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Working Closely with Disaster Victims

One mission of Tokio Marine Group is to make claim payments at the earliest opportunity to victims of a wide-area disaster. Such a disaster occurred in August 2015 when Typhoon Goni caused substantial damage in the Kyushu region. To work closely with customers in times of need, Tokio Marine & Nichido is setting up a required structure in ordinary times to be ready for disaster response.

QHow does Tokio Marine & Nichido ensure its preparedness for disaster response?

Kiyomi Shimokawa
Kyushu Claims Service Department 2
Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.

We take our utmost efforts to make swift payment of claims even during ordinary times. In the case of a wide-area disaster, we must act more quickly to make important payment decisions and take necessary procedures. Over the past few years, we have renovated our claims settlement service system based on our experience regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake and to adapt to increasing natural disasters. Typhoon Goni was the first major disaster we experienced since the completion of the infrastructure development for the renovated claims settlement service system.

Before the renovation, our response structure had been heavily reliant on manpower, in which many supporting employees are dispatched to a disaster response office from across Japan and process a huge number of loss reports sent by facsimile to the office. The renovated system stores loss reports, which are entered from the online agent system, in its server, making these reports accessible from branches nationwide and enabling supporting employees to provide assistance to initial disaster response from their desk at respective branches. This accelerates payment procedures and realizes early payment of insurance claims. Actually, the processing support through the renovated system has allowed us to concentrate on local claims settlement services following Typhoon Goni.

All-out efforts, including claims service departments as well as agents, marketing departments, business support departments and Group companies, are necessary in responding to a wide-area disaster. Tokio Marine & Nichido is already in the process of setting up a claims settlement service structure encompassing both agents and employees, which is operational at all times, not just during a disaster, in order to ensure smooth response in an emergency. This has also worked to our advantage.

QWhat challenges were involved in responding to Typhoon Goni?

Although we have made preparations in ordinary times both systematically and in terms of readiness, there was a lot to learn from an actual disaster.

After Typhoon Goni, supporting employees and loss adjusters and appraisers of Group companies were swiftly dispatched from across Japan to the disaster response office established in Kumamoto. At the peak of our activity, some 150 members were working in teams. We used meetings rooms on each floor to make space for this large number of people. Installing the necessary PCs alone was a tough enough task.

I was a member of the administration office, and initially we faced a flood of questions and inquiries from other staff and were not able to administer our response operations. Also, we were constantly receiving new supporting employees as they came in and went out in just few days. Sometimes, we had to answer their questions all day, not being able to do anything else.

Then, we realized we could not even think about process improvement if this would go on. We immediately discussed about a better structure and decided to select a leader from each team of support employees. We asked these leaders to gather questions and other information first and then submit them at a daily evening meeting to decide the overall direction through discussion. This enabled smoother response operations. After that, I particularly concentrated on creating smooth communications within the disaster response office by routinely visiting each floor and checking with teams having trouble processing assigned tasks.

QWhat do you remember about the work in the disaster response office?

The renovated system allowed us to make initial response swiftly and send claims-related forms to customers at an earlier opportunity. On the other hand, customers sent back these forms more quickly than we had expected, sometimes outpacing our processing speed. This caused confusion at the disaster response office, and we received complaints from customers.

There were also cases where staff collaboration did not work well, because we failed to communicate to other parties what the situation was really like in the disaster response office. When we held an after-action review at a later date, they told us they would have used e-mail instead of telephone to contact us and devised a better way to deliver documents if they knew about the confusion in the office. I regretted for not having closer communication with them and for failing to set up a system of effective information sharing.

The work in the disaster response office requires speed. We did not have time to fully consider an action and wonder if it is a right choice. We kept reminding ourselves that we just had to do whatever we thought appropriate.

This was why I was relieved when I saw the results of the questionnaire for customers who have received claim payments. There were positive comments, thanking us for our considerate response regarding telephone inquiries and for quick claim payments. Their comments made me feel I have fulfilled my mission as a member of a non-life insurance company. I felt we did the right thing and was glad to have done so.

QHow would you like to utilize your experience in Typhoon Goni for future work?

The value of insurance is tested when something happens in customers’ daily lives. An insurance product means more than just paying claims. It is made up of many services, including responding to telephone inquiries and making loss adjustments. I am renewing my determination and will conduct each service sincerely, be there for customers in need of help and bring peace of mind to them.

In April 2016, a series of large earthquakes hit Kumamoto and other parts of Kyushu and inflicted enormous damage. Many customers suffered from this disaster, and we are again making company-wide efforts, led by the Kumamoto Branch, to ensure swift claim payments. The number of claims filed to date is several tens of thousands, and every policy supports each customer’s life and future. We will continue to make concerted efforts throughout the entire Tokio Marine Group to serve customers and society in times of need.