November 16, 2018

Archives for April 2013

“$#*! My Claims Manager Says: 10 Adjuster Pet Peeves”

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” were some of Julie Andrews’ favorite things in “The Sound of Music.” Adjusters likely have their own favorite things, but that is not usually what claim professional’s grouse about to each other. More likely, adjusters compare notes about the stuff that drives them crazy. This has not only a cathartic effect. Knowing adjuster pet peeves and what drives them crazy can help those who work with adjusters. This includes the gamut of vendors and business partners such as defense lawyers, rehab specialists, surveillance firms and expert witnesses. Bosses – such a claim managers and supervisors – who are attuned to what sets adjusters off, may be able to avoid those things, thereby boosting morale and employee retention.

Pet Peeves

So what sets adjuster’s teeth on edge? What drives them crazy? Here is an informal and highly subjective list:

#1. Cheapskate insurance buyers. Policyholders who make insurance-buying decisions based on “the cheapest quote,” and then feign surprise when they don’t get platinum claim service. Duh!! Usually things are cheaper for a reason … If you check into a Motel 6 and pay a bargain basement price, please don’t whine because the hotel lacks concierge service and a mint on the pillow. When shopping for insurance, many accounts are “all about price.” When they have a claim, it’s all about service. Sorry, but those two usually go hand in hand – both in claims adjusting and in other realms.

#2. Instant claim experts. Culprits here: brokers on commercial accounts who become experts on reserves 30-days before renewal. Scenario: Broker Dopey pays scant attention to an account’s loss runs or claims history until the policy expiration looms. The underwriter quotes renewal terms, but at a 43% increase over the expiring policy. Startled and alarmed, the broker demands to know the reason. The underwriter points to a deteriorating trend of claim reserves. It dawns on the broker that incurred loss ratio actually does impact renewal terms and announces that the case is over-reserved. Suddenly galvanized, the broker becomes an expert on claims and reserve-setting, telling the adjuster that the number is too high. (Nothing like an impartial assessment!) The actuary looks at the same file and tells you it’s under-reserved. Go figure …

#3. Having to cover the actuary’s @$$. The problem here is claim management getting called on the carpet by The Corporate Gods to explain why actual loss trends did not align with the actuary’s projections. Huh? I guess that’s easier than suggesting that the $600/hour actuary who never soiled his hands by looking at a real-life claim file is out of touch. Plaintiffs and lawyers have the annoying habit of not checking with corporate actuaries before filing their lawsuits. A radical notion: go back to the actuaries and ask them to explain the reasons their projections deviated from actual loss patterns.

#4. Gasbag defense lawyers who phone, yak for 45-minutes on routine items and then close by saying, “I’ll put this in a letter to you …” Arghhhhhh! Thank you – you have just wasted my time two-fold! Fix: be sparing in initiating phone calls to adjusters. Be brief on the phone. Email a request for a block of phone time to let the adjuster schedule you in his or her calendar.

#5. Attorney evasiveness. Defense counsel who cannot give a straight answer to the question, “Based on all you know thus far, what is a fair compromise settlement value as to MY policyholder?” Instead, you get hemming and hawing, “One the one hand but . . . on the other hand.” (Get me a one-handed defense attorney – Stat!!) I know it’s a tough call to make, but that is why I’m paying you $250 an hour!

Related to this annoyance is defense counsel who cannot give a straight answer to the question, “What will the case cost to defend?” More hemming and hawing. I know that the answer often is, “It depends.” I also recognize that sometimes these costs can spiral due to factors beyond defense counsel’s control. (They can also plummet sometimes for no reason related to defense counsel’s efficiency.) If different scenarios will produce varying cost-of-defense numbers, give a budget for each scenario and I can take it from there. For example, “Budget A reflects the costs if we win our Motion for Summary judgment, Budget B reflect how things will unfold if we lose it, Budget C envisions taking the case to trial …” etc.

#6. Lame lawyer promotional pitches. Here we have defense counsel with lame-oh marketing pitches who cannot succinctly state what competitive advantage they have over the hundreds of other attorneys/firms in the same space. Or who reply with bromides such as, “We work hard” or “We are cost-effective.” Please be more creative than that! If this question catches you off-guard or only evokes platitudes, it tells me you have not done your homework. Solution: perfect your “elevator pitch” on why your firm really is different!

#7. Gasbag written reports from defense counsel that bury the important stuff on page eight, paragraph three. I don’t have time to search for a needle in the verbal haystack, that golden nugget tucked away. Better still, make your written product user-friendly. Give an up-front one-page Executive Summary highlighting your finding and recommendations. If I want to probe amongst the weeds, I can then delve into your more detailed memo behind the Executive Summary.

#8. Misleading service representations. Defense firms that assure you that your written guidelines are no problem but betray by their initial billing, reporting or handling that they haven’t the foggiest. Like bobble-head dolls, they nod as you explain the highlights of your guidelines. Remedy: lawyers who read and heed client guidelines! Conduct periodic in-house training refreshers on client guidelines. If anything is ambiguous or unclear, ask!

