Inside Acuity’s Claims Excellence

Acuity VP of Claims Jaimie Loiacono and President Melissa Winter discuss the company’s focus on claims excellence behind its recognition by the CRASH Network Insurer Report Card.

(Acuity headquarters in Sheboygan, Wisc. Source: Acuity.)

Acuity, a super regional property/casualty carrier based in Sheboygan, Wisc., was recognized this month as a top company in the 2024 CRASH Network Insurer Report Card. In addition to showing in the top six, Acuity was recognized as number 1 in the Great Lakes and Plains Regions and number 2 in the Rocky Mountains Region. Given Insurance Innovation Reporter’s emphasis on the technology component, one might think that Acuity Claims VP Jamie Loiacono’s comment below is less than optimal: “Technology is merely a tool in our claims reps’ tool belt.” On the contrary, we see this as exactly how insurers should think about technology for claims and for other major functions. Acuity was something of a pioneer in understanding the crucial role technology has to play in insurance operations. Ben Salzmann, named the company’s President and CEO in 1999, was promoted from the CIO role.

Ben Salzmann, CEO, Acuity.

The company achieved an unprecedented period of success during his tenure as CEO, outperforming the industry by an average of seven percentage points on its combined ratio, growing its revenue at nearly double the industry rate, and increasing policyholders’ surplus at more than twice the industry rate. Acuity Insurance is now the 55th-largest property and casualty insurer in the U.S., operating in 32 states, generating over $2 billion in revenue, managing over $5.5 billion in assets, and employing nearly 2,000 people. In in 2022 the company surpassed $2 billion in annual revenue for the first time in its 97-year history, finishing the year with $2.22 billion in written premium. In Feb. 2023, Salzmann handed the presidential reins to Melissa Winter, noting that she had “earned the role as well as the respect of everyone at Acuity,” and calling her the “right person to guide us into the future.” While Salzmann is not expected to retire from the CEO role for a couple of years, the company’s recognition on the CRASH Report Card is one indication that it’s likely to remain on a successful track with regard to the use of technology—as one tool in the belt of its professionals—to support excellent performance.

Insurance Innovation Reporter: What is Acuity’s philosophy of claims service? How are important is claims service both in terms of fulfilling the company’s mission and also being an effective competitor in the market?

Melissa Winter, President, Acuity: Acuity’s claims philosophy is a core component of our mission statement, which includes “Rebuilding shattered lives.” It also extends from our common purpose, which states, “With kind hearts, we dare to care for our family of employees, agents, and customers, by staring down risk.” We know that claims can be stressful for customers, so we work to put their minds at ease while helping them repair, rebuild, and recover after a loss.

Melissa Winter, President, Acuity.

We also recognize that claims are a key point of customer contact—even the sole point of contact customers may have with us. Therefore, the quality of claims service we deliver directly impacts customers’ perception of Acuity, our reputation in the market, and our ability to effectively compete against other insurers.

IIR: What are the components that shape an Acuity policyholder’s claim experience?

Jamie Loiacono, Vice President, Claims, Acuity: Acuity’s claims service is built on our people, processes, and technology.

As noted by CRASH network in its report card, Acuity’s ranking reflects the fact that we have personnel that are “better trained, more experienced, and/or quicker to respond.” Claims are handled in-house by Acuity-trained adjusters who uphold our standards, as opposed to other carriers that may outsource this critical core function. Our claims representatives are also multi-line property and casualty professionals, trained and equipped with a depth of knowledge to deliver the best customer service. This means that customers have a single point of contact throughout the life of a claim and are not passed between multiple reps to deal with different aspects or coverages, no matter the complexity of the loss.

Jamie Loiacono, Vice President, Claims, Acuity.

 Also as noted by CRASH, Acuity has claims processes that are more efficient than lower-ranked carriers. Our claims process starts with a commitment to meaningful, same-day contact and is focused on providing fast, fair resolution. We also provide customers real-time updates throughout the life of their claim to track its process. CRASH also noted that Acuity has payment practices that are more reasonable than other carriers and that we are more willing to pay for quality parts and OEM repair procedures than other companies. These practices show that we do “dare to care” for customers, treating them how we would like to be treated if we were in their shoes and helping truly restore them to pre-loss condition.

