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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.

America’s Claims Event 2014 Interview with Carl Van!

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Interview: Carl Van, ITP, President & CEO, International Insurance Institute, Inc.

Carl Van will present “Critical Thinking – Strategic Planning.” on June 25, 2014. Carl was interviewed by the folks at America’s Claims Event. You can also view the interview on the ACE site too!  Click here to view.

ACE: Can you explain the connection between critical thinking and being a successful claims leader?

CV: The point we are going to make is that the best decision makers, whether they are claims adjusters analyzing coverage, damages and liability on a claim, or claims leaders making business decisions for their organization, are the ones who think things through. That is what it is all about. It is not about always being right, it is about considering the relevant information, avoiding the non-critical thinking pitfalls, and making the best decision possible.

ACE: Please describe a Critical Thinking approach for strategic planning within a claims operation.

CV: There are too many possible steps to list here, so I’ll just stick to the main ones.

The first and most important step is to define what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to introduce a new procedure, improve an existing procedure, or fix a problem?

Another important step is to list out your assumptions. What are you taking for granted that you know (or just accepting) to be true? Are you assuming that the new form you started using is causing turn around time delays? Are you assuming that by increasing adjuster authority will result in a reduction in inventory? Whatever assumptions you are starting with, list them out.

Right after that is to test those assumptions! In most cases, when big mistakes are made, it is not an error in the thought process that causes the problem. It is usually some assumption that was made (and never tested) that turned out to be false and every decision made based on that assumption would lead you astray.

Another step involves gathering the data you need to make the decision, as well as ideas to consider, using a wide net.

The goal is to make the best decision possible with the information you have, using the critical thinking process, avoiding the 10 critical thinking pitfalls.

A good strategic plan should have these characteristics:

 Steady: Strategies need to be altered as the business changes and knowledge grows; however, they cannot be overly reactive or “knee jerk.” Steady, well thought out changes are best.

 Achievable: Effective strategies draw on the particular strengths and skills of an organization. People who like change are just as important as people who don’t like change; you need them both! Strategies should include considerations of how they will be implemented. They need to include things people will actually do.

 Tangible: If your strategies are not in concert with your goals, then either your goals are unrealistic and/or unimportant, or your strategies are ineffective. You have to have something to show for your efforts.

 Understandable: Strategies that work in the claims environment are easily articulated so that they can inspire the people who will be asked to carry them out.

Evolving: Claims organizations that think strategically have alternatives and learn to consider a wide range of choices. They also build upon successes and relate those successes throughout the organization.

 True-Life: The best strategies are based on and supported by real data. File reviews, phone call monitoring, settlement times, objective system generated data, etc. Effective strategies tell believable stories.

 Focused: As a claims organization, are you saying one thing yet doing another? Are you encouraging risk, yet penalizing for making mistakes? Are you touting customer service, yet providing no training and evaluating only on claims specifics? Are you encouraging innovation, yet dictating every detail in every process? Are you asking people to be agents of change, yet overwhelming them with process?

Negotiated: Successful strategies have buy-in from all levels. The best way to do that is by getting many points of view, from both people who like change and people who don’t like change, and sharing the thinking behind the strategy as it evolves. Stop dictating.

 Determined: No organization can do everything or be all things to all people. Strategy means making choices about what you will and will not do. Your strategy should make it clear how claims activities will be prioritized, and how it will use its resources. Deciding you need training does not mean you have to develop it and deliver it all by yourself. Are you a training organization or a claims organization? Get help when needed, but do what you do best.

ACE: Please put these ideas of critical thinking and strategic planning in the context of a real life case study.

CV: We will be working on one in the presentation. We will be dealing with a claims organization that needs to improve the responses toward customer service complaints. We will take a look at the issue, decide on what we want to accomplish, list our assumptions, test those assumptions, generate ideas for improvement and discuss how to put them into place.

ACE: What is the central message that you hope to convey at the America’s Claims Event?

CV: That taking the time to think things through (8 “t” words in a row!) is worth the effort. Making good decisions takes a little discipline, a little knowledge, a little patience, a little training…and a sometimes a little luck.

—-

Critical Thinking – Strategic Planning

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About America’s Claims Event The 18th 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.

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!

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.”
THE WRONG WAY:
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).
THE CORRECT APPROACH:
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!”
THE WRONG WAY:
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.
THE CORRECT APPROACH:
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.

 

America’s Claims Event Interview with Carl Van!

 ACE

Interview: Carl Van, ITP, President & CEO, International Insurance Institute, Inc.

