November 16, 2018

Archives for July 2012

Book Review: Michael Hyatt’s “PLATFORM: How to Get Noticed in a Noisy World”

Book Review:  Platform:  How to Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 2012, 261 pp., $24.99.

Michael Hyatt’s Platform is must reading for anyone who has something to say or to sell. Hyatt is Chairman of Thomas Nelson, a Nashville-based publisher. He is the former president and CEO of that organization as well. In addition, he is a prolific author, speaker, blogger, distance runner and churchgoer. He is also the father of five daughters. His span of activities is so extensive, I often suspect that he must have figured out that cloning thing.

Hyatt’s focus here, however, is not productivity but rather harnessing various media, including but not limited to social networking, to build, project and reinforce one’s personal and professional brand. Those in business for themselves will find this chock full of useful tips, ideas and resources. For those who wonder how to utilize tools such as Twitter or Facebook for business purposes, Hyatt’s book is extremely useful.

I began reading a library copy of Platform.  As I got deeper into the book, however, I had crimped so many pages and had seen so much useful content that I decided to order my own personal copy through Amazon.com.

So why should insurance, claims and risk professionals be interested in Michael Hyatt’s book, platform?   First, if you are in the financial sector, you serve as an ambassador for your company. Whenever you are on stage, either physically or virtually through social media, you reflect upon your company. You have an opportunity to project a positive brand and image with regard to your company. Even if you were a function is not in the marketing arena, you are communications and your presence can add to or detract from your companies brand.

As an insurance or risk professional, even if you are currently gainfully employed, you may need to build and project your own brand. Nowadays, employment arrangements are often temporary.

Diamonds are forever, but few jobs are, especially in the financial services and insurance sector where most of us reside.  So, there is utility in developing your own professional brand as a thought leader in a particular subject matter area, separate and apart from what you build at your respective companies. After all, some day you may not be employed any longer by that company.

In that case, you will need to parlay your expertise and credentials into some other form of gainful employment or self-employment. Therefore, whether you work for a company or for yourself, it is a wise “pack your parachute” gesture to start developing and building your platform. The platform can be through blogs, podcasts, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or any number of other virtual avenues.

The era of lifetime employment with the gold watch at retirement is gone.  Whether you are a risk manager, an insurance broker or a claims adjuster, as a corporate employee you are at the whim of corporate reorganizations, vagaries and vicissitudes. The time to build your personal/professional brand is like the old adage, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”  If you only begin after you get the pink slip, it’s better than nothing but you are late to the game.

Part of Hyatt’s message is that nowadays, it is not enough to have a good service, product or idea. You need to develop a platform, a group or tribe of followers who recognize you as a thought leader, as somebody who has something worthwhile and valuable to say. Again, the time to start building that platform is BEFORE the launch date for your new product, service, book, etc.

Hyatt divides platform into five major sections:

Part One: Start with Wow

Part Two: Prepare to Launch

Part Three: Build Your Home Base

Part Four: Expand your Reach

Part Five: Engage your Tribe.

One caveat:  before doing any platform-building, take the temperature of your employer as respects its policy and tolerance of social media participation. Some companies are very encouraging toward employees using social media in responsible ways. Increasingly, companies have corporate guidelines for social media use that apply to employees. You may or may not agree with these policies, but if you accept a paycheck from the company you should abide by the rules.

Other companies are still stuck in the Dark Ages and distrustful of social media involvement. Some firms view, for example, establishing your own website as highly threatening. Best to find out before you embark upon this platform-building, because if your company is opposed to it or is hyper about regulating it, then the effort might be more hassle than it is worth. Find out first!

Platform is not a theoretical, pie in the sky exposition but rather a practical, hands-on approach with lots of lists and bullet-points. The appendices also provide useful resources.  Hyatt sprinkles his Chapters with specific stories and experiences which underscore his theme.

I highly recommend that you get, read and apply Michael Hyatt’s Platform in order to build yours!  View it as sound risk management for your career.

 

In what ways have might you be able to develop a platform to share your expertise?  Share your comments, thoughts and experience here!

 

Claim Negotiating: Parrying the Lawyer Threat by Taking it in Stride

“I’m going to get a lawyer if you don’t pay me!!”

Sound familiar?  To the claims adjuster, it sounds familiar.  When I began my career as a street adjuster for Crawford & Company, the threat rattled me at first.

With time, I became inured to it.

I eventually realized that a lawyer is not a magic wand.  The damages are what they are.  Five thousand dollars in medical bills is five thousand, whether you get a lawyer or not.  Three thousand dollars in wage loss is three thousand, even if Gloria Allred is your attorney.  A scar on your left ankle is the same scar, even if you have Gerry Spence handling your case.  Case value is case value.  The entry of an attorney does not wave some magic wand over a claim, mystically inflating its value.  Such is a popular misconception, though.

