Sep 18, 2018

Protecting Your Customers When Disaster Strikes

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In the 7-week window of natural catastrophes that included hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico City, we answered more than 435,000 customer calls in our call center and responded to thousands of claims.

For many of our customers, partners and associates affected by natural disasters across North America, the past couple months have been difficult and heartbreaking. As each catastrophe added to the hundreds of thousands of victims, it’s hard to imagine so many people and communities hit by devastating storms in such a short period. In the face of tragedy and loss, however, it’s uplifting to see the human spirit and generosity overcome adversity.

Travel Assistance When in Need

The countless personal stories of aiding distressed travelers and helping customers return home safely are incredible. As our customer assistance associates reached out with aid in various ways to those affected, we felt energized by our responsibility and promise to protect our customers, anytime, anywhere. Our associates felt fortunate that their roles put them on the frontline of disaster relief to provide emergency assistance, arrange medical treatments, and coordinate travel arrangements for the thousands of customers protected by our trip insurance plans.

Hurricane Irma hit the hardest, resulting in more than 5,000 affected customers who filed claims. About 20 percent of those claims were from Florida residents, while the remaining ones were from travelers with trips planned to popular Florida destinations. The majority of the claims from Hurricane Harvey came from Texas residents canceling their trips because their homes had suffered severe wind and flood damage.

Through our trip protection plans, we assisted our customers in evacuating storm-affected areas and arranging transportation back home. We reimbursed eligible travelers’ reasonable trip expenses caused by storm-related travel delays and cancelled services. And we reimbursed many customers whose trips had to be cancelled because either their destination or their own home was uninhabitable due to the natural disasters. So many people were thankful they’d bought travel protection and expressed their appreciation for our caring assistance and aid.

Disaster Preparedness is Critical

During major travel disruptions and disasters, flexibility in our customer service operations allows us to adjust our resources to meet high demand. To support customers during the greatest time of need, we shift associates to our frontline customer service team from other areas in operations. When a large number of claims come in, we can then shift associates to process those claims.  During the recent string of natural disasters, our assistance team worked overtime, brought in temporary personnel, and leveraged the global resources of some of Allianz Partners’ 16,000 employees who work in 35 countries, making it an international relief effort.

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During the massive influx of customer calls, we activated multiple contingency plans and worked diligently 24/7 to ensure that calls were still answered within 30 seconds. Customers had access to filing and tracking claims on our website from any device, including from their smartphone using our TravelSmart™ mobile app. The app includes a one-touch call feature to reach our 24/7 assistance hotline.

Through these measures, we help our partners’ customers who face travel disruptions or become victims of a natural disaster or other misfortunes get timely access to assistance. We’ve improved the customer experience by making it more convenient and faster to file claims and added a debit card payment option, which allows customers to receive funds almost immediately after their claim is approved.

Eager to help those in need, numerous employees from non-operations departments at our U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, also volunteered to assist in answering calls, donated blood, and made financial contributions to the American Red Cross that our company matched.

Aftershocks in Mexico City

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck near Mexico City on September 19 shook us not only because we had 780 U.S. customers traveling in the area when it hit, but our colleagues from the Mexico City business unit were also personal victims of the deadly catastrophic event.

The day after, 45 minutes before our local office officially opened, half of our staff came in to support our customers in any way they could.  That’s despite the fact they themselves had suffered damage or in some cases even lost their home. Thankfully, all our associates were safe and accounted for. One employee and his wife had just bought a home two weeks earlier and were barely moved in when their house was destroyed beyond repair. Even though they were staying with friends, he still came to work. Another associate who lived in an apartment building that had collapsed spent most of the day rescuing his neighbors. Later that afternoon, he arrived at the office to assist our customers because he knew our clients needed us.

As a trained ER and trauma nurse, our Director of Assistance based in Richmond personally traveled down to Mexico to aid our associates and their families, visiting their homes to offer medical treatment and assistance to anyone who needed care.

To all of the victims who lost something or someone dear to them in the natural disasters, our thoughts and prayers are with you. To all travelers, travel safely and always carry trip protection wherever you go. Caring for you anytime, anywhere is our promise, and we’re never more than a call away when you need help.

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Terms, conditions and exclusions apply.
Insurance benefits underwritten by BCS Insurance Company or Jefferson Insurance Company, depending on your state of residence.  Plan(s) only available to U.S. residents and may not be available in all jurisdictions. Allianz Global Assistance and Allianz Travel Insurance are brands of AGA Service Company.  AGA Service Company is the licensed producer and administrator of these plans and an affiliate of Jefferson Insurance Company. The insured shall not receive any special benefit or advantage due to the affiliation between AGA Service Company and Jefferson Insurance Company. Non-insurance benefits/products are provided and serviced by AGA Service Company. Consumer may be responsible for charges incurred from outside vendors for assistance or concierge services. Contact AGA Service Company at 800-284-8300 or 9950 Mayland Drive, Richmond, VA 23233 or customerservice@allianzassistance.com.

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