Carl Van graduated from California State University, Sacramento where he received his bachelor’s degree in Insurance. He has been in the insurance claims industry since 1980 where he held a variety of positions. Mr. Van is the author of over 75 technical and soft skill workshops being taught throughout the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Mr. Van is creator, presenter and producer of all claims training videos at Claims Education On Line, which include Time Management, Customer Service, Negotiations and Critical Thinking, all specific to claims professionals. Mr. Van is the Dean of the School of Claims Performance, and has served as both board member and Regional Vice President of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators.

Carl Van will present “The Three Driving Factors for Improving Claims Employee Performance” on June 19, 2013 at 12:45pm.

1. What is your definition of a truly exceptional performer?
A truly exceptional performer is one who understands the big picture of what they are supposed to be accomplishing, cares about doing an excellent job, and has the job knowledge and skill to do it well. They question the status quo, but don’t waste time waging war on company policy or procedures. They are “givers” rather than “takers.”

2. Explain how this definition applies to claims professionals.
In claims, we have an issue with the “big picture” part of that definition. Usually, in our Claims Customer Service courses, we ask claims professionals to use words or phrases to describe their jobs. They will say things like, “investigate”, “negotiate”, “answer the phone”, “handle mail”, “complete diary tasks”,” write estimates”, and about a thousand other things. What is almost never uttered is “Customer Service.”

Claims is a customer service business. We don’t build anything, and we don’t make anything. We are a 100% customer service business. We don’t fix cars, someone else does that. We don’t mend wounds, someone else does that. We don’t rebuild houses, someone else does that. We arrange for those things to happen, and that is the customer service piece. Sometimes we pay people, and sometime we don’t pay them and explain why. Even that is part of the customer service we provide.

The very best claims professionals are those who are technically sound, but it the end, understand we are here to help people. An adjuster who doesn’t understand that will say, “If you don’t sign this form, we can’t pay you.” An adjuster who does understand that will say, “If you can sign this form, we can begin paying you.” An adjuster who doesn’t understand that will say, “It sounds like you’re confused. An adjuster who does understand that will say, “Maybe I didn’t explain things clearly, let me try again.” An adjuster who doesn’t understand that will say, “We’re going to take depreciation.” An adjuster who does understand that will say, “Let me help explain why we take depreciation.”

3. What are the “three driving factors for improving claims employee performance” that you will talk about at the America’s Claims Event this coming June?
Performance is made up of two things, Attitude and Ability. Attitude is 80%, and Ability is 20%. It’s the Pareto Principal; the old 80‐20 rule. Driving up that performance can have many avenues. I will be speaking on these three areas: Creating a culture of customer service awareness; setting a standard that improvement is part of the job; and providing the training and support for people to reach their potential. Many claims organizations will say they do all these things already, when the truth is that it is their greatest weakness.

4. In what tangible ways can your ideas be implemented at the office?
Every interaction in a claims office is a potential training opportunity. Office meetings, break room conversations, casual conversations about procedure changes, etc. are all perfect times to create a culture. Declarations in newsletters, e‐mails, memos, wall signs and the like are very weak methods to garner support for a culture improvement compared to an open discussion in an office meeting.

5. What is the one key takeaway that you hope audience members will get from your talk at the event?
That improvement is possible, available, and much less expensive than not doing anything. You can hire all of the talented people you want, but in the end, if there is not a system in place to shape that talent, it’s all a waste of time. In management we seem to accept that it is normal to have only a couple of exceptional performers, rather than believe we are in control of creating them.

The Three Driving Factors for Improving Claims Employee Performance

http://www.americasclaimsevent.com/sessions/the‐three‐driving‐factors‐for‐improving‐claims‐employee‐performance

Carl Van Biography

http://www.americasclaimsevent.com/speakers/carl‐van

Conference Registration

http://www.americasclaimsevent.com/registration

About America’s Claims Event 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.

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.

AGENDA   SPEAKERS   SPONSORS   BROCHURE   REGISTER NOW AND SAVE
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.

NETWORK & LEARN FROM THE INDUSTRY’S BRIGHTEST

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
— AIG

>> 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. 

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HOW TO REGISTER
Call: 800-831-8333
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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
IN YOUR CLAIMS PROCESS:

  • 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


NEW FOCUSES EXPLORE:

  • 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

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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 .

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PART ONE OF THE PODCAST

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO PART TWO OF THE PODCAST

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

PRESS RELEASE:

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

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