Blog Archives

Negotiating For Cooperation

Time Spent Negotiating

As a claims professional, you spend a lot of time negotiating. Of that time, do you know the amount of time spent negotiating the dollar amount of something? You might be surprised that only ten percent of your negotiating time is spent negotiating money. Only ten percent! The other ninety percent of the time you spend negotiating; you are actually Time-spentnegotiating for something else. What do you spend ninety percent of your time negotiating?

As a claims professional, you are spending ninety percent of your time negotiating for cooperation.   That’s right, simple cooperation. Consider this: Do you ever ask customers to sign a form and send it in? If so, you are negotiating for the customer’s cooperation to move the claims process along. Do you ask customers to send in receipts? If so, you are negotiating for cooperation. Do you ask customers to return your phone call, to release a vehicle, to meet you for an inspection? The list of ways you ask customers to cooperate goes on and on. In all of these, you are negotiating for cooperation. When you ask a customer to do anything, which might be long before the claim value discussion, you’re beginning a negotiation process. If they say yes, the negotiation is over. But if they say no you have to continue negotiating for their cooperation.

Remember, a great negotiator has a process and uses the same steps over and over again. You can master this first set of steps and use them every day in your job.

We will start with the three steps of negotiating for cooperation, and see how those three steps fit into our final model of the five steps of negotiating claims settlements.

As we mentioned before, when asking a customer to do something, many times the customer’s answer is “yes.” They cooperate and the negotiation is over. But, what if the customer’s response is “no?” Let’s see how a claims professional does in this example, where he asks the customer to do something, and the customer doesn’t cooperate:

Mr. Drennen: “Hello.” 

Brad: “Yeah, Mr. Drennen, this is Brad from Typical Insurance Company. I’m calling about that medical authorization. We still haven’t received that back from you yet.”

Mr. Drennen: “Well, I’m not going to send it.”

Brad: “What do you mean, you’re not going to send it? You have to send it. I mean, we need that medical authorization.”

Mr. Drennen: “I’m not signing anything. I am not sending anything.”

Brad: “Well you realize, Mr. Drennen, if you don’t send it, you’re not getting paid.”

Mr. Drennen: “I told you, Brad, I am not sending you anything. You can threaten me all you want.”

Brad: “Well, I just have to remind you that your policy says you have to cooperate and if you don’t, there may be no coverage at all.”

Mr. Drennen: “Hey man, I’m not sending you anything.”

Brad: “Well then fine, we just can’t pay you.”


Ultimatums Don’t Pay Off  

dreamstime_157111481-300x200Yes, it was a little rough, but did that sound somewhat familiar? It might sound a little heavy handed, but in monitoring phone calls at different insurance companies all over the world, we can tell you, it doesn’t sound too far off. Even good claims professionals, in an effort to get the customer to do something, have been heard speaking exactly like that to customers. They don’t mean to be rude; they’re trying to gain cooperation. However, to the customer, the ultimatum feels like being hit with a hammer.

We call this the “Claims Hammer.” You know the Claims Hammer: “If you don’t do this, here is the bad thing that will happen.” We’re trying to show the customer they should cooperate for their own benefit. Unfortunately, the words sound like a threat; it comes across as an ultimatum. Nobody likes ultimatums. Doesn’t your customer deserve better?


Magic Words

As claims professionals, we know that it makes our job much easier if people trust us. You may be doing something to lose trust and you don’t even realize it. The number one thing you can do to lose trust is to threaten somebody. Give somebody an ultimatum, and see if they ever trust you again.

On the flip side, it is very easy to earn trust. Do you know the magic word to earn trust? The magic word is “help.” It’s pretty easy. People trust someone who’s genuinely trying to help them and they don’t trust someone who’s trying to hurt them.

If you say to your customer, “If you don’t do this, here’s what’s going to happen,” it can sound like a threat and destroys trust, even if you’re trying to help the person.   In every interaction with your customer, remember this basic rule: Offering to help earns trust.


A Great Negotiator Is Someone Who …

A Great Place to Startnegotiator

We begin learning the negotiation process by identifying what makes a great negotiator truly great. Consider this: A great negotiator is someone who…..what?

In many of our classes, people say, “A great negotiator is someone who listens.” “A great negotiator is someone who’s flexible.” “A great negotiator is someone who plans things out.” These are all good answers. We agree these are skills and behaviors every good negotiator should possess. So, what makes a great negotiator? What is it that makes them different from everybody else? Take a guess for yourself. A great negotiator is someone who….

