), the next day (with many two-hour periods), the day after that … (you get the idea).
  • We decided that we wanted the actual shopping done the next day and to request the items to be delivered to us between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
  • The next day around 9:45 a.m. I got an alert send to my oPhone from Instacart that the shopper (showing first name and first initial of his last name) had begun shopping.
  • I quickly discovered that the fun had begun: when he couldn’t find an item on his list, he asked if we wanted a replacement with the picture / size / price of the replacement shown. I got an option ‘to approve’ or ‘reject’ (meaning that our original item would be scratched from our list).
  • I also quickly discovered it was far better to interact with our shopper using the Instacart app on my iPad: obviously more real estate than my iPhone. (I don’t have or like iPhones that are so large they cover half of my face or could easily be mistaken for tablets.)
  • At one time, he asked if he could just replace any of our original items with replacements that were close. My wife agreed with me to say ‘yes’ and I did that.
  • Even though I had said ‘yes’ to whatever he replaced our items with, he would sometimes send me a message double-checking some specific items that he needed to replace.
  • During his shopping, Instacart provided a running update about the number of items shopped (i.e. in the real cart) as well as what items were shopped, replaced, and were yet to be shopped.
  • Finally, our shopper was finished. I knew that because I got a message telling me that fact and showing me the total amount.
  • I had provided Instacart a credit card for the shopping and added a tip.
  • Our shopping items were delivered around Noon.
  • Instacart also send me an email with a detailed inventory: original items we wanted that got shopped, original items that were replaced and what the replacements were, and the original items that we had not wanted replaced. (O.K. O.K. there were some items we didn’t want to be replaced ….)
  • A day later, Instacart send me an email asking me to rate our shopper and our shopping experience.
  • I went back and logged into Instacart yesterday just for kicks: they had all the original items they shopped for and the replacement items on the list as well as the items that I requested originally and didn’t want replaced.

What were my take-aways from using Instacart?

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Amazing what can be done using mobile and cloud technology solutions. (Yes, I know that anyway because shopping at Amazon is an integral part of my life but the Instacart experience was so very interactive.)

Instacart:

  • enabled me to see each product that I wanted to purchase (including all sides of the product in case I wanted to read the labels … I didn’t want to do that) before adding it to my cart
  • involved me throughout the shopping experience; I knew what had been purchased, what had been replaced; and what items were still left to be shopped
  • provided a status of the shopper’s progress on my shopping list throughout his journey through Market Street for us
  • allowed me to interact with my shopper through a chat window
  • allowed the shopper to send me alerts and information through chat messages about potential replacements
  • allowed me to add new items to the list before the shopper finished that I had not originally put on the list
  • delivered my items within the two-hour window that I chose (this was surprising given the crush of people in Santa Fe using Instacart)
  • provided me a detailed invoice
  • maintains a list of the items I requested to be shopped (which will save time the next time I need to use Instacart to shop from Market Street – reminiscent of Quicken).

The lessons for both personal and commercial P&C insurance claim management almost write themselves. But let’s discuss them in the next section anyway focusing on auto insurance claim management ….

Lessons for auto insurance claim management

There are many P&C insurance companies who enable claimants to take pictures (or videos?) of the accident site and their damaged automobile and send this information to the insurer – or claim area – using mobile devices. For the purposes of this post, I take that capability as a given or ‘table stakes.’

In fact, the lessons from Instacart translate into auto insurance claim management into, at a minimum:

  • A visual process that begins with the pictures (or video) of the damaged automobile and ends with a picture of the automobile looking undamaged.
  • The claimant has access to the entire visual process and can see each activity required to transforms the damaged vehicle into an undamaged automobile.
  • Activities are shown within the visual process that encompass:
    • the claimant asked which repair shop s/he wants the damaged vehicle towed
    • the damaged vehicle actually being towed to and arriving at the repair shop (with detailed address of the repair shop, telephone number of the repair shop, and email addresses for the claimant to use to IM / Chat or email the person responsible for managing the repair / replace process to restore the vehicle to an undamaged state)
    • a claim adjudicator arriving at the repair shop, examining the vehicle, and collaborating with the repair technicians about what parts, labor, and time will be required to return the vehicle to an ‘undamaged state’ along with the costs of accomplishing each task.
      • claimant being shown the detailed examination in any desired angle on the claimant’s smartphone or tablet
      • claimant being allowed to be part of the collaboration between the claim adjudicator and the repair technician(s)
    • each task the technicians perform to transform the vehicle
    • claimants being asked if they want an after-market or OEM part to restore the vehicle, along with the implications (cost of the part if applicable, parts not being covered by the auto insurance policy) before each repair / replacement task is begun
    • the claimant being shown the final restored vehicle and asked for their approval
    • the restored vehicle either being towed to the claimant’s desired location or the claimant being shown a detailed address with directions to pick up the restored vehicle
  • A process that has the flexibility to expand, if necessary, to accommodate any fraud investigations which will put off the repair / replacement work until a date later than the one initially shown as an estimated completion date to have a restored vehicle.

Given that auto insurance claims can sometime involve a claimant’s attorneys, the visual process above should enable the claimant to give his/her lawyer access to most of the set of activities above.

Moreover, each activity above should be video-recorded and stored in a secure cloud location. The video-recording should be tagged with the date of the loss event, the date of first notice of loss, the nature of the loss, claimant’s name, the type of vehicle, the names of the adjuster(s) and technician(s), the name and address of the repair shop, the names and cost of each part used to restore the vehicle, the names of SIU investigators and nature and resolution of the SIU investigation, and the names of the law firm and the claimant attorneys if involved with the claim management process.

Access to all or parts of the video-recording should be given to authorized insurance firm staff (including in-house attorneys, SIU staff investigating fraud), agent / broker, and the claimant’s lawyer (if the claimant involves a lawyer).

Once the vehicle is restored and the claimant agrees to a final claim settlement, I’d also recommend that the entire video-recording, along with all claim notice and other forms / documentation, is made available to the insurer’s underwriting department. Insurance underwriting and claim management should be interconnected and interdependent processes.

What would you add as a lesson from Instacart for the P&C insurance claim management process?

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