Seven Steps to Perfect Property Claims
Property adjusters have a tough job. Achieving customer satisfaction while also trying to minimize claim costs is a difficult task. Insurance company managers can help their adjusters by providing a playbook for success. This looks different at various insurers; however, below we offer a few tips that may help in establishing a standard of care for adjusters. This guide should help insurers improve their customer satisfaction statistics. Below are seven steps to consider in pursuit of property claims perfection.
1. Showing Empathy at First Notice of Loss
First impressions matter and usually stick. For example, if you receive bad service at a restaurant that you go to for the first time, then it is likely that you will not return. Property claims are not much different. In fact, a homeowner is even more vulnerable than a family simply looking for a good meal at a new restaurant. Adjusters must use the initial notice of loss as an opportunity to connect with the homeowner and set the stage for the claim process. The homeowner has a very high level of stress when he or she reports a claim as this is the beginning of a significant personal and financial disruption. The claimant is looking to the adjuster to offer hope that everything is going to be okay. The adjuster does not have to have all of the answers, nor does he or she need to make empty promises, but it is imperative to show empathy.
It is equally important for empathy to continue throughout the entire claims process. Adjusters need to connect with homeowners by addressing their needs in a timely manner. A quick way to lose the trust of a claimant is for an adjuster to either mislead or fail to respond in a timely manner. The below chart, Claims Service Importance Chart - Insurance Journal, shows how critical timeliness is for adjusters in the overall claims service.
2. Providing Immediate Hotel Lodging
If a claim is the result of a home becoming uninhabitable, then an adjuster must be ready to provide hotel lodging quickly. Housing is an important factor for almost all claimants. If an adjuster does not quickly provide a homeowner with temporary housing, then the claim satisfaction will decrease significantly.
As a result, it is important that insurance companies establish a relationship with a temporary housing company that extends a similar level of customer service and empathy. Having a temporary housing company on standby equips adjusters with significant resources to offer a claimant. Instead of the adjuster arranging the hotel, he or she allows the temporary housing company to do the heavy lifting and take care of this portion of the claim.
3. Initial Assessment of Loss
The loss assessment is a critical part of any property claim. Examining the extent of the property damage as well as all of the applicable policy coverage will ultimately determine the claim payments to the homeowner. In large or total loss scenarios, homeowners may be without food or clothing. A family without necessities such as these is often in a very stressful situation. Adjusters must be prepared to help claimants with payments for these essential items and with managing the stress associated with losing personal items.
Depending on the loss and the needs of the homeowner, a meeting with an adjuster is sometimes helpful in further expressing the insurance company's empathy. An in-person meeting may be difficult for a variety of reasons; however, a virtual meeting is the next best alternative. Claimants need to put a face with an adjuster in order to truly connect and feel genuine empathy. The difference in a phone call and a face-to-face meeting is important, yet simple. An adjuster’s facial expressions have a significant impact on further expressing empathy to an insured. This may put added pressure on the adjuster to prepare to express empathy in both verbal and non-verbal communication, especially when an adjuster has a long list of claimants. Nevertheless, insurers must educate and train adjusters to handle this important part of their job.
4. Providing Like, Kind, and Quality Temporary Housing
As mentioned earlier, partnering with a quality temporary housing company is critical to claim success. Temporary housing is tricky because of a variety of factors involved in securing adequate housing. Homeowner’s needs matter in determining the most appropriate temporary housing. Comfort is one factor. Families need to feel safe and reasonably just as comfortable as they did in their damaged property. Homeowners have both scheduling and geographical needs worth consideration. For example, if an insurer offers temporary housing that is similar in size and neighborhood, yet 30 miles further away from work, the homeowner will not be happy. Work, school, and medical needs are all examples of important factors that influence the location of temporary housing for the homeowner.
5. Communicate with Contractors to Rebuild or Repair
Anyone who has worked with contractors understands the process is grueling and stressful. Therefore, the adjuster should take the lead in all communications with contractors throughout the rebuild or repair of the home. Homeowners should not feel alone or isolated in dealing with contractors. Delays are common during significant repairs. As a result, adjusters need to monitor progress against the project plan to anticipate potential delays and help displaced homeowners manage their expectations. Keeping everyone aware of delays in-home repairs is important for temporary housing companies in case a lease extension is needed. If the claim has gone well to this point, then the adjuster needs to make sure that a bad contractor experience does not tarnish the claim.
6. Replacing Contents
Contents and personal belongings are important to homeowners. Replacing these items is a critical part of the claim. Adjusters need to give homeowners as much information as possible to make sure they understand the valuation process. This is another opportunity to express empathy for their losses. The homeowner needs to feel that the adjuster is being fair, open, and honest throughout this process, but ultimately claim costs still have to fit into the budget.
7. Assisting with the Emotional Trauma of Losing a Home
The loss of a home is a traumatic event in the life of a homeowner. An adjuster is the key person responding to the loss and therefore has a strong influence over the homeowner’s emotional reaction and recovery. One good source for help on this topic is training from Dr. Raymond Shelton, an industry expert on stress management, crisis response, trauma, and violence. There is no perfect strategy for dealing with emotional trauma; however, below are some self-care recommendations from the American Psychological Association following the loss of a home.
As long as property claims exist, insurers have a unique opportunity to connect with homeowners and provide a consistent source of empathy. These seven steps provide some handles for thinking about small changes insurers can implement in the pursuit of a perfect property claims experience.