While it’s easy to see the exterior of a building, interior information is harder to obtain without an on-site visit. But it can be impractical to send an inspector to every small and medium-sized business, particularly those in remote locations. Take restaurants, for example. There are about 650,000 restaurants in the United States1—including more than 65,000 pizzerias alone.2 Insuring this category of occupancy combines the dual challenges of high volume and complex fire hazards that require skilled training to assess, including:
- Ensuring there is a correctly installed and routinely maintained extinguishing system above cooking equipment.
- Checking that fire extinguishers are in place and ready to use.
- Inspecting hoods and ducts to make sure that there is no grease build-up.
- Verifying that cooking equipment has been installed correctly.
Limited budgets, geographical distance, and even poor weather in parts of the country prone to winter snowstorms or summer hurricanes can also limit inspectors’ ability to visit properties. The COVID-19 pandemic magnified the challenge with restricted travel and safety concerns.
Customers also expect carriers to provide quotes quickly, whether for new policies or renewals, and can perceive on-site visits as intrusive or disruptive to their business operations.
Given these challenges, carriers have often made do with underwriting smaller business risks sight unseen until there was an opportunity for a field representative to visit.
When virtual technology is not enough
Recently, in response to COVID-19, insurers have begun employing virtual inspections of commercial properties. This has provided insurers, agents, and policyholders with an opportunity for real-time engagement that enables sharing photos, videos, and forms. This has been a boon to the underwriting process because virtual inspections can verify many interior details while also reducing the average cost of an inspection by about 40 percent.
However, when it comes to businesses that require special expertise to assess, such as restaurants, virtual inspections by untrained eyes can miss critical hazards. For example, it is likely that only an inspector steeped in National Fire Protection Association protocols would be able to spot when a deep fryer is in too close proximity to an open-flame grill.
Combining survey professionals with remote inspection solutions
What if a trained survey professional could perform an inspection virtually in real time? The customer could walk through the property and take photos and videos directed online by a survey professional connected via his or her PC or mobile device.
A cutting-edge virtual inspection guided by a survey professional has the potential to provide more actionable data to improve loss control than inspections by the property owner alone—giving carriers a complete picture of the risks they are insuring while reducing cost and business disruption.
The inspector could be anywhere in the country, uninhibited by geographical distance, bad weather, or other barriers. Inspectors could deliver their skilled assessments through a quick, reliable, real-time platform designed to save time and expense.
Some of the risks suited to this new strategy include offices, apartment buildings, retail stores, restaurants, churches, and non-sprinklered warehouses. This strategy is also ideal for recommendation checks or policy renewals when an inspector has visited a site before. On-site inspections remain a highly effective choice for underwriting new policies in buildings with automatic sprinkler systems, occupants with complex hazards, multiple occupants, and manufacturing activity.
How Verisk can help
Recognizing the potential for this new paradigm, Verisk has introduced the OneXperience™ Virtual Survey Service, which leverages Verisk professional survey staff—with an average tenure of 12 years in the field—and the OneXperience self-inspection digital platform. Verisk professionals began offering OneXperience Virtual Surveys in 2020, with field staff experts performing real-time inspections using OneXperience from a remote location. This method provides a new model for the future of survey services, allowing insurers to gather actionable information on risks they would not otherwise have surveyed due to tight margins or other impediments.
The highly trained 400-strong survey services team at Verisk is available to provide OneXperience Virtual Survey inspections with the same rigor they bring to on-site visits, identifying the detailed information insurers require on construction, occupancy, public and private fire protection, and exposure, also known as COPE.
Customers who are tapped into the Verisk ecosystem of commercial property underwriting solutions can use the OneXperience Virtual Survey Service to complement robust data from 360Value® replacement cost estimates and ProMetrix® reports on more than 12.2 million commercial structures.
Learn more about OneXperience for Commercial Property.