#9. Defense firm bait-and-switch. Defense firms who “court” you with a rainmaker senior partner when you are a prospect but who staff your case with an unknown newbie once you become an actual client. This smacks of bait and switch. Caveat: if they ask you to staff the case with a newbie or make a cogent case as to why it makes economic sense, be open-minded. It just may make sense, given the exposure and complexity of the case. Don’t assume that all newbie’s are incompetent.

#10. Useless attorney newsletters. Defense firms seem to think we have an innate fascination with how the Eight Circuit held on such and such case instead of offering is PRACTICE TIPS we can use or consider based on that ruling. Remedy: law firms who report on developments but who go the extra mile in explaining the practical take-aways for claims people. Where is the “news you can use”?

Well, this is the end of the rant. Thank you — I feel better now. Surely you have your own pet peeves as an adjuster. What are they? Share them here or email them to me at kevin@kevinquinley.com

Eight Best Practices in Your Voice-Mail “Away” Message

“Hi, this is Kevin. I’m away from my desk right now but ..”

Sound familiar? A good Away message saves you time, makes the best use of your schedule and serve as a claim service booster. A lame Away message causes time management headaches, erodes your professional image and spawns customer frustration.

Voice Mail

Let’s look at eight best practices in designing your Away message:

1. Project! Does your Away message sound interested and energized or flat and bored? Like it or not, callers may draw inferences about you, depending upon what they hear when they get your recorded Away message. Like it or not, fair or unfair, callers are forming impressions of you. Make it a good one by projecting energy and attention to detail in your brief voice-mail Away message. Claim professionals are constantly trying to build and reinforce their credibility and their personal “brand.” You do not do this if you record your Away message when you are angry, fatigued or distracted. You do not have to take a course on Method acting, but project vibrancy in your Away message!

2. If you intend to change it daily, do so daily! Keep your message current. When I call somebody, get their voice mail message, and their message is clearly out of date, it tells me they are not on top of their workload or business. That is not the kind of impression a claims professional wants to make. If you plan to change your greeting every day, (“Hi, this is Kevin on Monday, March 19th …”) discipline yourself to do so daily, even if you’re out of the office. Otherwise, have a “generic” greeting not pegged to a specific date and does not force you to change the date every 24 hours.

3. Allow a bail-out option for those who want to bypass the voice mail greeting. Many people calling the claims department are repeat callers, people who call you again and again. Indicate what button they press or what commands they use an order to shortcut having to sit through your message for the 1000th time. They will appreciate this. Also, if there is number callers can press in order to be connected immediately with a living breathing human being, include data.

4. Keep it short! I don’t need to know your life’s story or travel itinerary. I have heard voicemail greetings that go on and on for minutes. Who has time for that? I once made the mistake of asking an elderly aunt about her diverticulitis. Before I knew it, she was demonstrating to me how her ostomy bag worked! (One school of thought that you never ask an elderly person, “How are you feeling?” This may lead to an ultimate Snickers Moment — you’re not going anywhere for a long while!) Nowadays we call that “TMI” – Too Much Information. Keep your Away message short and sweet.

5. Leave emergency or urgent contact information. Claim files never get sick and they never go on vacation. You, however, occasionally do. If callers have an emergency or an urgent matter that simply cannot wait until you get back – not unusual in claim departments — leave the name and phone number of your backup. Arrange such a backup before you leave for your vacation, business trip, et cetera. If you are out of the office sick, dial-in and leave those instructions remotely. Engage in “swap” agreements within the claims team so that you cover for other people when they are out and they reciprocate when you are out.

6. If you aren’t checking voice mail, say so. Sometimes you may be in locations where you cannot access voicemail. Maybe phone connections are scarce or temperamental. Perhaps you want to unplug from work, clear your head and not be a slave to checking voicemail regularly. To calibrate customer and caller expectations, do not be afraid to flatly state that you will not be checking voicemail during the time you’re out.

7. State when you’ll be back. Let callers know when you will be back in the office. This also calibrates their expectations as to when they will hear back from you. You might even consider adding a day or two as a cushion, which leads to the next point….

8.Calibrate the “official” return to office date. Let’s say you have been out of the office during the week of March 12 through March 16. You will return to the office on Monday, March 19 but you know you will be swamped that first day back with catch-up e-mails, returning phone calls, claim team meetings, etc. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with stating in your voicemail message that you will be back in your office on March 20th or March 21st. Notice you did not say that your first day back in the office was March 20th or March 21st. This gives you March 19th and perhaps March 20th to dig out and get current. Without this, I have literally had situations where, 20 minutes after arriving at the office on March 19th, an attorney would call me to follow up on something that she had left a message on during the preceding week.

