November 16, 2018

Archives for November 2013

An Adjuster’s Thanksgiving: What’s on YOUR Gratitude List?

Is it just me, or do the holidays seem to start earlier each year?  As soon as Labor Day ends and kids are back to school, retailers start carpet-bombing us with ads and promotions for “the holiday season.”  Around Thanksgiving, the pace cranks up.  Stores open at midnight for “Black Friday” sales. 

Thanksgiving-Turkey

Now, there are pre-Black Friday sales.  (Not to be confused with the post-Black Friday sales, the post-Christmas sales, the New Year’s sales or the Presidents Day sales.)  Now, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and other retailers are open on Thanksgiving Day itself.    I may qualify as an old codger by grousing about the way retailers have largely hijacked these “holidays” (political correctness forbids us from referring to it as Christmas –– OMG, someone may get offended!) to boost their sales and help them hit their end-of-year numbers.  (Stop me before I yell at some kids to “Get off my

lawn!!”)

When my kids were small, I told them that the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and Indians was so primitive — they had to watch football that day on black and white TV.  In short order, even achat cialis pas cher my kids realized that Dad was blowing smoke, yet that reminder has become a new Thanksgiving tradition amongst even my now grown sons. 

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks.  Adjusters and claim professionals have much to be thankful for.  Each person’s gratitude list will be different.  It prompts me to pause to reflect on those job and claim-related things for which I am grateful.  Here is my list, in no particular order:

            1.  Interesting, wacky claims that spice up one’s caseload.  (“Did you hear the one about the adjuster and the farmer’s daughter?”)

            2.  Digital voice recorders.

            3.  Smart-phone apps that facilitate the claims process.

            4.  TV ads that show the importance of claim service to the buying public.

            5.  Clients and customers who make it possible to earn a living in the claims field.

            6.  The Claims and Litigation Management Alliance — a/k/a the CLM — for their extensive menu of industry claim resources, webinars, conferences and publications.

            7.  Claims Magazine, which covers “the business of risk.”

            8.  Carl Van and his crew at the International Insurance Institute for their creative ways to deliver the message of quality claim service and skills.

            9.  Liberty Mutual’s hilarious “Humans” TV commercials showing the infinite variety of …loss.  ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UB3oEHzakOw)

            10.  LinkedIn’s “Claims Management” professional group and YOU — the folks here who have a wealth of insight!

OK, that’s my list. 

How about yours?  What things are YOU grateful for in your job and role of adjuster or claims professional? 

When it DOES Make Sense to Check Email First Thing in the Morning …

Three weeks ago, I posted on LinkedIn’s “Claims Management” discussion group a recent “Claims Coach” blog on why adjusters should not start their work days by checking e-mail. Many insightful responses followed in that discussion thread.

Check email

Many of the participants agreed. Some, however, did not.  Two particularly strong arguments emerged. 

First, when you know or have reason to know that many of your first notices of loss via e-mail.  My friend and claims colleague Chantal Roberts of Advanced Risk Management in Arkansas made this point. 

Second, where the boss or management has instructed adjusters to check their e-mail first thing in the morning.

I must agree that in such situations, it does make sense to begin one’s day as a claims professional by checking e-mail. In either case, customer service or job survival trumps any productivity consideration.

It does no good being productive if, by doing so, you sacrifice customer responsiveness by not getting to new case assignments as quickly as possible. This is particularly true if new claim assignments are time-sensitive.

Further, it makes no sense to strive for an abstract standard of productivity if, due to noncompliance with boss expectations, you lose your job or are downgraded in performance.

The overarching point is to be intentional about the pacing and sequencing of checking e-mail.

It has been said that “E-mail is the perfect system for other people to deliver their priorities to your attention.” 

I heartily agree 100%. However, my general advice must realistically be tempered by other considerations at times. Those considerations include client expectations and upper management/boss expectations.

Certainly, responsiveness and prompt turnaround have to be mitigating considerations.

The point is to reach a happy medium between a reflexive Pavlovian response to every chime signaling arrival of a new e-mail or an icon popping up, notifying us of a new message versus shutting down altogether. Whether the magic interval is four times a day, checking e-mail on the hour, whatever, the point is to have a more intentional approach to e-mail to stay productive while simultaneously being prompt, customer-focused and responsive.

There is a happy medium, but that medium is often violated by virtue of an ingrained, Pavlovian, knee-jerk reaction to interrupt what we are doing in order to check e-mail. When the first act of the work day is to check e-mail, it can totally derail us from more important projects that need their focused attention.

A key skill is to differentiate the urgent from the important. Often, they are not the same thing. Email tends to coalesce around the urgent (or pseudo-urgent) in my view.

Every guideline has an exception … including this one!

Risk Managers: Use These 8 Tips for Better Meetings with Underwriters

The risk manager’s ability to procure insurance coverage and to do so on the best financial terns depends in large part on the discretion of the insurance underwriter.  Underwriters are the insurance company gatekeepers.  They decide whether or not to offer coverage terms and, if so, at what price. 

