Early risk assessment, long-term partnerships and exemplary customer service are top priorities at ServiceMaster, says UK national accounts manager Scott Robinson.

1. How important are the services of restoration companies in the insurance process?
I believe the development of restoration services in recent years has added a new dimension to the claims handling process. While many restoration companies are focused on claims cost reduction and control, ServiceMaster believes satisfying the expectations of the policyholder is the most important part of any claim. In the eyes of the policyholder, the restoration company is an extension of their insurer and it is therefore essential that the customer feels at ease, knowing experts have been appointed.

2. Are there any risk management initiatives insurers can take to reduce the impact of a disaster?
There are a number of ways insurance companies can easily set up risk management initiatives involving restoration companies. In recent years, ServiceMaster in the UK has distributed damage control advice to claims handlers and loss adjusters. This advice is used to give guidance to the insured on what to do and what not to do in flood, fire or accidental damage situations. The advice is designed to maximise the restoration potential.

It would be a simple enough task to distribute this type of information to policyholders with renewal documents. This would allow personal lines policyholders to carry out their own risk management.

The Environment Agency is also a useful source of information when pre-planning for floods. Historical data and statistics can be used to identify the areas most at risk. Advice can then be issued to policyholders on how to prepare for the event of flooding. The larger restoration companies can also use the data to concentrate resources in certain parts of the UK.

3. What sort of partnerships with insurers do you prefer?
ServiceMaster believes in long-term partnerships. This type of relationship needs to be jointly beneficial, allowing both parties to grow profitably. Any long-term business relationship must
be underpinned by joint profitability, allowing the companies involved to invest in products
and services.

4. Why is it so important to get a recovery specialist in at the earliest opportunity?
It is very important that a disaster recovery specialist is appointed at the earliest opportunity.

First, a risk assessment needs to be carried out before anyone enters the site. In certain instances, secondary damage can cause more damage than the actual incident. Therefore, an assessment of the potential for secondary damage needs to be carried out immediately. The need for an immediate response is essential in order to control any secondary damage and mitigate the loss. While on site, a detailed inspection of damage needs to be completed at the earliest possible opportunity so that a report and details of costs can be submitted to the insurer, enabling an accurate reserve to be put on the claim.

5. What is the most common disaster that you are called out to?
Undoubtedly, flood claims take up most of our time. ServiceMaster saw a huge increase in the number of water damage instructions during 2000 and 2001. Many lessons were learnt following the flooding in 2000 and we are again ready for whatever the weather throws at us this winter.