Customer service fundamentals

Delegates at the 46th Annual CICMA/CIAA Joint Conference learned how to improve their customer service

The claims business is a customer service business—plain and simple. This was the message hammered home at the Canadian Insurance Claims Managers Association (CICMA) and the Canadian Independent Adjusters’ Association (CIAA) 46th Annual Joint Conference held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on February 5.

The first guest speaker of the day was Brian Maltman, executive director of the General Insurance OmbudService (GIO). Maltman discussed how best to serve an irate consumer.

See: Photos from the CICMA/CIAA 46th Annual Joint Conference 

“What do we do? Do we explain the policy? Yes, we have to do that. Do we explain how the claims process works, the time it takes. Yes, often,” he said. “What we really do is work to calm people down. Engage their ability to listen. Look for ways to give them a sense of control and put them at ease.” 

The GIO receives roughly 3,500 calls a year and, in 2012, only five calls escalated to mediation, said Maltman. 

To demonstrate how best to serve consumers, Maltman had two GIO volunteers act out a scripted consumer call in which the consumer was quite frazzled with how her adjuster handled the claim.  

The exercise stressed the importance of setting consumer expectations, validating their concerns and establishing trust.

“Fairness, going that extra distance, is not just about throwing money at a claim. When people feel that they are being listened to, respected, and treated with patience and kindness, that translates into fairness in the consumer’s mind. It doesn’t have to cost more money,” said Maltman.

Steve Scullion, branch manager at Granite Claims Solution, then delivered a presentation on good faith.

“An adjuster’s job is to properly indemnify the insured as per the provisions of the insurance contract,” he said. “How and when you communicate, convey and apply these provisions to a claim separates good adjusters from, well, the not so good adjusters. Failure to do so may lead to the actionable claim of bad faith against the adjuster and/or insurer.”

Scullion provided this definition of good faith from Comunale v. Traders & General Ins. Co. California Superior Court, 1974, “… there is an implied covenant of fair dealing in every contract that neither party will do anything which injures the right of the other to receive benefits of the agreement.”

To avoid claim files being used against an insurer in a bad faith suit, Scullion said, “Pretend everyone you meet has a secret camera.”

Assume that what you say and what you do is going to be seen by everyone in the world. If you do, he said, you won’t go far wrong.

He also stressed that adjusters should not include what they think in their claims reports. Only include what they know.

The keynote address was delivered by Carl Van, president and CEO of the International Insurance Institute Inc.

Van’s energetic presentation was dedicated to giving adjusters tools to improve their customer service.

“[Customer service] is what we do. This is all we do. We don’t actually do anything other than provide customer service,” he said. “The only problem is, we don’t describe our job that way. We describe our job in terms of our tasks. The truly great customer service companies are the ones where every employee, when you ask them what their job is, they say, ‘I provide customer service.’ ”

An important step in providing excellent customer service, of course, is understanding what customer service actually is.

“Customer service is meeting or exceeding customers’ expectations. It’s not their wants, it’s not their needs, and it’s not their desires. If you meet peoples’ expectations they’re basically satisfied. If you fall short of their expectations they’re basically dissatisfied. That’s all there is to it,” he said.

Claims adjusters have an opportunity to set expectations, he said. They just need to let customers know what to expect.

“Loyalty depends on customers getting what they expect,” he said.

A TC Media site,
Business Solutions

TC Media

Transcontinental Media G.P
1110 René-Lévesque Bldv W.
Montréal, QC H3B 4X9
(514) 392-9000