Viewpoint: Using Empathy to Drive Better Injury Claim Results

By George Naftzinger | July 20, 2021

Along with driving process efficiencies, combating fraud, and working to achieve consistently better outcomes, insurance company claims executives are now focusing more attention on enhancing customer satisfaction as a key element to improve the performance of their injury claim portfolios.

While empathy is one key to improving customer satisfaction, obtaining measurable results calls for a multi-faceted strategy involving employee training, effective planning, and truly understanding customer needs and wants. Here are 10 tips to help insurance company claim executives make significant improvements in customer satisfaction.

  1. Know your customer. This is fundamental to any effective interaction regardless of the industry. From the very first contact and throughout the entire claim process, the adjuster and any other team members who have direct contact with a claimant need to know their expectations about the process and how they prefer to conduct their interactions. For instance, do they prefer self-service? How often do they want to be updated? What communication channel do they prefer? The more we’re able to personalize the customer’s experience, the faster they’ll recognize we’re focused on their needs and recovery.
  2. Streamline the process. Make the process as simple as possible for the adjusters, so they can focus their attention on individual claims and claimants. Adjusters shouldn’t be bogged down in excessive paperwork and reporting; the process for them shouldn’t be hyper-detailed or overly manual. By enabling adjusters to focus on being empathetic, you’ll be able to drive trust and build confidence in relationships between employees and customers.
  3. Make sure training emphasizes empathy. Ultimately, injecting empathy into customer interactions comes down to individuals connecting one-on-one through a simple process. Nonetheless, you don’t build empathy into all customer experiences without investing in employee training; you have to practice it and teach active listening. Furthermore, employees need to understand, recognize, and be able to respond to the tremendous amount of diversity in customer needs and wants. Apply training to address specific needs or personalities, so employees can tailor their words and frame responses to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
  4. Be prepared to accommodate diverse customer needs. Along with effective training this involves having the necessary tools and resources to understand individual customers. These insights enable adjusters to establish that critical personal connection. For instance, a great deal of useful data about individual customers is often already captured at the point of sale and in the underwriting process. This includes how customers prefer to be addressed (formal or first name), their preferred form of communication, and the best time to reach them. All that data can be captured or prefilled on the application. Thus, when adjusters receive a claim, they already have a significant amount of information to tailor that experience. When data hasn’t been captured in the application or underwriting processes, you can often tap other data sources to apply to the claim.
  5. Gather intelligence needed to enhance customer experiences. Current claims management approaches tend to be heavily geared toward the adjuster – gathering information, meeting a customer/claimant for the first time, validating contact information and the facts of the loss, asking direct questions on how they prefer to be contacted, how often they want to be elevated, and getting much of that done person-to-person. Insurers can enhance this experience through the use of digital tools and data. Thus, from the customer’s perspective, the interaction becomes more consistent with what they’ve experienced with other service industries. Instead of practically flying blind in that first customer encounter because they have no prefill application information, insurers can tap numerous data sources to fill that gap.
  6. Help adjusters sharpen their focus on claimants. Today, various publicly available information can validate a person’s identity, as well as alternate communication channels, addresses, phone numbers, and language preferences. Much of this information can be appended to a claim at the beginning of the process to remove some data-gathering and validation groundwork from the adjusters, freeing them up to focus on other aspects of delivering a personalized customer experience.
  7. Seize efficiencies in validating claims. At the same time, there’s also publicly available data that insurers can use to validate the circumstances of the claim and confirm related facts, such as claim or accident photos and detailed descriptions or reports of what actually occurred. These various information sources can also remove much of the upfront work from claim professionals so they can focus on the best way to handle a specific claim and meet individual customer needs. For instance, as different geographic areas re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, customers may prefer low-touch or no-touch contact models. This can be accommodated through digital interfaces, such as the virtual measures adopted by numerous industries throughout the pandemic.
  8. Don’t overlook the need for effective claim planning. The upfront work on any claim has to be completedearly in the claim process, ideally at the first notice of loss. The concepts of pre-fill, knowing your customer, personalization, providing empathy, and achieving connectedness with the customer all have to happen right from the start. Furthermore, in progressing from low to highly complex matters, there are going to be areas where you’ll need to augment that data – perhaps through artificial intelligence or predictive analytics – to direct the claim and lead customers down the most appropriate path and enhance their experience. Customers typically need things to happen fast so they can have confidence in the process, and while human interaction is part of it, effective data integration also helps adjusters make accurate and timely decisions throughout the claim process, boosting customer confidence.
  9. Be transparent. This is another key to creating superior customer experiences and displaying empathy. Customers want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. In these situations, technology and analytics can create intersection points where adjusters can quickly react to information instead of getting bogged down in fact-finding and leaving customers uncertain. We now have data tools and analytics that help quickly spot cases where there’s a likelihood of fraud, so adjusters can move through cases faster and stay engaged with the customer.
  10. Take care to assign the right adjuster to a claim. One way to undermine a customer’s experience is to shuffle a file from one adjuster to another. This invariably poses a challenge to customers who then find themselves having to recant the story multiple times during the course of a claim. Using new data and performing more robust analytics upfront allows insurers to be more efficient in their claim triage, assignment, or segmentation process.

From the customer’s perspective, having a single contact representing the insurer throughout the case enhances their experience. At the same time, from an insurer’s perspective, data and predictive analytics can help flag complex claims or those more likely to involve litigation so they can be assigned to adjusters with the appropriate experience.

Although investments associated with employee training, tapping into new and alternative data sources, and applying sophisticated analytics to help enhance the customer experience may seem significant, results often can be tracked and measured. At the same time, delivering exceptional customer experiences on a consistent basis can strengthen reputation and translate to wider business opportunities. Meanwhile, these measures are becoming more critical to the insurance industry as new and different competitors emerge from different sectors in the digitally enabled world.

About George Naftzinger

Naftzinger is director of business development and strategy for Carpe Data.

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