Claims Southern Response has lifted its game

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 08:55 06/10/2014
Melanie Tobeck
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

WORK IN PROGRESS: Melanie Tobeck says progress is being made with the portal idea, having previously talked about her experiences as part of the Southern No Response lobby group.

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Some customers who have previously kicked up against Southern Response say the insurance-claims settler has improved its two-way communications with quake clients, somewhat.

But both Melanie Tobeck and Ali Jones said there was further work to be done by Southern Response on re-establishing trust with some of its quake-hit clients.

Jones said there was also further improvement needed to break down barriers and "gaps" between other New Zealand insurers and the Earthquake Commission on claims.

Both have been part of lobby group Southern No Response that has brought together claimants to discuss and publicise problems they have experienced with the Crown-owned company set up to handle AMI 2010-11 earthquake claims.

Southern Response chief executive Peter Rose and chairman Ross Butler were this week talking about efforts made to improve customer relations, including the launch of an online portal to give clients a better overview of progress on repair and rebuild projects.

To the end of September, Southern Response had completed 648 rebuilds or repairs, with another 599 rebuilds or repairs "under construction". The company is planning to complete more than 90 per cent of that work by December 2016.

Separately, 1595 customers had bought another house, with 1058 taking a cash settlement and 437 managing their own rebuilds. Work with other customers was ongoing.

Customers can access their own online port, which shows - through green, orange and red lights - whether parts of the repair and rebuild process, including council consents, have been reached.

Butler said the portal was in part a reaction to the protests against Southern Response. Work had been done to ensure the site was secure and confidential.

The company was happy with the payment of $760 million of reinsurance funds by the end of August, Butler said.

In the next 12 months, most of the remaining $1.4 billion of reinsurance payments would have flowed through to be used by April 2016.

Crown support worth about $1 billion would then provide back- up.

Jones said she had recently settled her claim with Southern Response, but also felt the company had upped its game.

"We have personally noticed quite a change in the process . . . we've settled and we've noticed that the way they were liaising and communicating with us became far more proactive rather than reactive or non-communicative," she said.

"And I don't think it had anything to do with profile or protest, because, goodness me, it's been like that for a number of years." Tobeck said she was making progress "chipping away" on repairs on her West Melton home, where there had been poor workmanship previously.

She had recently visited Southern Response's project hub, and could see the organisation was making a "concerted effort" to improve two-way communication.

But there could be further improvements, particularly in engaging the clients she felt had been so badly treated that they no longer wanted to deal with the company, she said.

The portal was a great first step. "But it still feels hands-off . . . so there's a level of connecting to people in a face-to-face way [needed]," Tobeck said.

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"[Previously] there has been such a breakdown in trust."

- The Press

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