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Published: Mar 22, 2022 4 min read
Collage of a hand holding a smartphone, with a picture of a home with a damaged roof, and a button with the words  Submit Claim
Money; Getty Images

Did you wait a budget-straining eternity to have a home insurance claim paid last year? Join the unhappy club.

The average home insurance claim was settled in 18 days in 2021, compared to just three days in 2020, according to J.D. Power. Those delays helped drive customer satisfaction with the handling of home insurance claims to a five-year low, according to a new study from the survey specialists.

Another common annoyance? Digital insurance apps that may have overpromised and under-delivered.

Policyholders flocked to new ways to file their claims in 2021. The use of home insurance mobile apps rose by more than 19% over 2020, according to J.D. Power, and more customers filed claims by email than by phone — the first time that’s ever happened.

Research has found that going digital with insurance claims generally increases how quickly a claim is paid. But last year the home insurance industry faced an unprecedented number of major weather events that created an unusually large torrent of claims, says Mark Garrett, J.D. Power’s director of insurance intelligence.

That created a backlog of claims, and the new filing options didn’t help clear it as quickly as companies had hoped — and in some cases may even have made the problem worse, Garrett says.

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Where the claims process faltered last year

For some customers, the so-called “digital” claims process demands some oddly old-school steps.

Traditionally, when you file a home insurance claim, you have to schedule an appointment with an adjuster, who visits your property and assesses damage on sight. When you file a claim digitally, you simply take photos of the damage yourself, and submit them through your insurer’s app.

The trouble is, some apps proved less successful than others at making this a seamless, user-friendly process, Garrett says. Oftentimes, customers were never able to upload the photos necessary to submit their claims — and those who were ended up creating backlogs for employees tasked with reviewing them.

Worse, even the images that were successfully uploaded and assessed were sometimes found insufficient to approve the claim. J.D. Power found that 25% of respondents to their survey sent photos when filing their claim via an app, only to find that they had to arrange for an adjuster to visit the property anyway.

“A broken digital journey is often more frustrating than a non-digital journey,” says Zviki Ben Ishay, CEO of Lightico, a company that specializes in customer experience solutions for financial services brands.

“Consumers have their 'hopes raised' and think that they will be able to complete everything digitally, but are then let down," Ishay says.

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How COVID has complicated claims

The pandemic has further compounded claim delays. The same shortage of materials and tradespeople that have hampered home renovation and new-home construction over the last two years have also lengthened the time required to complete insured repairs — and to close out the claims attached to them.

J.D. Power's Garrett says it required three more days on average in 2021 compared with 2020 to complete claimed repairs.

Immediate relief to those slowdowns may not be in sight, but Lightico's Ishay is optimistic that it will happen eventually.

"Awareness of half-digital or incomplete journeys is growing, if slowly," he says. "I think that 2022 will see greater advances on this issue."

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