Assess your own Away message. Does it reflect positively upon you as a claim professional? Is it concise and helpful?

Maybe you have other best practices in this realm. If so, you can call me with them, though – when you phone– you may get my Away message….

(By the way, you can now AUTOMATICALLY receive the weekly Claims Coach blog columns by subscribing on my website!)

4 Ways to Maximize Your Claim Conference Time

So you just got back from your conference or meeting. Claim professionals spend time attending these functions. These include: claim association conferences, continuing education sessions that the company sends you to, CPCU meetings, legal- and claim oriented trade shows and events. They may even be “offsites” and management retreats organized by your own company.

Conferences

You meet new people. You make contacts, hears rumors and scuttlebutt. You hear speakers – some good, some snoozers. You exchange business cards. You come back with handouts, notes, Post-Its and other paper scraps.

Now, you’re back at your office, work station or desk. What to do now?

To get the most out of your attendance of claim conferences or meetings, here are four tips:

After the conference …

#1. Distill your notes. If you took notes, get them out and review them. Add anything you forgot to add. Scan them in, transcribe them, create a future reference file for them, distill some action items – i.e., follow up items that you want to act upon.

#2. Build your contacts database. Gather all the business cards you collected. Enter the data from those into your Outlook Contacts or whatever contact management system you use. Follow up with an email or note on those folks you want to connect with. Calendar for future follow-up, if need be. Remind yourself of why you collected the business card: future client, potential vendor or resource? Job lead? Someone to mentor or be mentored by? Just why did you exchange business cards with this person?

#3. Share what you learned at the conference with someone on your staff. Develop a short in-in house training or debriefing session for those members of your team who did not or could not attend. This is a terrific way to reinforce your own learning, imprint what you absorbed and convey the benefits of the conference to those who were not able to take the time to attend it.

#4. ACT on what you learned. Distill your “learnings” from the conference into specific bullet points or action items
– Boil them down into discrete, doable tasks with completing date targets
– Prioritize each list based on what is important at that time/
– Calendar or diary ahead for those items which are not time-sensitive
– Keep the action list handy. This could be on a white board, easel, legal pad, Outlook Tasks list, in your briefcase, whatever

Now, isn’t it time to schedule your next conference?!

What tips and techniques have YOU found useful to capture and capitalize on what you’ve heard at claim conferences? Share them here or share with me directly at kevin@kevinquinley.com

Six Ways to Turbo-charge Your Claims Workflow!

Backlog is the bane of any claims office or operation. It doesn’t matter whether you work for a TPA, insurance claim department or a corporate self-insured. Here are six ways to lose unnecessary steps to tame backlog in your claims operation:

Extreme Productivity

1. Assess why adjusters leave their desks or work areas to perform tasks. Identify which tasks they repeat most often. For each one, find a way to complete it without having the adjusters leave their workstations. Doing this may save five minutes per task. This adds up over a day, a week or a month.

2. Bring activities to the adjuster’s workstation. If company claim procedures are available in an electronic format, for example, adjusters need no longer get up to find and consult hardbound manuals. Ditto for lists of approved vendors, body shops, IME physicians, appraisers, rehab vendors, surveillance outfits, etc. Electronically scan insurance policy forms and endorsements so adjusters can retrieve them quickly to analyze coverage situations without leaving their chairs. This will boost productivity. This applies also to references such as statutes of limitations in various states, states that do/don’t allow recovery for punitive damages, states that do/don’t allow insurability of punitive damages, etc.

3. Let adjusters access a high-speed Internet connection to send and receive faxes without getting up from their chairs. Your claims unit will reap significant time savings from this. It eliminates the need for adjusters to get up, march to the fax machine and manually input the data.

4. Move to a paperless environment to let adjusters quickly retrieve claim materials electronically. You can gather background material for an outside counsel assignment in a fraction of the time it would have taken to stand over a photocopier for a half-day (or more) prepping a file to go to defense counsel or a coverage attorney.

5. Electronically scan claim department phone lists and other lists of frequently called numbers. Store them where the claim staff can easily retrieve them. Use speed dial whenever possible. In Microsoft Outlook, adjusters can create contact lists by company or law firm to make email more efficient.

6. Let adjusters have their own “dedicated” printers at their workstations. Ideally, the adjuster should be able to retrieve claim documents from a paperless filing system, print them if needed and forward them to insureds, defense attorneys or doctor offices via email or fax without leaving his or her chair.

Multiply each of the preceding activities by the number of times adjusters perform them daily. Then, multiply that total by five minutes to see how much time you can save. You will likely find that your claims operation can improve efficiency enough to dent – if not eliminate – inefficiencies.

Claims backlog is a never ending nemesis. Increasingly, though, technology provides tools to eliminate or reduce repetition of daily adjusting tasks, improve accuracy and increase claim efficiency. Use these tech tools to shed needless steps, streamline your operations and send inefficiency packing once and for all!

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