Well, this is the theory at least. In practice, there are ways that a lawyer can influence the value of a case.

#1.  Directing medical care.  The attorney can send the claimant to certain doctors and health care facilities which can goose up the medical tab.  Many claimant attorneys have their own pet networks of orthopedic specialists, neurologists, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.

#2.  Disability certifications from “friendly” doctors.  When the attorney sends the claimant to hand-picked physicians, the latter may be more inclined to certify the claimant as being disabled. In this way, selecting the treating physicians can influence the lost wage component of a claim, further jacking up the specials.

#3.  Additional damages.  The attorney may see certain aspects of damage which an unrepresented claimant would have never considered.  These might include future wage loss, future pain and suffering, permanent disability, future medical care, medical monitoring and so-called hedonic damages for loss of enjoyment of life.  Unrepresented persons may not realize that, due to the collateral source rule, they can actually include as “damages” bills which other insurance and benefit plans have covered.

#4.  Attorney clout and reputation.  No matter what you say, picking the right attorney can sometimes influence claim value; the adjuster needs to recognize this.  Find out who are the “heavy-hitters” in your locale.  Certain attorneys are bell-ringers: very effective in the courtroom, selective in accepting cases, persuasive to juries, well-financed to take cases and work them through trial.  For example, I have heard that Chicago’s Corboy & Demetrio will not accept a personal injury case unless it feels the case is worth at least $1 million.

For every Corboy firm, though, there are dozens or more personal injury “mills.” These work on volume — not necessarily on quality — in personal injury work.  They may advertise heavily.  Some of these attorneys may not have seen the inside of a courtroom for years.

Once claimants see that you are not rattled by the prospect of dealing with a lawyer, they may reconsider the wisdom of following through on the threat.  Tell them that you have very good attorneys as well.  Those lawyers will be eager to take the claimant’s deposition under oath.  This bracing bit of news may cause the claimant to pause and reflect.

What technique has worked for you in parrying the attorney threat?  Share your comment or experience here!

Successful Claim Operations Feel “The Need for Speed”!

Poor Tom Cruise.

Wife number three dumps him suddenly and life flies by at warp speed.  His recent divorce from Katie Holmes was reached in a very compressed time frame.  In happier days for the actor, before he hopped around Oprah’s couch, he put the pedal to the metal.  In the movie Top Gun, Cruise’s character Maverick saunters away from his fighter jet with a fellow pilot, giving a high-five and exclaiming, “I feel the need for speed!”

(The need for Scientology came later.)

Claim organizations also must feel the need for speed in the 21st century, if they are to be successful.

What can you do to speed up the claims-handling process?

Keep asking yourself this question.  Especially if you are in management, keep asking yourself – and your staff – this question.  This is part of the essence of reengineering.

No, I’m not talking about lopping off headcount.  I’m talking about deconstructing the claims process into all of its component parts and analyzing how you can speed it up.  Step on the accelerator IF you can do so without sacrificing quality of investigation, customer experience and outcomes.

Increasingly, companies sell speed as a competitive differentiator.  If you can accelerate the claims process without sacrificing quality, you will have a competitive advantage.  This is true whether you work for an insurer, local independent adjuster or international third party claims administrator.

  • What steps take too long?
  • What steps can we eliminate?
  • What can we do to make loss reporting quicker and easier for clients and policyholders?
  • Can we use technology such as computers, e-mail or the World Wide Web to accelerate the pace of claim-handling?
  • Are there any useless or redundant steps in the claim-handling process?
  • How long does it take us to set up a new claim file?
  • How long does it take to get it into an adjuster’s hands?

Do you measure this?

Do you compare results month to month, quarter to quarter?  Where do the trends lead?

Top-notch claim outfits ask themselves these questions, as part of an ongoing improvement process.  They ask these questions, not as a one-time improvement project but rather as an ongoing and recurring improvement process.

It never ends!

Speed is a huge factor in the customer’s mind these days in evaluating one service provider over another.  For examples, look at what companies like Progressive are doing in their approaches to claim handling.  Some insurers are harnessing new technologies for claim service.  For example, thanks to a triple-tech punch of satellites, software and the Internet, Progressive is rewriting the “rules of the road.”  It keeps adjusters on the street with cell phones, wireless, Web-linked laptops, delivering on-site counseling, “crash-to-cash” service and towing help.  It can do it in the time some companies take to investigate an accident.  “We don’t sell insurance anymore,” quips CEO Peter Lewis, “we sell speed.”  “Fast” means using digital cameras and wireless Net links.  Using such technologies, adjusters can analyze damage, tap into files, check replacement values on Websites of service shops – and hand out claim payments on the spot, sometimes within 20 minutes.

“Feel the need for speed” in your own claim operation.  Look for ways to streamline and accelerate the claims-handling process.

In the 21st century, there will be two types of claim organizations – the quick and the dead.

Which type will you be?

