May 8, 2021 by Adam Malik
Businesses risk damaging their brand’s reputation if they take a confrontational approach to claimants, risk experts warned during a recent virtual conference.
In addition to paying out more for the claim, a company playing hardball may also wind up losing their client’s business (and the business of the claimant’s family and friends, too.)
For Tom Best, deputy general counsel at The Home Depot, his company’s approach is to avoid being confrontational and communicate in a way that is trying to solve the claimant’s problem instead of fighting them on it. In his company’s eyes, each customer is valuable and losing even one isn’t an option.
“Ideally, we want our customers to come back and continue to shop and engage with us,” he said during RIMS Live 2021, a virtual conference for risk management professionals.
Oh sure, there’s a temptation to bring in outside counsel, have a battle with the claimant in court, and maybe win the decision. “But from our standpoint, if I’m antagonistic to our customer, I’m not really winning,” Best said during the session, Social Inflation: What It Can Mean for Your Liability Program. “We want our customers to come back. So we always think about how best we can serve the customer.
“And even if they’ve hired a lawyer, can we figure out a way to get to a resolution prior to trial?” he added. “And if we have to try the case, we try it, we take it and get that squared away.”
That’s an especially important takeaway for consumer-facing companies, noted Max Koonce, chief claims officer at Sedgwick. “If you’re in the service industry…that is a critical aspect to consider.”
If you’ve built your brand as a caring company, one that values its customers, it can be a shock to the claimant when they see you take a confrontational approach.
Companies need to be more human and tell the customer that they hear them, acknowledge what they’re going through, and that they’re committed to working through the situation together. That means “eliminating confrontational statements,” Best said, “eliminating that ‘need to win,’ to show that bravado of winning.”
It’s critical for the claims expert to showcase that same level of caring for clients, Best added. Claims professionals need to listen to the customer and figure out their needs. That can go a long way in eliminating litigation potential, he added.
“For the customer, it’s their one claim. For the claims professional, they might have 50, 60, 70 claims [on the go]. And maybe they’ve had a tough day. They’ve got to be fresh and engaging every single time. And it is a tough, tough job to do, no doubt about it,” Best acknowledged. “But taking that moment to explain the process to a customer probably is going to allow them to feel, ‘Hey, I feel valued in this process, I’m not going to go hire a lawyer because I feel that my interests are being taken care of.’”
Of course, the customer may have someone in their ear telling them to take the issue to court, such as a lawyer. If the client is unhappy, it’s likely they will indeed follow through on litigation. “Anytime getting somebody between us and our customers, that’s where we see litigation rise and our complaints rise,” Best said.
Feature image by iStock.com/SIphotography