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Expanding loss control: additional services for homeowners can help boost a company's profits and reputation.

Agents, brokers and insurers can add value to their customer relationships, help improve profitability and boost their reputation by increasing awareness of their loss prevention capabilities, especially in the personal lines sector.

Although most commercial policyholders are familiar with the insurance industry's loss control expertise and services, many personal insurance customers do not consider that insurance companies and agents perform functions far beyond issuing policies, collecting premiums and paying claims.

To increase awareness of the industry's loss prevention expertise and improve services to customers, agents can tap into various insurer-provided services to identify loss prevention opportunities and encourage customers to take advantage of these services to help decrease their property and casualty exposure.

Agents and brokers can determine which services might be most beneficial in a particular case by understanding their customers' possessions and lifestyles. Property exposure mitigation opportunities may be easier to uncover than liability risks, but simple conversations can reveal many hidden exposures.

Agents and brokers also may be able to identify loss control opportunities by understanding common geographic hazards. Along the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard, homes can be damaged by hurricanes and severe storms. Wildfires can easily devastate whole communities in the West and Southwest, and winter weather can lead to burst pipes and water seepage in the North and Northeast United States.

Loss prevention strategies have been developed to prevent and diminish the impact of many geographic threats. For example, hurricane damage can be reduced by retrofitting a home with shutters or impact-resistant glass and hurricane straps. Clearing brush from a home's perimeter and removing leaves from the roof can reduce a home's vulnerability to a wildfire. Proper insulation and low temperature sensors can prevent burst pipes, and sump pumps with battery back-up can limit damage caused by basement flooding.

Liability exposures can be less predictable and may require greater familiarity with customers' lifestyles. Agents and brokers can uncover potential liability exposures with simple questions about domestic employees, directorships, computer usage, travel frequency and destinations and other family activities. Once these exposures have been identified, agents and brokers can work with insurers to help clients identify appropriate liability risk mitigation techniques.

In some cases, insurers will offer customers loss prevention services directly and at no additional cost. Such services can include family security, travel safety and emergency medical services, personal staff risk management and collections management tools. Insurers may also inspect insureds' homes, suggest mitigation techniques and link customers with loss prevention specialists. In some cases, homeowners can contact insurer home protection hot lines to speak to specialists about risks and appropriate loss prevention techniques.

By discovering hidden liability and property exposures, agents and brokers can demonstrate their own loss control skills and uncover exposures insurers may not have been able to predict. If agents, brokers and insurers work together to more effectively leverage these services and actively promote them, they'll simultaneously improve the industry's reputation and add value to customer relationships.

Contributor Scott Spencer is senior vice president of Chubb & Son, and worldwide appraisal manager for Chubb Personal Insurance in Whitehouse Station, N.J. He can be reached at insight@bestreview.com.
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Title Annotation:Property/Casualty
Author:Spencer, Scott
Publication:Best's Review
Date:May 1, 2007
Words:518
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