Category Archives: Articles

Do You Know What Customer Service Is?

Carl Van of International Insurance Institute gives some quick advice on what makes a great customer service company great.  In #5 and the most important of the five standards that make a great customer service company great, Carl discusses how important it is to  Know what Customer Service Is.


Have You Ever Wondered What Makes a Great Customer Service Company Great?

Carl Van of International Insurance Institute gives a snippet of advice on what makes a great customer service company great.  In part two of #4 of the five standards that make a great customer service company great we find that great company employees can Accurately Describe Their Job.  Here Carl uses The Airline Pilot Example to get his point across!

Get on the case with So Sue Me Sushi!

SoSueMeOkay, you’ve just about had it.  One more person threatening to sue and you’ll explode.  Have you ever had one of those days when, after being threatened over and over again with being sued, you just wanted to shout, “So Sue Me!”?

Well, then this is a meal you will love.  With every bite of our So Sue Me Sushi, you will forget all about those threats and reach a level of culinary nirvana that not even Buddha himself could have imagined.


So_Sue_Me_Sushi_nori_sheets1 cup sushi rice
8 nori seaweed sheets
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 cup imitation crabmeat, finely chopped
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut long and thin (like toothpicks)
1 avocado, peeled, thinly sliced lengthwise



Lay the nori sheets out on a flat rolling surface. Spread the sushi rice evenly over the sheets and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the surface.  Place the crabmeat and mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix until it is well combined.  Spread the mixture evenly down the center of each nori roll, and top with avocado and cucumber slices. Roll the sushi into a log. Slice the log into 3/4 inch pieces and serve the meal as soon as possible.

From the Claims Cookbook by Carl Van and Laura Wimsatt

Are Claimant Crab Cakes on your menu for the weekend?

Most of the time your claimant customers are honest, well behaved, and appreciative folks who understand how hard you work for them.  They often send you flowers, gifts, and thank you notes.  Sometimes they write in to the president of your company to insist that you are promptly promoted, and even offer to share a portion of their settlement to get you a raise.  That’s common.

Claimant_Crab_CakesBut every once in a while, you run across that claimant who seems to see fault in everything you do, and doesn’t mind telling you, your boss, the agent, the DOI, the local newspaper, their pastor, their pastor’s wife and her weird cousin (and his dog), and even the vet who gave that dog a flea bath, all about it.

Yes, the crabby claimant is a rarity, but you must do your best to still help.  So how do you manage to forget about the never-ending barrage of complaints by this crabby claimant?  Easy, go home and whip up a batch of Claimant Crab Cakes.

1 pound lump crabmeatClaimant_Crab_Cakes_crab

1/3 cup crushed crackers

3 green onions

1/2 cup bell pepper

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 egg

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

Dash red pepper


1/2 cup peanut oil


Finely chop the green onions and bell pepper or put them in a food processor.  In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, except for the flour and peanut oil. Shape the mixture into patties and dust them with flour.  Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

From the Claims Cookbook by Carl Van and Laura Wimsatt

Customers Listen When You Extend the Courtesy

By Carl Van and Teresa Headrick

Finish this sentence.  “My job as a claims professional would be so much easier, if the customer would just ________________.”

We like to start many of our workshops with that question, and invariably, the answer we get most often is “Listen!”

One of the Claims Maxims we have developed over the years is “People will listen to you to the exact degree you show them you understand their point of view.”

We were monitoring phone calls and heard this exact call.  As you read the interaction, consider if you were faced with this situation, how you would respond to the customer.  Here’s the actual interaction (with the names changed) that we heard:

Mr. Swope:  “Hello.”

Meg:  “Hello, this is Meg from Typical Insurance Company and I’m calling about your auto accident.  I know you had damage to your car.  I am sorry that we don’t have any independent adjusters available right now.  Can you get an estimate on the repairs and send that to me?”

Mr. Swope:  “No way, I’m not going to do that.”

Meg:  “Why is that?”

Mr. Swope:  “I’ll tell you why.  Because I’m the victim here.  Why should I run around doing your job?”

Meg:  “Well, it’s not my job to prove your claim, it’s your job.   You have to do this in order to get paid.”

How would you have dealt with Mr. Swope?  You know you don’t want to argue, and you need to demonstrate you understand his point of view, so he will be open to listening to you.  But, what is Mr. Swope really telling Meg?

