If your claims department is typical, you have a lot of template letters that adjusters count on. The problem may be that these letters are stodgy, old-fashioned, and haven’t been revised or updated in years.
The following five steps will show you how these letters can be revised quickly and cost effectively and are based on actual examples of working with carriers and TPAs with several hundred form letters.
1.Prepare. Before you can take action, you need to assess the problem. How many template letters do you have in the department? Ten? Fifty? One hundred? Two hundred?
Of that number, how many are practically clones of key letters? Are there five or six letters that are almost identical except for naming a different state or using a sentence or two of original verbiage? If you use an outside person to update the letters, you can save money by revising only those letters that are totally different from each other.
You then need to identify each letter in your system by a descriptive phrase (e.g., WCSchedMedAppt) or by some numbering system (WCsched5). What do these letters need – a little polishing or a complete overhaul?
2. Once you know the scope of the template letter project (e.g., 300 one- or two-page letters, needing a brush-up on punctuation, grammar, phrasing, use of numbers, elimination of wordiness and old-fashioned phrases, etc.), you can revise the letters in-house or call on an outside editor.
The issue with having someone in-house do the job is that the designated person may find his or her changes being seconded-guessed by legal or by the people who wrote the letters originally.
If you choose a writing consultant to do the job, figure out a reasonable per-letter or per-project price that you are willing to pay. The editor, however, must promise to rewrite the letters until there is agreement about the validity of all suggested changes. Come up with a deadline for the project, indicate how many revised letters you are comfortable reviewing at a time, and then sort out details such as using the Word comment feature for the suggested revisions and a way of designating revised files (e.g., “WCSchedMeetRev”).
3. Make the agreement with the person who will be revising the letters. This may require a non-disclosure agreement, an agreement about the project’s goals, and, possibly, a partial payment to the vendor.
4. Keep bouncing the revised letter off others so that there is a buy-in for the project and an agreement that the vendor is working in a consistent, reliable way. Raise any objections early. Let the consultant know if you’d prefer having a comment mentioned once (e.g.,” Use a colon in the salutation if you are on a last-name basis with the recipient”) or that you’d like that comment repeated on every single letter in which the issue occurs.
5. Make mini-deadlines to assure that the final deadline will be successfully met. Complete all leftover discussions about particular letters or comments. Order a final payment for the vendor.
If you have 300 letters needing revision, a consultant should give you a volume discount in which the cost comes out to about $50-60 a letter. So, be prepared to pay $15,000 and up for this project. It may sound like a lot of money, but not when you consider that you are helping the claims department avoid thousands of future writing errors, striking a major blow for corporate professionalism and image, possibly avoiding a few bad-faith lawsuits, and offering the adjusters letters they can be proud of, thus improving morale. This project makes good financial and business sense for about 80 % of America’s A-Rated carriers as well as for a number of TPAs, and independent agencies.
Dr. Blake is director of The Communication Workshop, a firm devoted to helping improve insurance communications. He is the author of four books on writing, including The Elements of Business Writing, used as a text at more than 150 carriers. Dr. Blake’s website is www.writingworkshop.com.
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