Realizing Human Capital
Each day we face uncertainties, which can seem altogether frightening for businesses and consumers alike. The tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001 and the Lehman Brothers’ 2008 bankruptcy filing, including its role in the late-2000 global financial crisis, changed the fabric of our society. These disasters also changed consumer attitudes
toward spending and saving.
Nowadays, consumers scrutinize their income flow more heavily, bristling at the thought
of paying a few extra dollars for what they perceive to be the “same” coverage. Various survey
results, including those from J.D. Power and Associates’ latest auto insurance study, seem to
confirm that although policyholders are generally more satisfied with their insurers today,
they are also more inclined to jump ship to save a buck.
Paradoxically, policyholders can be insurers’ most ardent pseudo-advocates, with a propensity
to promote the brand via social media or that oldie-but-goodie: word of mouth. These good vibes
are more potent than any TV ad campaign could ever be. But in order to spread them, customers
demand nothing less than a true partnership. Insurers are simply not product providers anymore;
in a very real sense, they are life partners. Just as one might lose touch with a friend due to self-absorption or general neglect, so too can the policyholder-insurer relationship unravel.
Successfully maintaining policyholder relationships also requires proactive outbound
communication—electronic or otherwise. Even a simply reminder to “winterize” one’s vehicle
could go a long way in making a customer feel cared for and acknowledged by his or her
insurer. Now if only half of your insureds recall actually receiving such a reminder, then the
execution probably isn’t ideal.
The point is, especially in the prolonged soft market, customer service continues to be a key
differentiator for insurers. It’s a deceptively simple term, but how insurers deliver coverage often
dictates consumer decision-making more so than price come renewal time, as Michel Finschi,
COO of insurance claims at XL Group, explained at the recent ACE conference in Austin, Texas:
“The claim is the actual ‘product’ that customers pay for when they purchase insurance poli-
cies,” he said. “Insurers sell their expertise, their customer service, and their financial strength;
however, it is only when a customer sustains a loss and files a claim that the insurer has a real
opportunity to deliver on its promise. Claims professionals are an insurer’s key customer service
representative. Finding new ways or enhanced ways to deliver on an insurer’s claims paying
promise, and provide added value to the customer experience, is more important than ever.”
Finschi also emphasized the role of claims professionals themselves—their talents and contri-
butions—in transforming operations, saying “innovation is not just about the monetary invest-
ment and the technology but rather the talent—how your people are led and if they ‘get’ it.”
Suffice it to say, to offer an exceptional product—in this context, optimal claims handling,
including productive interactions—claims managers must employ a team of professionals
who “get it.” If I had to encapsulate the most powerful (of many) takeaways at this year’s ACE
conference, this would be it.
Each and every claimant interaction matters, and so should internal communications. Do
your employees feel valued and acknowledged? Do they view you as a career partner and advocate or merely as a boss? We delve deeper into the topics of internal and external “customer
service” in this month’s online companion, which appears on PropertyCasualty360.com.
There, you’ll also find more strategies for addressing the talent shortage and our official ACE
2013 recap, complete with exclusive speaker commentary and a slideshow of highlights.
not just about
technology and the
rather the talent—
how your people
are led and if
they ‘get’ it.
Christina Bramlet, Editor in Chief