Have you heard of the Malay proverb sudah jatuh ditimpa tangga? Almost like “when it rains, it pours” but entirely negative, it perfectly describes a motorist who gets into an accident.

Here’s how. It’s already bad enough that your car is damaged (hopefully you walked away unhurt, that’s the most important thing) and that there’s another road user and his/her machine involved; you’re now mobbed by opportunists sensing blood. Figuratively, of course.

If you’ve been in an accident in the Klang Valley, or have helped one in need, you would have noticed how quick independent tow trucks, also known as callman, arrive at the scene. You’re already in shock, and the presence of multiple touts and callman battling to whisk your mangled car away makes the experience harrowing. You’re not in the right frame of mind to make a sound decision or negotiate, and if the callman gets his way and takes your car away, the proverbial tangga falls on you.

After a police report is made, what happens next is that your car will be repaired, and the insurance company foots the bill. But it’s never so straightforward, especially if the callman takes your car to “his workshop”. It is here that you might become a contributor to what Allianz Malaysia calls “a billion-ringgit scam” a.k.a. insurance fraud.

All the hassle and potential problems to your car after it is fixed can be avoided. Allianz prides itself as the insurance brand that callman least prefer to deal with, because of its “hardline” and no compromise approach in fraud and corrupt practices. In short, Allianz makes it hard for money to leak out where it shouldn’t.

“Anyone that has been in a motor accident will tell you what a painful experience it can be when it comes to settling claims and getting repair works done on time. Should things turn sour, more often than not, insurers are pegged as the bad guy, seemingly profiting from another’s misfortune,” said Allianz Malaysia CEO Zakri Khir in the Crash, Boom, Bang! Media Roundtable – Accidents, Motor Claims, and Debunking Myths virtual event yesterday.

The ‘bad guy’ rep is unfair, Zakri and CEO of Allianz General Insurance, Sean Wang, argued at the roundtable, saying that motor insurance is not profitable for the company – yes, payouts are actually higher than the premiums they collect. Fraud is a big factor, and Allianz wants to plug the leaks.

Killing two birds with one stone is the Allianz Road Rangers (ARR) initiative. With ARR, the insurer “takes control” of the claims process by being there with the customer all the way, physically guiding and protecting him or her from the callman.

Launched in 2017 and available nationwide since 2018, this FOC value added service may be invaluable in an accident scenario where the customer is unsure of what to do. By being involved in the claims process from the start, there’s also much reduced chance for fraud.

Here’s how ARR works. It starts off with 24-hour assistance, where Allianz comprehensive coverage customers can call 1-800-22-5542 in the event of an accident. If the incident is in the Klang Valley, ARR’s First Response Bike Brigade will rush to the scene to accompany the customer until the ARR tow truck arrives. The trained “bike brigadier” (there are 30 of them) will provide bottled water and basic first aid assistance if needed.

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Acting like a bodyguard, the brigadier will also ward off the pushy callman. Tow truck guys aren’t the most polite people around, to put it lightly, so the brigadier’s job isn’t an easy one. Some have even been assaulted before, as there’s big money at stake. ARR has a fleet of 190 tow trucks with Allianz branding nationwide. The truck will get the customer’s vehicle to the police station to lodge a police report, and later to an Allianz panel workshop.

Another surprising feature of ARR is the claims concierge at the police station. Just like the bike first responder, the customer will be accompanied and guided through the process of lodging a police report by an Allianz rep, who will also explain the claims process in detail. Once done, Allianz will provide the customer an e-hailing voucher for a ride home.

The other two touchpoints of ARR are fast claims approval – where own damage (OD) claims will be assessed and approved as fast as 10 minutes – and vehicle delivery to the customer’s home or preferred location (within a 30 km radius). “There for you” may be an overused term, but ARR is literally and physically there with you from accident to vehicle return, and that’s rather impressive.

“Accidents are a litmus test for us insurers and the promise we sell to our customers that we will be there for them in their times of need. Not delivering on those promises is a cardinal sin. The onus is on the insurer to honour its promise to its customers and at Allianz Malaysia, we are about doing things right by you, providing the services that you need at the times that you need them the most,” Zakri proclaimed with full conviction.

A major part of the problem of insurance fraud is workshops. Some repairers are known to use sub-standard parts and provide shoddy work, even though they don’t cut corners when it comes to billing the insurer. Last year, Allianz moved to enforce transparency and improve its customer experience by revamping its panel of authorised repairers to consist of PIAM Approved Repairers Scheme (PARS) workshops, via e-tender.

The move to exert more control on the repairers were met with resistance by some workshop associations (there were even boycott attempts), but Allianz pushed through and now has 195 panel workshops nationwide, 49 of those in the Klang Valley. This is to ensure better quality and reduced leakage – for customers, the proof of the pudding is a two-year warranty for repair work carried out on vehicles involved in accidents, including spare parts.

“We hold our workshops to high standards, and our requirements are firm – the best quality and the best service for our customers. So, should we receive a valid customer complaint regarding shoddy repair works or faulty repairs, we will issue a warning to the workshop. A second complaint will earn them a suspension, and a third time, we will have no choice but to remove them from the panel,” said Sean Wang, CEO Allianz General.

“It may seem like we are taking a hard line, but we are in the business of protection. There is no margin for error. In this case, we need to protect our customers and ensure not just their personal safety but also the safety and roadworthiness of their vehicles,” he added.

Customers can check if their preferred workshop is on Allianz’s of repairers, or the insurer will suggest a workshop closest to their homes.

Motor insurance is viewed by most as a necessary inconvenience, something just to get the car road legal. But it’s one of those things that you won’t appreciate until the moment you need it, and this is where the Allianz Road Ranger initiative stands out as a unique selling point for the insurer.

Some might say “but I’m not driving much during the MCO”. That may be true, but in 2020 there were 418,237 road accidents in Malaysia (PDRM figures) despite movement restrictions. While there were fewer cars on the road, the accidents were found to be more severe last year, as people tend to drive faster on empty roads, Zakri said, revealing that ARR provided roadside assistance to 67,000 customers nationwide last year (240k total since 2017), with an average response time of 30 minutes for tow truck services rendered in the Klang Valley.

The Allianz chief admits that the insurer isn’t being entirely altruistic with the ARR initiative. While it undoubtedly brings benefits to the customer, taking control of the accidents claims process from the beginning helps it clamp down on insurance fraud, helped by the fact that it has high standards for its panel workshops.

We’ll focus on insurance fraud and corruption – said to be worth RM1 billion a year – in the next story.