Claims during COVID-19

Sep 2020

Early in Victoria’s COVID-19 lockdowns MetLife case manager Courtney phoned long-term customer Chantelle to check in and share a claim update. Then she discovered Chantelle needed immediate help – and called her manager.

At the best of times an act of kindness can brighten your day. During challenging times, such as the recent state-wide lockdowns in Victoria due to coronavirus, a compassionate deed can lift you out of sadness and give you hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Caring and compassion are especially critical when people are experiencing hardship, explains David Campbell, who heads the Operations and Services team at MetLife Australia.

Take Chantelle, for example. Since hurting her ankle at work a few years ago, she contacted MetLife to make a claim and get help to recover. Further tests revealed she also suffers from hip dysplasia and has developed severe osteoarthritis, making her pathway to recovery much longer.

“I’d been employed at a college since 1994, but I’ve been away from work while I get treatment for leg, feet and hip issues, and recovering from multiple operations,” she says. “I’m trying to get back on track and get help so I can work again. My day to day life at the moment is doing physio, a bit of a tidy, trying to be a bit creative and feeding the birds. During COVID-19 we were only allowed to go out for an hour in Melbourne, so I’ve felt very alone and vulnerable at home.”

On a day she’d run out of food Chantelle received a call from her MetLife case manager Courtney Savage:

“I think it was the second time I’d spoken with Courtney and she quickly picked up that I was feeling really isolated, worthless and desperate,” recalls Chantelle. “She listened to my situation and really made me feel worthwhile.”

"The COVID restrictions have definitely highlighted the importance of regular contact with the people we look after," adds Courtney. "Chantelle did let me know she was feeling vulnerable and worthless – and nobody wants to feel like that. It just goes to show how picking up the phone and having that conversation can really make someone's day. We could be the only person they've spoken to in days and a big part of it is listening to how they're feeling."

Claims management at MetLife is all about helping people

Courtney says regular check-ins with MetLife customers who have made a claim are an important part of the service. As well as being committed to processing claims efficiently, the MetLife service team is dedicated to getting customers the help they need at every stage of their recovery.

Sometimes that help might involve organising treatments sessions with a health provider, other times, it could involve addressing a seemingly basic but very human immediate need, such as food.

At the height of the lockdowns Chantelle’s usual support people couldn’t visit, so she couldn’t get to the shops to buy groceries. Then, with so many Melburnians ordering groceries online, she found it hard to get even modest supplies delivered.

“I really wanted to assure Chantelle she was not alone: that we’re here for her,” says Courtney. “As soon as I heard how she was feeling I started thinking about services we could possibly provide, including organising a delivery of groceries."

"It upset me that her usual online grocery deliveries had stopped during this time – as a human being, food is something so simple that everybody should be entitled to. So, I contacted my manager to confirm if we could quickly get a care package delivered to Chantelle. My manager immediately replied: ‘Of course we can’. Honestly, it was just a blessing that we were able to help her. It's what we do."

Chantelle received the care package less than an hour later and opened it to find staples such as bread as well as some treats. One specific item – though basic – really put a big smile on her face:

"Courtney had picked up that milk was my main source of food and I drink a lot of it. It arrived at just the right time when I felt like I couldn't cope. Receiving a care package from Courtney was empowering and really helped shift my mental space," she says.

"I call it 'Courtney's kindness' because it shows people do care. Every time I speak with Courtney, I feel worthwhile and important. It helps me feel secure and it's a springboard for getting on with things and staying positive."

David is proud of how the team at MetLife shows empathy and looks for opportunities to offer personalised support for customers. Though it's not unusual for MetLife's service teams to make these calls knowing the organisation will back them, he still finds it inspiring.

“When I heard what happened, I felt a bit overwhelmed and just went, 'Wow'," he says. "During the COVID-19 lockdown the human element of service is so important: that ability to listen with empathy and put yourself in the customer's shoes."

"It’s amazing the way our teams support customers through vulnerable moments and for me, it highlights how claims management is important work. It also shows we’re not just people in a business, our humanity shines through.”

Claim time is the moment of truth

The point of claim is the moment of truth explains David, because it's when MetLife delivers on the expectation the organisation has set with its customers through MetLife's Claims Philosophy.

Undoubtedly, claims payments are important milestones and MetLife's record for successfully paying claims in 2019 showed that we’re committed to being there for our customers when they need us most. 

Equally valuable is the far-reaching support given to customers during their recovery, such as Return to Health services and consultation with a team of experts, including doctors.

Normally, Chantelle would regularly visit doctors to get updates on her medical conditions, though the lockdown rules in Melbourne specified that people could only visit medical professionals in person for essential treatments – and most consultations had to be conducted on the phone or online.

Courtney knew Chantelle had difficulties getting updated medical certificates so she contacted the relevant medical experts directly and organised the paperwork to be delivered securely to MetLife online, saving Chantelle another worry.

As David explains, it's a nice example of how MetLife's people are proactive in making the claim management process as smooth as possible.

"Although everyone had to work remotely during lockdowns, we kept our strong team connections, helped by the technology we already had in place for working from home," says David. "As a team, the positivity that's come out of that, getting to solutions faster and being there to support each other ultimately through in how we support our customers."

The human care factor

While MetLife uses technology to streamline some parts of the claim process, every customer is assigned a dedicated Case Manager, supported by a team of recovery specialists.

"Having regular contact with customers is important because we want to make sure our customers feel supported through the recovery process," says Courtney, adding that it's not just about the process: it's also about showing human care by listening.

"Chantelle and I talk about how she's feeling and even though she couldn't have people visit for a while, she told me she had some birds hanging around that she was able to feed, which made her happy."

"Courtney always asks lovely questions," says Chantelle. "I was telling her how I get some beautiful visitors – rainbow lorikeets and cockatoos – and how they're lovely company. So, I sent a couple of photos to show her. She doesn't feel like a stranger, she feels more like a friend."

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