Q&A With Ken Tolson, Crawford & Company
Ken Tolson, US President of Crawford US Claims Solutions, talks to us about why HOVER and Crawford are a perfect match and how COVID is changing the claims space for good.
We spoke with Ken Tolson, US President of Crawford Claims Solutions. Ken started his career with Crawford over 30 years ago as a claims adjuster and has since taken on various roles within the organization. He walked us through his thoughts on what the HOVER partnership means for Crawford and if the changes in the insurance industry from COVID are here to stay.
How did Crawford grow from its humble beginnings in Atlanta to the multinational corporation it is today?
Seventy-nine years ago, in Columbus, GA, Jim Crawford started Crawford & Company with the idea that multiple carriers could leverage the scale and geographic spread of a single independent adjusting firm to conduct investigations and handle claims as they expanded. The concept was inspired by watching multiple milk delivery firms visit houses side-by-side on the same street realizing that a single shared delivery system could be more efficient and benefit all. The idea rapidly developed because there was a real need for high quality and consistent claims servicing as the entire insurance industry grew. Carriers needed independent resources for investigating and adjusting claims as they expanded into new markets. Over time, we took the solution internationally and expanded through numerous acquisitions to grow to what it is now a footprint of locations in 77 countries with over 9,000 employees. Today, we touch nearly every corner of the Earth.
Crawford seems very family-oriented. Is the culture at Crawford a significant differentiator in the industry?
Without a doubt, through the years Crawford has remained steadfast in its commitment to training and serving the risk and claims solutions industry. To this day, I often speak to people who no longer work at Crawford, but because they received their initial training here, still feel they are a part of the Crawford family. They will reflect on their time here and connections made. I was on a call recently with Jim Crawford’s grandson, Jesse Crawford, who is on our Board. The family is still very much involved in the business from both a board and shareholder standpoint. The family-nature of the culture stems from the Crawford family’s continued involvement and commitment to its people. This is one of the constants in the Crawford family culture, a very close-knit group that extends to our global family as well.
What differentiates Crawford from other providers?
In a lot of ways, we are very similar to the claims operations that you would find in many U.S. carriers. One key difference is that we are a global organization and therefore benefit from that perspective, allowing us to bring that viewpoint to our many multi-national carriers and clients. We are also a services organization and do not carry risk, nor do we compete with our carrier or broker partners, which allows us to remain objective and provide the best consultative advice to risk and growth in key markets. We are solely dedicated to the services that we provide, either by serving the claims organizations themselves, or servicing the underwriting needs that they have for adjudication, resolution, data and finally consultative advice.
We consider ourselves somewhat of an incubator shop for the industry. Solutions like HOVER are critical to that ideal because it augments and enhances the services that we provide. We are frequently testing technology and process solutions to bring value to our customers. Additionally, we are continually trying to find ways to be very agile and adaptive. That may surprise people when you look at a 79-year-old company, but we work diligently to be open minded and nimble to adopt changes and technology in our industry.
There is a lot of disruption happening in our space. We embrace it, instead of avoiding it because you either embrace it or are displaced by it.
We’ve been watching HOVER for a while, and it’s interesting to see the progression as it’s gotten greater and garnered greater adoption.
How did you first hear about HOVER?
We looked at HOVER a long time ago and have kept a close watch and our ear to the ground looking for developments in the space. [With recent changes in the industry], we decided to take another look at HOVER and kicked off a pilot with our U.S. adjusting team, and thus far it has been well-received.
Our frontline employees loved the product. It’s one thing for me to like HOVER and think that it has relevance, but we’re trying to drive high adoption and standardize on a product.
We have received great feedback from the employees on how simple it was to use. The user experience was not only great for our field and desk adjusters but the appreciation of the policy holder receiving the digital asset as a component of the process was great result. It’s a good story.
How will HOVER help align with Crawford’s business objectives?
When you look at traditional adjusting, we’re not just providing the [HOVER data package] when we have an exterior claim. We wanted to use it on every claim because we think that it has real benefit to underwriting operations. We want to standardize, not just the roof, but the roof and oblique images of the property. We didn’t want only a partial product or to leave it in the hands of the adjuster to have to decide which package to use.
