September 11, 2019 by Greg Meckbach, Associate Editor
As the chief claims officer for Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company, Erin Fischer hears one question all the time.
“The Number 1 question I get is: Do you need to hire claims people who are technical experts?'” Fischer said Wednesday.
Although technical expertise is very important in claims, empathy is an essential ingredient, Fischer suggested during a presentation at Connected Insurance Canada, which wrapped up Wednesday.
“What you can’t teach people is how to connect with people,” Fischer said during the presentation, Why Talking To Your Customer is the Next Innovation in Claims.
“We actually try to find people who deliver empathy,” Fischer said of Wawanesa’s claims hiring practices. “Hire people who can deliver on customer experience skills.” Claims organizations do need other people in the organization with good technical skills at claims, but they need to balance that with people skills, according to Fischer.
Sometimes she is asked how applicants for claims positions should be interviewed. “It is not about how many files, what kind of precedent cases, what is your average talk time,” she said about possible interview questions to ask. “It’s not about those things. It’s about, “Tell me about a time that you helped a customer get through one of life’s biggest tragedies.'”
Connected Insurance Canada was produced by Insurance Nexus and held at the Marriott Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto.
Fischer delivered her presentation on the 18th anniversary of the hijacking Sept. 11, 2001 of four American airliners, which grounded most civilian air travel for days. To give an example of empathy, Fischer noted that thousands of Newfoundlanders let strangers stranded at Gander airport stay at their homes after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“Sympathy would have been ‘Hey, yes, sorry to hear about that, I guess sleeping on a plane is going to suck,'” Fischer said Wednesday. “Empathy is different. Empathy is about feeling with you. Sympathy is about feeling for you. There is a huge difference. In our our industry, we have to get empathy right.”
To illustrate how to treat customers and how not to treat customers, Fischer recounted two travelling experiences she had, each with a different airline.
Fischer revealed that she has a tendency to forget personal items on airplanes. One time she forgot to take her carry-on bag off from the overhead compartment and didn’t realize this until she exited the security zone.
“At that moment, I entered the abyss – the black hole – ‘You shall never find your suitcase ever again, Erin,'” she recounted. She went to speak to a human and was told to go online and go through a process. “Eight weeks later, after I replaced everything in my suitcase, I got an electronic note from [the airline] saying ‘Guess what, they found your suitcase and it’s only $100 to ship it back to you from Montreal.'”
She contrasted that with another incident in which she left her business card holder in an airplane cabin and did not even notice it was missing until the airline contacted her by phone, offering to ship it to her by courier. The following day, a customer service agent from the airline called her and reported the courier did not show up but would deliver the business card holder the next day, said Fischer.
“When our customer is in a first-party claim, the most important thing that I want somebody to do is connect with that customer in that moment.”