Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Have we forgotten something fundamental in claims handling?

I'm developing a customer service training for adjusters and supervisors for a national carrier. Before we began developing this training, we reviewed the complaints the claim managers received from various customers and agents. One particular complaint chrystalized the focus of the training.

Insureds and claimants were complaining about the length of time it was taking to achieve settlement. Adjuster were responding defensively, saying, "We're within legal time limits." Wow, now that helps the customer feel better, doesn't it?

To reduce complaints, adjusters need to be reminded that they aren't just technicians, they are providing a valuable service to the customer. As I worked with this claim manager, I recalled just how much my early mentors taught me as I learned claims handling the old-fashioned way.

I was trained in the days where we usually, after rigorous training, learned in the field at the hands of old-time claims handlers. One of the first things I remember when I was still handling med-only and small non-injury claims was these words of my boss. "We're much closer to social workers than we are adjusters," he maintained. Over the years, I've rememberd that phrase many times as I've dealt with the emotional aftermath in people's lives that claims frequently leave.

When I was a claim manager, it became my philosophy that I couldn't get mad at my adjusters when they made mistakes such as stating something like "We're within legal time limits" if they didn't know any better. It was up to me to ferret out where the problems lay with my staff members, and it was always slightly different with each one, and then train to those shortcomings.

My thought about this exchange and some of the other complaints made me realize that their adjusters were missing a critical step in the adjusting process. Everything the adjuster does is to ensure that both sides, and this includes the insured, receive an equitable settlement.

If the adjuster lays the groundwork by explaining in the first few conversations with the customer that the process may take some time because the settlement must be fair to both sides, customers may not complain as frequently about the length of the process. If they do, the adjuster can remind the insured or claimant of what was said early in the process, that it's in both parties best interest to be as thorough as possible.

Rather than saying "We're within the time limits," we must change adjusters' mindsets to "I understand how frustrated you must be with the length of the time this is taking. However, we want to make sure that you receive a fair and equitable settlement! That’s why you pay premiums."

If the adjuster knows that it is his or her job to achieve a settlement that is fair to both sides of the contract or event, and can articulate that thought early in the process, then complaints will drop. Then claim managers can spend time supervising people, not problems.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tapping into trends

Companies get rich spotting trends. Insurance trends are no different. Take the market cycle, for example. If you can spot the next hard market and can position yourself correctly, you stand to be a go-to guy or gal when businesses look for alternative markets for their coverage or explore self-funding. The question is, how do you affiliate your business with an upcoming trend?

The answer lies in marketing. As we've noted before, there are two ways to look at advertising and marketing. Are you looking of short term income or long-term visibility? Branding your business is positioning yourself for visibility so that when people have a problem and look for a solution, they think of you. To be in that enviable position, you must spend time and money building your brand.

Spotting trends takes time. One must continually scan the horizon, looking for "secondary research"; articles; word of mouth from managers who are facing a difficult problem (read here networking); web presentations; white papers, attending industry seminars; anything that addresses an emerging problem or trend that you may help solve.

Here's a quick example. The Insurance Institute of America (IIA) recently gave a lengthy presentation that outlined several upcoming trends that will negatively impact workers' compensation payouts. Two of the issues are 1) obesity and 2) returning Gulf veterans.

If you're a provider of workers' compensation or medical services, wouldn't it make sense for you to be on the cutting end of that trend? If you're a business owner who may be impacted, shouldnt' you begin addressing the issue now before the problem is fully emerged?

How can a consulting firm help you? Simple. I stay abreast of trends in the industry. I spend hours each day researching insurance-related topics, attend seminars and find ways to address these trends. I also assist my clients to increase their visibility in areas where their services are not only needed but where they can beat others to the trend.

If I can help you determine which trends your company may want to focus on, please give me a call. We'll chat. Or if you'd like a copy of this important IIA presentation, email me via my website and I'll be happy to share it with you.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cell phone etiquette

Yesterday was a special day for me so five of my friends wrangled me up and took me to our local country club for lunch. Two of the six had ear pieces on their phones that were so inconspicuous that we soon forgot they were there. That is until we heard them say something and we thought, one or the other of us, that they were talking to us.

Since several of them were professionals, I understand it's hard to take a long lunch and miss out on calls. But speaking strictly for me, I don't want to hear a hoochy-mama ring tone when I'm sitting in the country club. Next, I don't want to listen as someone argues with her mother about who is picking up the dog from the groomer. And finally, has etiquette changed so much that it is now considered "appropriate" to take phone calls while entertaining? Even our host talked on her cell phone each time it rang.

I am sure that you've about had it with cell phones yourself, unless you're one of those habitual cell phone users that ignore studies like a recent University of Nevada study that showed that those talking on cell phones and driving were as impaired as if they were legally drunk. I am sure you can tell tales of almost being plowed into in intersections by cell phone users who "Oops!" missed a red light. I hate when that happens.

