When someone purchases property insurance, he or she makes a bet. Homeowners wager that if a claim occurs, then the insurance company will respond to help the customer make whole on the loss. A large portion of the client’s expectation is financial; however, the insurance adjuster’s attitude towards their customer following a loss has an even greater impact on the customer experience and overall claim satisfaction. The insurance adjuster can make or break a claim based on the way that he or she connects with a client. Most importantly, insurance adjusters must be able to express sympathy to clients.
Sympathy and Customer Service
Insurance companies often pour significant resources into improving the claims adjusting process. In particular, technology advancements help adjusters minimize the amount of time necessary to manage claims. However, technology improvements, without a kind and caring human touch often lead to negative customer experience. For example, if a client calls their insurance adjuster days after the family lost their home in a fire, then the insurance adjuster must expect the client may have an emotionally charged attitude.
The way an insurance adjuster responds to the client has a direct impact on the overall success of the claim. Customers judge insurance companies heavily based on their level of customer service. In fact, a 2020 survey from J.D. Power, indicated that two factors were more important than any others in retaining property insurance clients. The first factor is premium increases, while the second factor is the amount of exertion required to get a claim resolved (2020 J.D. Power Survey).
An insurance adjuster lives on the front lines of controlling the amount of work a claimant must exert in order to resolve a claim. When an adjuster shares kind and sympathetic words, insureds feel more in control of the claim process. On the other hand, if an adjuster is adversarial or never looks for opportunities to connect with a claimant, then it is likely that the insured will have a negative outlook on their claim experience and may change insurers at some point. As a result, many insurers market their ability to care and show humanity towards homeowners after a loss. Competition among property insurance companies is fierce and finding ways to set an insurer apart and retain clients is important.
Sympathy and Social Distancing
Adjusters express sympathy through various forms of communication, but in-person communication often has a significant impact. In fact, just being there for a family after a significant loss is an important way to show sympathy. In today’s world of social distancing, in-person communication is more challenging than ever. As a result, adjusters must balance creativity with sensitivity to their clients. An adjuster has an opportunity to connect with their client by showing sensitivity to social distancing guidelines and taking all reasonable steps to protect the client. If an adjuster shows up without offering to wear a mask and does not respect social distancing guidelines, then it is likely the client will not feel much sympathy, despite the communication efforts of the adjuster. On the other hand, an adjuster can offer to meet the client virtually if this makes the insured feel more comfortable.
If an onsite inspection is required or requested by the client, then the adjuster should follow all social distancing guidelines, and provide a no-touch or low-touch inspection. Insurers should also have remote video capabilities to allow for virtual inspections of property damage. In fact, several smartphone apps exist that can help collect and transmit the videos and photos necessary in order to eliminate the need for an onsite visit. Thankfully, technology provides resources that allow adjusters to effectively inspect and review property damage without sacrificing sympathetic communication with clients.
Sympathy and the Insurance Industry
Many people are skeptical of insurance companies, even more so now as a result of Covid-19. For some insureds, they may go decades paying premiums without ever having a claim. Furthermore, many clients have testimonies indicating they felt mistreated during a claim or denied completely without even a sympathetic gesture. Many small businesses expected that they would have some level of business interruption coverage under their property insurance coverage if an ‘Act of God” occurred that prevented them from operating their business. Covid-19 led to significant disappointment for small business owners when they discovered their policy had an exclusion for a viral pandemic. Therefore, distrust of insurance companies is now at an all-time high.
Insurance companies generally do not make money when they have many claims. As a result, when a claim occurs, clients often think that the insurance company inherently will not look after their own interests. Clients have expectations for the customer service they expect. If the insurer’s customer service is not up to par, then it is more likely the insured may file a suit or simply non-renew the coverage and switch insurers.
Sympathy defined is “feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune”, or “understanding between people; common feeling.” Given that the primary purpose of insurance is to help someone following a misfortune or loss, sympathy seems like a no-brainer for insurance companies. Minimizing the cost of claims and retaining clients are two high priorities for insurance companies. A little extra human touch of kindness and sympathy will likely result in lower costs and retaining clients.
Thanks to Covid-19, more and more people have united in a fight against an unseen virus. Everyone shares sympathy with others, to the point of even sharing essential household items like toilet paper or hand sanitizer. Property insurance adjusters must also learn to show common kindness to those in need. Following a loss, most homeowners are sick with grief. No part of handling a claim is inherently enjoyable for a policyholder. The claim itself adds an additional level of stress to life. Therefore, property adjusters have a unique opportunity to change the playbook and present a more human side of the insurance company.
When an adjuster chooses sympathy, and even goes over and above typical expectations, people notice. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that humanity matters. Property adjusters must do a job as a representative of the insurance company. This job involves gathering important data in order to accurately manage the claim. At the same time, though, adjusters must recognize that true success in handling a claim involves making sympathetic connections with policyholders in order to help them get through a challenging season.