Brokers dealing with claims management should explore ways to hone their client skills in several categories, say business respondents to Canadian Underwriter’s Trusted Advisor 2021 survey.
Only 36% of respondents – commercial clients of the brokers – said they were satisfied or very satisfied that their broker “helped me through the claim process to clear up confusion and move things along quickly.” And 42% said the broker “helped me when I had concerns about how my claim was handled.”
“The overall interpretation for me was that the brokers are maybe dropping the ball on keeping in contact with the insured as the claim progresses,” says Patti Kernaghan, president and CEO of Kernaghan Adjusters in Vancouver. “They need to get a sense of how often to contact a client during the claims process.”
She notes there’s a “pretty big disparity” between the 45% of respondents who were satisfied their brokers touched base with them after the claim was completed, compared to only 30% saying the broker talked them through how to report a claim to their insurance company.
Kernaghan suggests this illustrates a lack of proactivity on the brokers’ part, with too many only responding after the fact.
The survey found only 24% of respondents were satisfied their broker had “provided information proactively about what to do if I needed to make a claim.”
Curtis Killen, president of KBD Insurance Inc. in Montreal, was surprised by how few business clients supported that statement. “There definitely is room for improvement … without the client having to ask,” he says.
There was also some positive feedback. A full 91% of respondents were satisfied with how brokers advocated to the insurance company/claims adjuster on their behalf. Another 91% indicated the broker made sure their claims were fairly handled, and 88% found their brokers responded quickly to claims inquiries.
That level of satisfaction shows brokers do exhibit a high degree of care, says Killen. “We make a livelihood of getting new clients,” he says. “We work so hard at it that when something goes wrong, we definitely want to make sure that they’re taken care of properly.”
Another call for improvement was a finding that only 73% of respondents were satisfied their broker “empathized with your situation” during the claims process.
Kernaghan acknowledges the claims process automatically makes for difficult conversations with clients. “People feel like a victim when they have a claim,” she says, adding these circumstances highlight the need for brokers to call clients and empathize.
“Is it hard for a broker to call them, and empathize? It’s not a happy call. But we’re in the claims business. We’re buying insurance to help protect clients in the event of a claim,” she stresses. “So, reaching out and empathizing is, I think, a really important function of a broker – and not just that first call, but to find out how they’re doing through the process.”
An important part of the hiring process for brokers should be finding people who display empathy while possessing the right technical skills for the job, says Kernaghan. Empathy can help speed up the claims process and reduce grinding issues. It’s also an opportunity for the insured to share their feelings and concerns.
“Sometimes that’s all that it takes,” she adds.
Killen says his firm seeks to hire empathetic people. “In a perfect scenario, you’re going to have people who are empathetic. You’re going to have people that are proactive, and you’re going to have people that have salesmanship, who listen to their customers,” he notes.
Killen believes empathy can be taught, to a degree. “If someone is not naturally empathetic, they’ll never get to the point where they are as empathetic as [a naturally] empathetic person,” he says. “But I do think there is training that can be done.”
Even in an age of digitization, Kernaghan notes the personal touch never goes out of style.
If a client is in a difficult claims situation because, for example, a house fire has caused them to lose the use of their kitchen, “send them a hand-written card in the mail and include a coffee card or a restaurant card. Let them know that you’re thinking about them,” she advises.