February 21, 2019

TMI is a GOOD Thing in Adjuster Communication!

TMI.

Too Much Information.  Over-sharing.  It’s not a good thing.  We really don’t need to know that you’re standing in line at Starbucks or have you posting on Facebook pictures of your recent surgical scar.  The sonogram from your colonoscopy?  I think I’ll pass.  Some things should remain a mystery between us and are better left to the imagination.

When it comes to adjuster-to-insured communication, though, TMI is probably — as Martha Stewart would say — a good thing!

A huge communication challenge that can spawn bad-faith claims is failure to communicate with insureds regarding exactly how the claims process will unfold. This involves educating the policyholder on what to expect. Claims people are so steeped and immersed in their own work that they may assume that other people innately understand what will happen on a claim and that people will appreciate the amount time that it takes.

That is a faulty assumption.

over-communicate

 

Preoccupied with their own caseloads, distracted adjusters may fail to communicate to a policyholder about various components, aspects and facets of a claim. This includes:

*  What steps are involved in processing the claim

*  What the adjuster will need from the insured

*  Perhaps most importantly, how long claims process will take

Adjusters have their own understanding and expectations of these features. Policyholders may have vastly different expectations. It is important for adjusters to educate and communicate with policyholders as early as possible regarding

*  what has to be done,

*  what will be needed from the policyholder, and

*  how long the claim process may take.

These are, of course, good faith estimates.

This communication is crucial, regardless of whether the adjuster is handling a first party property loss or a third-party liability claim. Clearly, this communication is also more crucial in settings and dealings with unrepresented policyholders and unrepresented claimants. If the policyholder or claimant has an attorney, the latter can explain the procedure. The point, however, is to communicate so clearly and proactively with policyholders and claimant’s that they will not feel the need to run to a lawyer, a development which will invariably increase the claim’s cost and likely ensure additional delays.

Communicating and educating the policyholder takes time. Unfortunately, time is the adjusters scarcest commodity. This is particularly true in work environments where adjusters carry heavy caseloads. Management teams may weigh adjusters down with extreme caseloads either due to cost pressures or believing that they are leveraging technology to a point where adjusters can ride herd over 200-250 claim files. When adjusters are stretched for time, one of the first items jettisoned will be the taking time to explain the policyholders what is going to happen on a claim and when.

However, if this time is not invested upfront, it can create additional time pressures later in the form of having to deal with bad faith claims. Short of that, adjusters and claim staff may have to deal with complaints, irate policyholders, inquiries from the state insurance commission, etc.  Dealing with these also bleeds time.

The take-away:  err on the side of over communicating with policyholders and claimant’s. Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Claims adjusters are extremely busy. However, we have at our disposal more communication tools than we have ever had before. We have not only the mail, but we have phones, fax, e-mail, even text messaging, etc.

Communication with policyholders and claimants is a best practice and a discipline. Moreover, it is not a one off phenomenon during the life of a claim. It is an ongoing process that must be cultivated and tended to throughout the lifecycle of the claim.  This is done not only to attain a high level of customer service and customer relations, but also to avoid financial leakage which may flow from insureds and claimants running to attorneys because they feel they’ve been kept in the dark by the claims adjuster.

So, go ahead.  Be guilty of giving TMI.  There are worse sins as a claims adjuster.

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