Five Ways to Defuse Hostile Claims Situations.

 

By Dara Banga

FCIP, CFEI

Situations that require insurance can often be the worst moments of people’s lives. Great personal loss prompts the grieving process, even when no lives have been lost. When interacting with claimants, it’s important to remember that they are grieving, and therefore they may not think or communicate in typical ways. Grief isn’t predictable. Everyone’s grieving process is unique. So is their claim recovery process.

 

As the independent claims adjuster, there’s a lot you can do to facilitate positive, collaborative interactions throughout the claims process … even with very angry and grieving people. Below are a five ideas:

 

1. Build trust early by deploying multiple touchpoints. Start communicating with claimants before you meet them in person. Send a text to get their attention and let them know that you are in receipt of the claim and will be emailing next steps. Then email a longer message and follow up with a phone call. Let claimants know up front that you are an objective, independent third party claims adjuster who is concerned about helping them. When you meet claimants in person, ask them how they prefer to communicate and accommodate those preferences whenever possible.

 

2. Ramp up the respect. Mutual respect is a great anger diffuser. In claims handling, you can show respect through your words and through your actions. Communicate proactively, show up for appointments on time, look claimants in the eye and demonstrate concern, use the claimants’ names in conversations (What do you think, Mr. Smith?), ask for permission before you begin inspections (Do you mind if I take a look?), listen and allow adequate time for questions and explanations. Avoid being distracted by your smartphone while you’re interacting with claimants. Be kind to claimants’ children and pets.

 

3. Empower where possible. People often become angry when they feel powerless. If possible, help them take charge of their situations. Give them a list of helpful next steps to help them focus their energy. Provide a list of helpful resources. Let them know how they can help you speed up the claims process. Be aware of your claimant’s physical or language needs and take steps to maximize the comprehension and accessibility of your services.

 

4. Be aware of body language and intensity. Remember that the majority of communication is non-verbal. Smile with your eyes and your voice, avoid shaking your head “no” during explanations, watch out for the cultural implications of hand gestures, and be cognizant of personal space during your interactions. A good rule of thumb is to carefully observe how your claimants interact with you and then mirror their behavior. People tend to like and trust those who act and behave like themselves. If you are interacting with a high intensity person with a great deal of urgency, respond in kind. If your claimants are quiet or communicate slowly, tone down your own volume, style and pace to match theirs.

 

5. Manage expectations, avoid surprises. Managing the expectations of policyholders is important. When money is involved, people often only see what they want. Be as transparent as possible and clearly explain the claim process, timelines and typical outcomes many times. When people are angry, they tend to not listen well, so don’t be afraid to repeat key information in sut easy to work with people who are angry, especially in situations where a claim isn’t covered. However, with these tips, you canilitate positive experiences, better outcomes and more policyholder satisfac

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