Technology is merely a tool in our claims reps’ tool belt, part of how we empower our people to be the single point of contact with our customers. In technology, Acuity has extensive integrations with partners across several lines of claims, including general liability, property, work comp, and auto. Specific to auto claims, we partner with CCC as our repair shop vendor. Our technology integration allows customers to easily search for repair shops through our online systems or mobile app and submit information and photos to their selected repair shop. We partner with Enterprise for car rentals and have integrated the rental scheduling process into our claims workflow.

Roadside Protect is our vendor for roadside claims/towing claims. We have created a direct call relay to them when customers request assistance with roadside or towing needs. Safelite is our glass vendor partner, and customers can schedule and coordinate repair or replacement from within our app or online from either the Acuity or Safelite platforms.

We leverage technology partnerships and integrations in other, non-automobile areas of our claims operations as well. For instance, in property, our partnership with Symbility helps us scope property losses, while Eagle View enables us to create roofing measurements and identify roofing material types. We have a fleet of drones, which are used when it is difficult or unsafe to physically inspect a site, and we have staff who are licensed drone operators. We also use SpatialKey to determine if we have properties that might be affected by severe storms, enabling us to reach out to both customers and agents preemptively after storms pass and initiate a quick response.

IIR: How would you quantify excellence in Acuity’s policyholder claim experience?

JL: We answer nearly 98 percent of all incoming calls (not just claims) within our goal of 16 seconds. We also achieve our goal of meaningful, same-day contact on new claim reports at a similar rate. Additionally, 97 percent of policyholders report a positive claims experience with Acuity.

IIR: How does Acuity ensure that its claims service is competitive, or up-to-date in terms of meeting policyholder expectations?

 JL: Our 97 percent policyholder claims satisfaction rate is our key metric. We also conduct companywide surveys of agents regarding our claims service and other areas of our operations. And, in addition to conducting ongoing staff training, our claims leadership regularly attends seminars and workshops on claims trends and technology to ensure we remain on the cutting edge of providing best-in-class claims service to our customers.

Overall, we believe our multi-line claims model is the foundation of exceeding customer expectations. It provides our customers with a single point of contact throughout the life of their claim, which they appreciate as do our agency partners.  We also provide both agents and customers electronic access to their claims file for transparency.

Our multi-line model requires a breadth of training and education compared to a siloed approach, and Acuity’s claims professionals provide the technical expertise required to effectively and efficiently deal with the complexities of today’s world. For claims that transition into litigation, our claims professionals work closely with our best-in-class defense attorneys to defend our policyholders.

IIR: What would you identify as the main features of the technology applications supporting claims at Acuity?

JL: The main applications supporting our claims processing are our “Next Generation Claims” and “Next Generation Loss Entry.” These are both internally developed applications that utilize technology integrations (such as mentioned earlier) to simplify the day-to-day activities that our claim representatives and claims service representatives perform. These applications also link to our imaging systems as well as our policy administration systems. We also utilize an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system, including [IBM’s] DataCap for document ingestion and automation, and Content Manager (soon to be FileNet) for document storage.

In addition to our claims entry and processing systems, we also utilize data analytics to forecast the overall severity of a claim, establish accurate reserves, and detect the possibility of fraudulent activity for additional action. This and other information is presented to claims reps within Next Generation Claims in a dashboard. We also have hardware and infrastructure in place to support field and remote work including laptops, cell phones, iPads, and drones as previously mentioned.

IIR: Could you share some recent technology initiatives undertaken by Acuity to enhance claims service?

JL: The most recent enhancements to claims service have been digital payments and straight-through processing for auto claims, which have both been introduced over the past 12-18 months. This allows auto claims to be processed, if the insured chooses, through a Smart Estimate process with our partner, CCC, without human intervention. For instance, in a common no-fault claim such as striking an animal, the customer can upload a photo, an estimate is automatically generated, and payment is automatically issued. We also offer digital payment options directly to the shop, which provides a quicker and safer way of transmitting payment versus a paper check. We have also implemented an e-signature process for highly utilized claims forms. Both initiatives have occurred within the past 12 months.

CCC Inbound Subrogation Streamlines Claims Resolutions

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at AnthODonnell@IIReporter.com or (503) 936-2803.

Leave a Comment

(required)