When Mr. Swope responded, “Because I’m the victim here”, Meg missed the highly emotional word – victim – and started arguing about whose job it was.  Here is our suggestion:  pay special attention when customers use emotional words.  They are vivid, and if you are listening, are easy to pick out during the conversation.

When customers use emotional words with their reasons, it is probably a hint that this issue is important to them.  In this case, Mr. Swope used the word “victim”.  What do we normally associate the word victim with?  We associate victim with a crime.  Mr. Swope is actually using the word as if he was the victim of a crime.  And you know what?  He’s not too far off.  Mr. Swope wasn’t doing anything wrong when his car was slammed into.  Now, he has to miss a day of work running around getting estimates for the repairs.  No wonder Mr. Swope feels like a victim.  It’s perfectly reasonable.

So what can help?  We suggest learning how to make an empathic connection.

The Empathic Connection

Think of the empathic connection as the difference between what someone said and what they meant. Consider what Mr. Swope said – “I’m the victim here.”  What Mr. Swope wanted was empathy for being involved in a car accident.  What Meg should have done was focus on the emotional word and what it meant.  This is the ability to make an empathic connection.  That’s not always easy.

Here’s another example that we heard while monitoring phone calls.  The claims professional was talking to a customer and the customer said, “Oh man, my brand new Porsche is creamed.”  The adjuster said, “Don’t worry, we’ll compensate you for the repairs.”  It’s subtle, but the customer is asking for empathy that his brand new Porsche has been “creamed.”  The claims professional missed what was meant –vs. – what was said.

Try this one.  Let’s say a wife walks up to her husband and says, “Wow, Shirley sure is lucky her husband brings her flowers.”  The husband responds, “She sure is.”   Obviously, what the wife said and what she meant are two different things.   What did she mean when she said, “Shirley sure is lucky her husband brings her flowers”?  She meant, “I would like flowers, please.”  But notice…that’s not what she said.  The poor husband didn’t make the empathic connection between what the wife said and what she really meant.

Auto Example:Angelina: “Mr. Pitt, we’ve determined the value of your vehicle to be $8,000, and we would like to pay you that to conclude this claim.”
Mr. Pitt: “No way, I want $9,000.”
Angelina: “And why doesn’t $8,000 seem correct to you?”
Mr. Pitt: “Because my neighbor sold his car, and he got $9,000 for it, and his car wasn’t nearly as nice as mine.”
Angelina: What kind of car was it?
The reason this is the wrong approach is because now these two people are both talking about a car neither one of them knows anything about (and by the way the neighbor probably lied in the first place).
Angelina: Mr. Pitt, if your neighbor sold a car for more than $8,000, and your car was nicer than his, I can certainly understand why you would feel your car was worth more than $8,000.  That’s reasonable.  I know you want everything you are entitled to, and so do I.  In order to make sure you get what you are entitled to, I ran this report on the value of your car.  Could we go over it?”Notice how Angelina does not argue with Mr. Pitt’s point of view, but acknowledges it.  This will allow Mr. Pitt to start listening to what Angelina has to say.  Angelina can get back to discussing the facts.
Homeowner Example:Kanye: “Ms. Kardashian, we can pay you $1,500 as full replacement for your computer.”
Kanye: “Can I ask you why $1,500 doesn’t seem right?”
Ms. Kardashian: “Yes, because I was working on my MBA, and I’ve got three years of research on the computer.  I’ve got three years of homework assignments on that computer.  Three years of my life is down the drain!  $1,500 is a joke!”
Kanye: That stuff isn’t covered.
The reason this is wrong is because right now, Ms. Kardashian isn’t listening.  She just told the adjuster part of her life is down the drain, and his only comment was that it wasn’t covered.  He’s not showing much empathy for someone who is in the customer service business.
Kanye: Ms. Kardashian, it certainly sounds like a devastating situation to have such valuable information lost all at one time.  I’m sure it was tremendously valuable to you.  I understand how difficult this must be, and believe me, if there was a way I could pay this, I would really love to do that.  The policy does restrict what we can and can’t pay for.  In your case, the computer itself is covered but the data on it is not.

Let’s go back to the customer with the Porsche. The claims professional didn’t make the empathic connection either.  When the customer said, “My brand new Porsche is creamed,” the customer wasn’t saying, “I hope I will be compensated for the damages to my automobile.”  That’s not at all what the customer was saying.  What the customer was saying was, “My life is upside down right now. I am so upset, I’m beside myself.”

If Meg had considered what was meant vs. what was said and made the empathic connection, she could have said something like, “You know what, if your brand new Porsche is creamed, I am sorry.  I know this is going to be difficult for you.  I know you probably loved that car and if there was a way I could take that accident back, I’d love to do it.  I just can’t.  What I can do is to make sure you get everything you’re entitled to.”

As a claims professional, you should listen for emotional words and consider what the customer means.   A genuine, empathic connection with the customer is a skill that great claims people use to gain cooperation in what they are asking.

Great claims people take their empathic connection a step further; they connect getting the customer to change the way they feel, with what they want the customer to do.  If you can tie in the customer changing the way they feel, with what you want them to do, the more likely the customer will do it.

Here’s an example of what we mean:

Mr. Swope:  “Hello.”

Meg:  “Hello, this is Meg from Typical Insurance Company and I’m calling about your auto accident.  I know you had damage to your car.  I am sorry that we don’t have any independent adjusters available right now.  Can you get the estimate on the repairs and send that to me?”

Mr. Swope:  “No way, I’m not going to do that.”

Meg:  “Why is that?”

Mr. Swope:  “I’ll tell you why.  Because I’m the victim here.  Why should I run around doing your job?”

Meg:  “You know, Mr. Swope, if you don’t want to get an estimate because you’re feeling like a victim, I can understand that. You weren’t doing anything wrong and our insured slammed into you. I appreciate how this makes you feel.  I’ll tell you what, if you can go get an estimate, some good things will happen.

First of all, you will get to choose the shop and you can pick someone you trust. Second, you’ll be there when they write the estimate to make sure they don’t miss anything and that’s good for you. And third, if you can get them to fax it to me, I’ll get a check out to you as soon as possible. When you’re back on the road and can put all of this behind you, maybe you won’t have to feel like a victim anymore.  Because that’s a lousy way to feel and I’d like to help.”

Did you see how Meg acknowledged Mr. Swope’s reason, made the empathic connection of what was meant with the emotional word, and tied it to getting what she wanted from him?

Maybe Mr. Swope will do what Meg asks, and maybe he won’t.  Either way, Meg’s job is hard enough without arguing with Mr. Swope about whether or not he’s a victim or whose job it is to prove his claim.

Points about listening

  • People will listen to you to the exact degree you show them you understand their point of view.
  • Demonstrate you understand their point of view by acknowledging it.
  • The best way to acknowledge someone’s point of view is to repeat it back to them.
  • Don’t argue with reasons.  Acknowledge reasons and get back to discussing the facts.
  • Pay attention when customers use emotional words.

This article can also be viewed in the August 2013 issue of Property Casualty 360. Click Here for Web versionView the digital version HERE.


What Makes a Great Customer Service Company Great – Standard #1

Carl Van of International Insurance Institute discusses what makes a great customer service company great.  In the first of the five standards that make a great customer service company great we find that great companies KNOW WHY THEY ARE GREAT!

17th Annual ACE – America’s Claims Event!

Register Today for the MUST ATTEND educational and networking conference for the claims industry
17th Annual America’s Claims Event   June 19-21, 2013
Special Registration Offer Inside – Valid Until to May 31, 2013.

Registration Discount for Past Attendees of the Claims Education Conference
2013 America’s Claims Event in Austin, TX June 19-21, 2013,

Carl Van, President & CEO, International Insurance Institute, Inc. 

The Three Driving Factors for Improving Claims Employee Performance 

June 19, 2013
12:45pm – 1:25pm 

The truly exceptional performers distinguish themselves not by their abilities, but by how they view themselves and the world around them. Carl Van will explore how the key to motivating people is to inspire them to improve themselves. Once people are inspired to improve, they will do what is required to improve. Three specific areas of Claims Employee Performance will be presented, with suggestions on some things you can bring back to the office and start implementing right away.


Strategic Presentations & Tactical Sessions Designed to Give
You an Edge Addressing Your Claims Challenges.

Additional Presentations from:
— Allstate Insurance
— The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc.
— XL Group
— Swiss Re
— Nationwide Insurance
— MetLife
— Nationwide Insurance

>> See Complete List of Speakers

We have Every Angle of the Claims Process Covered with Expertise
The 17th Annual America’s Claims Event is the ONLY industry event where senior managers, practitioners & experts involved with claims operations can get the insight they need to implement effective and tactical strategies for their claims handling process. More than 400 professionals and decision-makers from mid-size to large Fortune 500 companies attend the event to engage in idea exchanging and peer-to-peer learning. Attendees gain deep insight from the experts and obtain unparalleled access to proven solutions to confront their operational challenges. 