What did you come up with? You might have guessed a great negotiator provides empathy; a great negotiator looks at things from the other person’s point of view; maybe you thought a great negotiator provides a win/win solution for their customers. These are all good answers. In this book, we will share with you what makes great negotiators different from everybody else.

If you are a claims professional, you are probably doing a very good job of negotiating with your customers already. You don’t need to be fixed and this book is not designed to fix you. Later, you will find the answer to the question, “What makes a great negotiator?” Using the answer, you will be able to improve yourself, develop your skills, better serve your customer and make your job easier.

A Great Negotiator is Someone Who…..

Here is the answer: A great negotiator is someone who has a process. We know this seems simple. Simple as it is, it’s true.

A great negotiator is someone who has a process.   You see, there are five steps to the claims negotiation process and the great negotiator uses them. They don’t move onto step number two until they finish with step number one. A great negotiator doesn’t get caught thinking, “Oh, uh, gee, now what do I say?”   A great negotiator knows exactly what step they are in during their customer interaction. You will learn the five steps to utilize in your claim handling to improve yourself. Even if you’re a good negotiator, or even if you’re excellent, you can always get better.

When does the negotiation process really begin

In working with claims professionals all over the world, we like to ask this question, “When does the negotiation process really begin?” Responses we hear are, “The negotiation process begins when you get the medical documentation,” or “it begins when you get the reports,” or “when you get the estimate from the body shop,” or “when an offer is made to settle the claim.” These are all good answers but we all know better, don’t we?


We know the negotiation process really begins with that first conversation, that very first phone call. We know that first conversation is when we start to establish the rapport. We know that very first phone call is the foundation of the relationship that helps us towards resolution that much sooner.

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.


Claims Education Magazine Winter 2012 Is Available Now!



Download the full issue PDF »

Articles in this issue: Individual article links to come shortly

Training Talk

Feature Story
He’s a Claims Man

Feature Story
The Claims World Loses One of Its Best: Mike Noakes

News Brief

Claims Education Magazine® is wholly owned and published by International Insurance Institute, Inc.
Since our first publication of Claims Education Magazine® in 2005, we have grown to over 37,000 recipients.
For all 37,000 subscribers, an e-mail announcement is sent directly to them, letting them know the current and prior editions can be viewed online at this website (
Downloading any full issue or any part of Claims Education Magazine is free at all times.
There is also a link on this web site where anyone who requests it can receive the printed version of the Claims Education Magazine.
For editorial questions or contributions, contact Karla Alcerro at For advertising, contact Carl Van at
A special thanks to all of our customers who helped to make Claims Education Magazine so successful.

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 .



The Eight Characteristics of The Awesome Employee by Carl Van!

The Eight Characteristics of The Awesome Employee

Hardcover $24.95

Or click here for the Kindle version


GRETNA, LA—Pelican Publishing Company is proud to announce the release of The Eight Characteristics of the Awesome Employee, written by Carl Van.

Van will have readers looking for the awesomeness they have within themselves to renovate and rejuvenate performance in any job by incorporating his eight simple characteristics: attitude, time management, interpersonal skills, continuing education, customer service/empathy, desire for excellence, teamwork, andinitiative. The difference between a good and an awesome employee isn’t the individual’s talent, intelligence, educational background, or job knowledge; it is attitude. His often humorous, real-world examples steer the reader along the path to becoming more productive, more satisfied, and more successful in any job.

Discover the route to utilizing attitude to renovate and rejuvenate your performance in any job. Your transformation to awesomeness can be achieved by incorporating Carl Van’s eight simple characteristics into your daily performance:

  • Attitude
  • time management
  • interpersonal skills
  • continuing education
  • customer service/empathy
  • desire for excellence
  • teamwork
  • initiative

By using Can’s straightforward road map to success, driven by easy-to-understand examples of performance issues, you can develop these eight keys to becoming the employee you were meant to be. Each section focuses on one general characteristics and provides on-the-job examples that will lead the way, including quotes from popular songs for the journey of your career.

Carl Van is a poplular keynote speaker and opening presenter at claims conferences in the United States and Canada. He is the author of more than seventy-five technical and soft skills training workshops. He has dedicated his life to studying how people think and interact and has developed classes and programs to improve the success of individuals as well as business groups.

“A few years ago I published a trade book entitled, The 8 Characteristics of the Adjuster. After some encouragement by a couple of publishers to rewrite the book for the general public, I finally did and expanded upon the original.