Meet with Underwriter

            Within insurance companies, the underwriter decides which risk applications to except for coverage and which to decline.  They also will determine how much you pay, what kind of policy terms and conditions the insurance company is willing to provide, etc.  They are the “gatekeepers” to insurability.  As such, the underwriter is key to a company’s insurance program, risk management program and financial protection.  This can work for – or against – a risk manager.  It pays to get to know the underwriter. 

            #1.  Don’t be “too busy” to meet.  However, this is rare in buying insurance.   Risk managers may feel they are too busy to meet underwriters.  To kick start the insurance process, the prospective policyholder may have to complete an application for coverage.    

            #2.  Get into selling mode.  The ability to get insurance coverage at the best price on the best terms may hinge upon how successful and skilled you are in “selling” your company as a good risk.  If you convince the underwriter that you have strong loss control/prevention and risk management systems, you have a better chance of being insured on the best possible terms.  If, however, you cannot make a compelling case to the underwriter, seem  befuddled or ill-prepared, that may compromise your negotiating leverage and the ability to get the best insurance price and terms.

            #3.  Understand the underwriter’s world.  Here it helps to have some appreciation of the underwriter’s work environment and job context.  Underwriters are often besieged by the volume of incoming applications that they have.  They always feel (not without justification) that there is more work to do than there are hours in which to do it.  It is challenging for them to stay on top of their workload. 

            #4.  Know your aims in meeting with underwriters.  The aim for risk managers is to emerge from the pack, from the herd and to differentiate their companies in a positive way, as a good risk which any sane underwriter and reasonable insurance company would WANT to insure.   

            #5.  Seek an in-person meeting.  One way to do this is to seek a brief but in-person meeting with the underwriter.  A conference call or email doesn’t cut it.  This may be a challenge, but there are ways to do it:

  • Prepare well in advance
  • Have your insurance broker run interference
  • Propose to meet underwriters in their office
  • Ask for a short amount of time

            #6.  Prepare an “elevator speech,” a short verbal presentation generally meant to persuade or in foreign. It should be two to three minutes long.  Explain why your company represents a good risk  Highlight key features, particularly in so far as safety is concerned. Underwriters often have limited availability and attention span, so hit the high points. 

            #7.  Be brief.  Practice and rehearse your talking points.  Prepare to amplify if you field questions.  When you meet with an underwriter, you are an ambassador for your company.  If you are well prepared, the underwriter may infer that your company has its act together with regard to safety and related features. 

            #8.  Make a positive impression.  If you appear unprepared, this can cast a negative pall. Your aim: to leave the exchange with the underwriter thinking, “That company really seems to have its systems in place and to be an attractive risk!”  This impression should manifest itself in the form of a favorable insurance quotation both in terms of price and coverage features.

            For risk managers, time spent meeting with underwriters may seem like a needless distraction but can pay off in broader insurance coverage at a more favorable price!

Q:  What techniques have worked for YOU in having more productive exchanges with insurance underwriters?  Share here or email me at kevin@kevinquinley.com

5 Reasons I Favor Smaller Defense Firms

When I was an undergraduate in college, one of the most popular books at the time was a tome titled, Small is Beautiful by the British economist E. F. Schumacher. While I read the book, I did not jump on the bandwagon, at least not in the realm of economic theory.

small-is-beautiful-button

However, in one aspect of litigation management, I agree that small is beautiful.

In searching for defense firms that do insurance work, I confess a bias toward small to medium-sized law firms. Often, I have clashed with policyholders who insisted that some name brand, $500 an hour attorney or law firm was the only one who could adequately represent their interests and who could “send a message” to the other side.

Incidentally, I have never had a case where the claimant/plaintiff folded up their tent and slunk away simply because the insurance carrier or defendant named a specific big-name law firm to the defense. To the contrary.  In some cases, it sent the message that “this must be a big deal, or else they would not have gone to the expense of hiring such a white shoe law firm!”

Five factors cement my bias toward small to medium-sized defense firms:

            1.  Flexibility.  I often find them more flexible to deal with in terms of agreeing to insurance carrier litigation guidelines

            2.  Cost effectiveness.  They have less of a cost structure, so they are more cost competitive in terms of hourly rate

            3.  Service orientation.  there are less hidebound by size and bureaucracy, so they often appear to be more service oriented

            4.  Personalization.  Odds of getting more customized and personalized service by being a bigger fish in a smaller pond

            5.  Better vibe.  Less hubris with regard to insurer cost guidelines and litigation/reporting procedures

Some big law firms I have encountered almost wore it as a badge of honor that they did not lower themselves to do “insurance defense work,” as if it was on the wrong side of the tracks in the legal neighborhood.

I also plead guilty to overgeneralization here. There have been big firms with whom I’ve worked that have delivered responsive, effective and customized service and have garnered good results for my policyholders.

I’ve also encountered small to medium firms that turned out to be absolute nincompoops.

Exceptions exist for every general rule.

However, as a default mode, I gravitate toward small to medium-sized firms in stocking any panel of defense counsel in an insurance defense context.

How about you? Does it matter to you whether you hire a large “name brand” law firm or one with less cachet and name recognition? Share your comments here or directly to me at Kevin@kevinquinley.com

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