SAVE UP TO $100 ON YOUR CONFERENCE REGISTRATION This offer expire on  5/31/13 and you must mention the discount code below when registering:
VAN1 individual registration

discount code included

>> Click here for fee schedule

Call: 800-831-8333

Note: This discounts may only be applied to new attendee registrations and cannot be combined with other offers. The discount is off of the prevailing registration rate.

Join the 2013 ACE LinkedIn Group
America’s Claims Event and Claims Magazine have partnered to create a new LinkedIn group for Claims Professionals. This group, hosted by Claims magazine, brings together individuals in the P&C insurance claims profession.Join this group today to read pre-conference interviews with speakers, get sneak-peaks into ACE conference sessions, and begin networking with attendees before arriving at the event.STRATEGIES AND TATICAL INTELLIGENCE YOU CAN IMMEDIATELY EMPLOY

  • Make better business decisions with accurate information from industry experts
  • Realize attainable goals with streamlined operations: learn how to maximize employee productivity and adapt to market trends
  • Department control: manage operations through sophisticated workflow and data-decision solutions
  • Improved customer and agent relations: easy-to-implement changes can make a significant difference on resolution time of claims


  • The growing talent problem; tackling recruitment, retention, competencies & organizational knowledge transfer across claims
  • Organizational branding & Market PR; harnessing the power of new & developing media to engage the client base
  • Engaging & communicating with the Customer base
  • The latest in Fraud Prevention, Preparedness & Mitigation

Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy
5081 Olympic Boulevard Erlanger, KY 41018

It’s Soup Time! Get your fall weather going with BOSTON “CLAIM” CHOWDER!

Boston “Claim” Chowder

Have a lot of work to do, do you? Just too many claims running across your desk these days?  No matter how many you handle, there’s more coming, isn’t there?
Well, try a dish where you won’t mind having too many “claims”. This delicious “claim” chowder will make you forget about all those claims piled up on your desk. In fact, for every “claim” you add to this chowder, that’s one more claim you can forget about.
Sure, “Claims” are slimy and ugly, but in this chowder, they will go down smoother than a disabled claimant caught playing basketball on a surveillance video.


  • 3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced “claims”
  • 1 and 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 and 1/4 cups red cubed potatoes
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 quart of half-and-half cream
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour22
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste


Drain the juice from the “claims” into a large skillet over the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots. Add enough water to cover the mixture, and cook over medium heat until tender.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until it is smooth.  Next, whisk in the cream and stir constantly until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Then stir in the vegetables and “claim” juice. Heat through, but do not let it boil. Stir in the “claims” just before serving.  If they cook too much they get tough. When the “claims” are heated through, stir in the vinegar, and season the mixture with some salt and pepper.

From the Claims Cookbook by Carl Van and Laura Wimsatt

Are you an Awesome Employee?

Carl Van Featured on Michigan in Motion!

Hosts Tiffany Dowling and Taylor Kelsaw of the show Michigan in Motion discuss with Carl Van topics from his latest book “The Eight Characteristics of the Awesome Employee”.  Hear the show on the podcast from the Michigan Business Network .



It’s TORT TUESDAY! Chicken TORTellini is on the menu!

Chicken TORTellini

Your legal department let you down?  Did they back down AGAIN just as trial was starting with some “new” information?  Were your insureds on the wrong side of every liability issue today?  Were you threatened with just one too many lawsuits than you care to endure?  Then its time to treat yourself to the only dish guaranteed to fend off responsibility better than Johnny Cochran on a clear day.

That’s right.  One bowl of our special chickenTORTellini and all your troubles will slip away faster than an attorney heading for the golf course.


1 cup chicken breast meat, diced
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup carrots
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
3 chicken bouillon cubes
5 and 1/2 cups water
1tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb Tortellini, cooked

In a 3 quart saucepan, melt the butter. Next, add the carrots and sauté them for 2-3 minutes. Then add the chicken and cook it for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the celery and onions and cook for 4-5 minutes more.  Dissolve the bouillon cubes in water and add the broth to the soup along with the remaining ingredients except for the tortellini. Simmer the ingredients until all of the vegetables are tender. Add the salt and pepper to your liking and then lastly, add the tortellini and cook it until the tortellini is tender.

From the Claims Cookbook by Carl Van and Laura Wimsatt

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