The new book, The Eight Characteristics of the Awesome Employee, is about as long as the original adjuster book, and is written directly for employees as opposed to those at the management level.”  -Carl Van

Claims Education Magazine SPRING 2012!

Check out the new SPRING 2012 Claims Education Magazine Issue!

Click Here to go to

Download the full issue PDF »

Check out the articles in this issue:

Training Talk

Feature Story
Ambassadors in the Field

Feature Story
Conference Comes Full Circle

News Brief

Dealing with Angry People.

Carl suggests how to deal with those angry people we all encounter at some point. (from the Customer Service Video Tip Series)

Above all else: There is Attitude

Ring in the New Year with a New Attitude!

“We must be the change we want to see.” – M.K. Gandhi

This is the first of an eight-part series from Carl Van’s popular book: The 8 Characteristics of the Awesome Adjuster. This first segment outlines one of those characteristics.

Oceans of words have been published on the subject of positive attitude. The overriding theme in my book is that the best adjusters are people who look for the positive in every situation.

1. Overworking is an opportunity to demonstrate work ethic.

2. Making mistakes is an opportunity to learn something new.

3. Being asked to do more than anyone else is an outward expression that someone thinks more of you than anyone else.

Awesome adjusters don’t get bent out of shape, they question the status quo. They always have a suggestion for improvement when they express a concern and they look for ways to make something work, rather than searching for why it won’t.

To that end, start by looking for the opportunity:

1. Decide what is important to you.

2. Make sure it is something you can reasonably achieve.

3. Give yourself a taste.

The secret is giving yourself a taste. Stay away from the Imagine This technique. Pretend you already have achieved what you want. If you want to be a person who people respect because of your positive attitude, then act as if you already are that person. The better you envision your goal, the more your attitude will become it. Another positive technique is to practice rephrasing the actions you consider negative.

Here is the exercise. See if you can reword comments to point out the positive. Keep in mind all of the comments are completely valid. But see if you can change them around just a little so they seem positive instead of negative. If you can, you are ahead of the game.




I have too much work. I have job security.
My manager gives me all the difficult files. My manager trusts me to handle the difficult files.
Customers are always complaining. Customers need my help.
If this job was easier, I’d like it better. If this job was easier, the company would hire someone less talented.
No one helps me unless I ask for it. I’m left alone to do my job.
One little mistake could cost the company thousands. I have a job that is important. My company trusts my decisions.
The only time I see my supervisor is when I make a mistake. My supervisor lets me do my job.
I am required to attend conferences and review them in office meetings. I am trusted to interpret important information and help train others.
The insured are so needy; I wish they would leave me alone. If they so weren’t so needy, anyone could do this job.
I’m the only one in my office with any experience. I am relied upon in my office because of my experience.

During my days as a claims manager, I was in my boss’s office, bitching, whining and complaining. Finally, after seven minutes or so, I finally stopped. He looked at me for a few seconds and said, “Carl, are you finished? Because I want to remind you of something: You asked for this job, remember? You sat in this very office and went into detail about how tough this job was going to be and why you were the only person I should select. Twenty-two people applied for this job and you got it. I saw something in you I didn’t see in anybody else.”

“If you want an easy job, go to McDonald’s where a little buzzer goes off when the fries are done. But before you leave my office, let me remind you of something. You got something 21 other people didn’t get. You got the chance to prove you could do this job. No one else even got the chance.”

Somehow, my boss recognized that all of the extra hard work I was going to have to do was my opportunity to prove that he was right for hiring me in the first place. That all of that hard work was my opportunity to show I was the right person for the job.

Somehow my attitude had gotten turned around and I found myself looking for the wrong things. The key was knowing how to recognize an opportunity when it is there.

If you spend just one week pretending you already have what you want and rewording every negative comment you say or hear, I promise you will see an immediate change in your attitude toward your responsibilities.

You can be stressed out that you have too much work or you can be relieved you don’t have job security concerns. Just keep in mind, that either way, it is a choice you make.

Awesome adjusters know that having a positive attitude is nothing more than deciding they have it. They know that once you allow yourself a taste of positive attitude, job satisfaction will go up and your stress levels will go down.

Then, if you like the way that tastes, go ahead and indulge. Keep eating up that positive attitude. Don’t worry; positive attitude is the ultimate diet. High on energy, with no fat and no carbs!

For more on attitude from Carl Van check out his book

Attitude, Ability & the 80-20 Rule

%d bloggers like this: