June 24, 2019

“What are the biggest productivity barriers to adjusters in today’s claim departments?”

Recently, I posed this open-ended question on the claims management forum of LinkedIn.  (Incidentally, this group now has over 13,000 members and is a terrific sounding board for discussions regarding management of claims. If you are not a member, please join!)

Productivity

Over a dozen claim professionals weighed in on the issue. Let me summarize and distill the feedback, in no particular order:

            *  Busy-work.  misguided managerial focus on requiring adjusters to waste time on activities that add little or no value

            *  Lack of self-discipline

            * Intrusive “repeater” calls.  phone calls from the same policyholder to three times a day, which forces you to stop would you are doing to assist them

            *  E-mail interruptions and excessive meetings

            *  Excessive workloads. One person lamented the expectations of high closure ratios with more files being dumped on desks, almost to the point of impossibility

            *  Being reactive instead of proactive and strategic, always playing catch-up and losing the ability to be strategic with time and effort

            * Personal disorganization in not having a system to keep all claims flowing patiently at different stages of the process

            *  Dysfunctional metrics that foster competition within claim departments, where the focus becomes less about servicing insured or claimant needs but rather attaining high scores on quarterly reports

            * Time mis-management

The point:  a large part of claims management is or should be supervisors and managers periodically assessing barriers to productivity within the claims office.

In some cases, the analysis may lead to Pogo’s saying that, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Management can unwittingly create procedures and bottlenecks that thwart adjuster productivity. Of course, there has to be a balance between necessary procedures and efficiency.

Nevertheless, an ongoing process for effective claims supervision and management is to determine what barriers exist within the claim department that create “drag” on the adjusting staff and to consider ways to remove those friction points. For starters, there may be merit in periodically polling and formally taking the temperature of the claims staff as to what procedures and features of the job or work environment get in the way of been doing an efficient job at investigating, negotiating and evaluating claims.

For adjusters who feel overwhelmed by the volume of e-mail, there may be a need for periodic tutorials and coaching sessions on managing this electronic communication.

If adjusters feel hounded by the same policyholders or claimants calling again and again, management should look at those situations, develop case studies and strategies for adjusters to see what can be done to preempt such calls.

If the claim department culture is one of numerous meetings which adjusters find unproductive, consider shorter meetings, more tightly focused meetings with prepared agendas, or less frequent meetings.

These are all tactical approaches in response to adjuster concerns that barriers for their ability to efficiently and effectively handle claims.

Surprisingly, this informal poll did not cite social media and Internet web-surfing as productivity barriers. Many management teams seem to harbor the suspicion that adjusters with on-the-job Internet access will mis-use this freedom to shop at Amazon.com or to post Facebook statuses.

The take-away here, however, is for management of any claims office to view as part of their job the role of identifying and, if possible, eliminating barriers to adjuster productivity.

It goes beyond consciousness-raising, however, beyond the awareness comes the follow through and action item to identify each one of those barriers and see if they can be eliminated or worked around. In some cases, this may not be possible, but at least management has given it thoughtful consideration.

(Fortunately, none of the individuals nominating sources of productivity barriers cited LinkedIn polls or discussion forums!)

While this blog post comes to an end, the dialogue continues. What do YOU see as the primary obstacles or barriers to claim department productivity? Feel free to post here or reply directly to kevin@kevinquinley.com

Comments

  1. Steve Buschel says:

    Kevin:

    I recognize that you and I have had opportunities in the past to discuss a variety of topics. What I’m going to reiterate next emanates out of some of those threads not only from an intellectual perspective but a personal one as well.

    We can discuss metrics, leakage, time management, too many meetings, lack of education and many other aspects that impact upon an adjuster’s ability to function effectively and efficiently.

    What I have always believed (and very rarely experienced) is that we (the Claim Community) can debate all we want re the above matters (as well as many more I’m sure). But the bottom line is this unequivocally:

    If Executive Level Management-Presidents, CE0’s, CFO’s are not a part of these discussions what good will come of the suggestions posed on LinkedIn or in your blog? The answer is nothing!

    Take the weakest issue which is workloads. Claims management can apply any type of measurement to Executive Management to present a compelling rationale for increasing staff and decreasing claims per adjuster. But if the numbers are not there, the discussion ends there.

    If you (in all condor) were a CEO and had Marketing and Underwriting Departments putting business on the books at breakneck speed and the loss payments and/or ALAE’s haven’t caught up with the business written, how much of an impact do you believe a request for staffing assistance will come from a department that 90% of the time (save for Subrogation) spends money that Marketing and Underwriting are brining in?

    I compare us to a car dealership. Would you pay more for a car (reasonable of course) and expect better service or would you rather pay less and receive service that is less the stellar? Bring the car back to the service department for a problem and your lucky to get a cup of coffee and a chair that has been around for the past 20 years!

    No. No sour grapes. I knew after the first several years what I was in for. But I was locked in. I had no other talents that would pay me (even at that time) what I was earning and starting all over again ( with a family to support was not an option. In hindsight I should have but we all have 20/20 looking back don’t we?

    • Steve — I do agree that upper management — especially C-level execs — must be part of the dialogue. I have no illusions that a blog or a LinkedIn discussion thread will “solve” these problems or issues. Keeping the dialogue going, though, is more than therapy, in hopes it will in some small way lead to improvements and seep into the consciousness of leadership at these companies. Thanks for your thoughtful feedback!

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