My point is this: Just because people do it so much it seems routine doesn't make it socially acceptable. I love my gal friends, but lunch would have been more fun sans cell phone calls.

My recent article on instituting a cell phone policy just came out in Public Risk, a national magazine for the Public Risk Managers of America. I'd love to help you put together a cell-phone policy for your organization that works.

Monday, February 19, 2007

e-mail mistakes

We've been using e-mail now for many years, and we think we know what we're doing, right? Perhaps, but judging from the e-mails I watch come across my server, I'm not so sure. Here's a list of top ten e-mail mistakes.

  1. Failing to spellcheck. Did you know most e-mail programs can be quickly spellchecked prior to sending with one click of a button? If your program isn't set up for spellcheck, get help! E-mails are still considered "business" communications and are subject to grammar and punctuation rules just like more formal business communications.
  2. Disseminating important policy via e-mail. If it's important enough for employees to read and follow, it should be placed in a formal document and attached so that employees can download and save the attachment. This also helps strengthen the formality of your policies and procedures.
  3. Sending e-mails too hastily. Re-read your e-mail and have others vet important communications before you send them!
  4. Failing to use gender-neutral language. Most people are generally upset when "left out" in the gender category.
  5. Sending an e-mail to the wrong recipient! Be sure that who you send the e-mail to is the intended recipient, especially if the e-mail contains confidential information.
  6. Don't ask for "read receipts" since this can annoy already annoyed, busy individuals.
  7. Don't copy unnecessary readers. Target your e-mail only to those who truly require the information you're providing.
  8. Straying from the topic. Don't wander all over the place with several, unrelated subjects.
  9. Using unprofessional language. Slang and profanity are out of place in all business communications.
  10. Awkward communications. If your e-mail is truly important to your organization or it's a topic that you use again and again to send to prospective clients, consider a professional writer, who can edit or hone your message to its most critical points.

Friday, February 16, 2007

How do you put a price on results?

Feel free to compare my rates with others in the business. I beat most rates, yet have the highest level of insurance experience among most copywriters. These are estimates and depending on your business needs, these rates may vary.

Please call me for additional information at (573) 638-3738 or email me at insurancewriter@earthlink.net

Rate Sheet

$500 - $750 per page

$500 per page

Copy Critique (Editing)
$.75 per word

Data Sheets

Direct Mail Package
1,500 - 3,000

Direct Mail Renewals
$500 - $1,000

e-mail copy
$750 - $1,250

e-zine ads

Feature Stories
$1.00 per word

$1.00 per word

Landing page
$2,500 - $5,000

$350 - $750 per page

$500 - $1,000

Press Releases
$500 - $750

Print Ads
$400 - $1500

Radio Commercials
$1,500 - $2,000

Sales Letters
$500 - $2,000

$100 per finished minute

$.75 per word

Telemarketing scripts
$750 - $1,500

Web site home page (copy only)

Web Site, other pages

White Papers
$2,500 - $5,000

Monday, February 12, 2007

New workers' compensation product?

Because I write so frequently on workers' compensation issues, I'm always scanning the horizon for new products that can improve the management of workers' compensation claims or can assist in the management of the underwriting side of work comp programs. If your company has a new product or has an existing product that can improve self-insureds' or carriers' bottom lines, please contact me via my website.

I may be able to highlight your program in a national publication and help your product gain exposure to a broader audience. I recently highlighted the great organization Best Doctors www.bestdoctors.com in a national publication. You can see this article on their website at this location: http://www.bestdoctors.com/bd/docs/Best%20Doctors%20offers%20improved%20care.pdf on page 3.

See what Insurance Writer can do for your company!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Who's training whom?

Do your employees' eyes glaze over when you train? Does their absolute lack of attention drive you crazy? Who's training whom?

If your training sessions are boring or you are burned out trying to teach the essentials of insurance again and again to staff members who nod in their chairs while you teach, maybe it's time you outsourced the design and even the presentation of your training programs.

While many insurance professionals have decided to study on-line, there is absolutely no substitute for personalized training given by an experienced insurance professional. Anecdotes, words of wisdom and exercises designed to improve students' recall of the material are lost in on-line presentations.

Right now, I'm developing a four-hour training module for a national insurance carrier. To avoid further customer service snafus, these savvy claim managers are retraining adjusters to improve their employees' customer-service levels. I guarantee that the monies spent will be recouped many times over in improved customer service from their adjusters. In addition, it will reap benefits by providing greater administrative time due to reduced complaints.

I have taught both the Associate in Claims and the Associate in Risk Management courses and I understand adult education. Can I help design a training program and even present a training program that improves your customer service?