Have you had a situation where you were able to speed up the claim process by eliminating a step or through other means?  Share your comment and experience here!

 

Save Time, $$ and Maalox through Proactive Vendor Selection!

Rush jobs cost more.

This is true whether you need rush legal service, actuarial service or any other kind of service.  How much does it cost to go an Emergency Room versus a routine or scheduled visit with a physician?  How much is scheduled maintenance on your car versus having to call a tow truck and pay for repairs after a roadside breakdown?  There is a sizable price difference.

Try to anticipate claim needs.  Your bargaining power to negotiate favorable rates and other terms is greater when you are not hurried, harried or under the proverbial gun.

For example, have counsel and other vendors lined up in areas where you do not have existing needs.  This is hard to do.  You are likely absorbed in staffing vendors in areas with pressing needs.  No one suggests you neglect that.

However, the adage applies here, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty!”  The time to line up defense attorneys, cat adjusters or contractors is when you don’t need them.  This is being proactive.  There are many advantages that flow from investing time in this before your needs become urgent.

First, you’re not as stressed out in having to make quick decisions under the gun.

Second, if you wait for a time of peak demand, you will tend to pay a higher price.  You are in a better position to negotiate favorable rates or service standards when you are not in a position of dire need.

Third, you can do a better job.  Rush jobs are often not the highest quality jobs.  When you are working under the gun, under a tight deadline, there is the temptation to “settle for” a choice in order to get the deadline monkey off your back.  You are less likely to be in a frame of mind that lets you slow down, hit the PAUSE button and make a deliberate choice.

Moral:  if your job as an adjuster or as another type of claim professional involves selecting vendors to help you in the claim process, begin that selection process in advance of your time of dire need.

Have you ever had a claim where your proactive selection of a law firm, contractor, rehab agency or surveillance firm ended up saving you money or aggravation?  Any experiences where waiting until the need was breathing down your neck “burned” you?  Share your comment and experience here!

Adjusters — How “Sticky” Are Your Settlement Agreements?

My wife and I just went through the experience of selling a house.  This was not fun, but after the home being on the market for about ten days, we had an offer.  Hurray!  The appraisal came in at the number needed.  The home inspection found a few minor issues which we addressed.  The termite inspector gave the property a thumbs-up.  We were all ready to go to settlement and closing and then ….. the buyer backed out.

I won’t go into the factors at play, but it reinforced the fact that buyer’s remorse can come into play – not just in real estate, but in claims too.  In both realms, it is unwelcome.  In the realm of claims, what the adjuster sells is the release.  Maybe at one time, claims could be settled on the basis of a handshake.  This is unlikely to occur nowadays.  After entering into a verbal agreement, people can have a change of heart, whether on a bodily injury claim or on a first-party auto collision loss.

You may think you have an agreement buttoned down.  Until you have the signature on a Release or Proof of Loss, however, lots can happen to unravel such a “settlement”.  None of us welcomes these scenarios.  As claims people, though, we have to be aware of them and guard against them.  Here are some examples.

  • The claimant or insured decides that they really should be paid more.  Maybe they feel that you were so quick to agree, that they “left money on the table” by not demanding more.
  • Uncle Mort or some other well-meaning person tells them that they sold themselves short and should press for more money.
  • They may want to run the situation by an attorney just to see that they got a good deal.  The attorney tells them that they could shortchanged themselves recover much more . . . if they only hired an attorney, of course.
  • They receive a new medical or repair bill that they had not factored in before and believe that this merits re-opening settlement discussions.

These are just a few examples of Murphy’s Law as applied to claim settlements.  As a result,

1.  Be ready on the spot to close.  Have the Release form or Proof of Loss available to get a signature on the spot when you resolve a claim.  It helps as well to have the settlement check there.

2.  Have the money ready soon!  If for some reason you cannot have the settlement check available on the spot, minimize the time it takes.  Expedite the check.

3.  Stay in touch.  If you must wait for a check to arrive from another office, keep in close tabs with the insured and claimant, letting them know the status of payment, giving them a progress update and assuring them that their patience is appreciated.  Claim control factors do NOT dissolve once you have a verbal agreement on a settlement figure!  Strive to over-communicate.

Every claims person hates situations where apparent settlements unravel or fall apart.  It’s a hassle to re-open files.  Handle these situations with care to avoid “premature closure.”  Heed the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Oh, and that house-buying situation I mentioned, it had a happy ending.  After the first buyer’s developed cold feet, we put hurriedly put the house back on the market on a Friday afternoon.  By Sunday night, we had a new offer  that was higher than the original bid.  Sometimes these situations turn out fine but, in the world of claims, don’t bet on it.  Compress the time between verbal agreement and consummation of the settlement to avoid the risk of the claimant or insured backing out.

 

Have you ever had a claim that you thought was settled and “nailed down” that unraveled?  If so, what would you have done differently?  Share your comment and experience here!

 

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