Claim Handling – An Opportunity to Shine

Claim Handling – An Opportunity to Shine

By Emily Huling, CIC, CMC

The southeast storms of 2011 struck close to home – my home! In June, a Sunday evening thunder storm brought a bolt of lightning to a 40-foot high poplar tree on our property. Kaboom! John and I jumped 6 inches from our cushy seats on the sofa and screamed. The power went off, then surged back on. Our skylights were intact, the TV was still tuned to the golf match, but the burglar alarm was making all sorts of screeching noise. After trying to reset it with no success, we called the control center and they walked us through disconnecting it. We’d have to call Monday to set up a service call. Then twenty minutes later we said to each other, “Is it getting hot in here?”

To make a long story short, it took us a couple of days to find all of the damage. The heating and air conditioning system was toasted, stereo and speakers fried, burglar alarm inoperable, printers, telephones, wireless devices and the list goes on as to what was affected. Luckily, our three computers survived thanks to a top-grade uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Nothing like first-hand experience to be reminded of the opportunity agents have at claim time to stand out in the minds of their policyholders. If you’d like to measure your agency’s level of claim handling customer care from my perspective as a claimant, this survey (and my tips) can help you do that.

Have you instructed your insureds to call you for the initial claim report and not the carrier’s toll-free number? Carriers do a great job handling claims promptly and fairly (if not, you shouldn’t be doing business with them) and I know the carriers don’t want agents interfering. However, to your customer, you are the company. You sold the coverage and service their policy. If you tell your insured to call the company directly you are conveying to them that you aren’t interested or involved. Customers will think, “What are you doing to earn your money and my business?” Please don’t leave a list of claim department numbers on your after-hours phone message. To avoid that, some agencies have the caller call a specified agent who, on a rotating basis, has been assigned after-hours customer-care duty.
Within 24 hours of a claim report, do you initiate a follow-up personal connection with your policyholder? How are they doing emotionally? Or physically, if someone was injured. Has the company’s claim adjustor made contact? Are there any questions? Is there anything you can help with? An added personal touch at a time of damage or distress is most appreciated.
Do you stay on top of the claim status with the carrier and keep the policyholder informed? For our lightening damage claim, we were instructed to get things repaired or replaced ourselves and complete the paperwork within 60 days. After 45 days we were still scrambling to get things done. A gentle reminder from our agent with an offer to answer questions or ask if we needed an extension would have been welcome.
Do you give advice on how to avoid future losses or problems? Bravo to the adjustor I spoke with who suggested we contact the electric company to look into having a surge protector added to the line into the house. Agencies should consider compiling a list of recommendations to offer policyholders to prevent another claim.
Do you deliver the check personally, if possible? Prompt and fair claim payment is why people buy insurance. If delivering the check is part of your customer service strategy, speak with the claim representative about doing that.
Do you send a follow-up survey after the claim has closed? Send an e-mail survey or use traditional mail with a return envelope. Ask your policyholder to rate response time, communication, courtesy, settlement process, and so on. This is great information to pass along to your carrier as well.
Do you offer an account review? People tend to pay more attention to their policy coverages, liability limits, property values, and deductibles once they have a claim. Within 30 days after the claim is settled, schedule a time to do a complete account review. Chances are you’ll uncover other exposures or opportunities in other areas to round out your policyholder’s insurance program.
Have one person assigned as a claims coordinator. Many agencies do not have a specific person assigned to oversee open claims. Instead, CSRs and producers learn of issues only when a problem arises. Stay on top of all open claims to be sure all goes well. Generate a list so all agency staff is aware, not just the assigned agent. There’s nothing more embarrassing than to run into a policyholder in the community and not know that a claim occurred.

How did you rate your agency’s claim handling acumen? If you’re wondering how my agent did, well, I’m going to send this to him and ask him to rate himself!

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC, helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and customer service organizations. For information on her products and services visit

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