With traditional claims handling, we take photos all the time outside a property, but what Hover can do with those exterior photos adds real value to the insight gained from having someone on-site post loss. The HOVER solution, [the property data package itself], is very unique. It’s powerful to that allows the homeowner to document their home for home improvement or simply to gain a better understanding of the structure itself. At the end of the day, they are your customer, the premium payer of the property. The customer experience is critical to homeowner satisfaction.
It’s also an extremely efficient way to gather a great amount of data quickly. It makes our people less exposed to having to get on a roof or to spend less time on the roof, when they do. It’s such an efficient way to gather measurements and get the data. I’ve had several salespeople that used to be adjusters tell me they wished they had this when they were adjusters. It rounds out our product very well. We plan to employ it every time we do an inspection whether there is exterior damage or not to provide additional value to the customer. This will be a standardized aspect of our product, not just used on a case-by-case basis, allowing us to take judgment out of when to the use the product and allowing our customers to depend on it being there every time.
We think that that our partnership with HOVER will be a differentiator for our product and make people choose Crawford as opposed to other providers. We already see that benefit in just talking to customers.
Finally, we are building the capability into our WeGoLook network to use [HOVER] when self-service capture [by the homeowner] isn’t possible. Eventually, we will expand to our ladder assist network in a few key states, and this will be the product they will standardize on as well. We have several initiatives and ways that we’ll use the product to power our desktop operations, field operations, and enhance our WeGoLook offering. I think there is also a considerable underwriting play here to standardize the property [data] for those who have claims and those who have not.
What are you most excited about with the Crawford-HOVER partnership?
Our partnership validates my thoughts on the product. I initially found the product extremely interesting and thought it would be a good fit for our services, but one of the things I was most excited about was the positive feedback from my people.
Even, after the initial pilot ended, some of our New York operations team continued to use HOVER. They kept it because they believed in it so much and really liked it. This product sold itself with our employees. It was something new and different and was a significant enhancement to our traditional offering that they were excited about.
We also got positive feedback from the market about embedding this into our services. It’s an attractive enhancement to our services, and clients see the value of it as well. Also, it’s telling us that we made the right decision to embed this in our product, so this will be a benefit for Crawford and HOVER.
Lastly, we are very selective about who we engage in these types of partnerships. As I mentioned before, I think of Crawford as an incubator for new products and services. We expect our growth and commitment to innovation to complement and benefit the trajectory of HOVER. We want a partner in developing and leading that growth for the industry, then taking that globally when, and where it’s applicable. We think we can be a great partner in spreading that knowledge, vetting it, showing it, and being a first adopter to test [new technology].
HOVER’s willingness to work with us to enhance the product and beta test new features is really valuable. We need someone like HOVER, who is ready and willing to invest in the product itself.
The next steps for us are really about the automation of the product into our workflows, and how we can embed it into our systems and product offerings. The HOVER team has been very willing to work with us and a big help to build that out future state.
How is COVID impacting the adoption of HOVER? Is this something that will stick once things return to normal?
The industry has been moving more remote, more virtual, more work from home, trying to do more and do it more efficiently. We were well down this path prior to COVID, but this has probably accelerated plans for many people including ourselves. The industry, through the benefits of technology, has been moving to a powerful desk model—one where the adjuster now sits in their home vs. their office and is capable of so much more insight than in years before. When you consider the array of tools on a self-service basis, allowing a policyholder, or someone else to perform the, measurement and inspection function, you can gather a lot of data quickly about a property in the least invasive way possible, truly changing the way and speed with which claims get managed and resolved.
We saw a similar thing happen with Hurricane Irma in Florida in 2017. We were experimenting with our WeGoLook resources to capture images and limited scope details via their smartphone app to augment our desk operations away from the storm sites. That industry event created a surge in demand for field resources and forced the industry to look at alternative channels for loss resolution. While our industry is not known for being the quickest to adopt new technologies or processes, those events challenge us all to innovate and try new processes and ultimately helps us to drive change. Our goal is to help the industry lead that change which requires a level of readiness and agility to be able to move quickly!
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