3 tips on effectively managing a claims department.

Responding to Department of Insurance (DOI) inquiries, reconciling estimates, denying coverage, and issuing settlements are just a few parts of the daily grind in an insurance claims department. But increasingly, a department’s ability to churn through work at pace isn’t the sole indicator of success. Especially during 2021, being caring, empathetic and demonstrating expertise with customers will increase customer satisfaction and boost your brand’s reputation. And your claims department’s ability to offer excellent customer service will be determined by how well you manage priorities.

But how do you manage priorities effectively as workloads seem to get larger, deadlines get shorter, and the pressure gets higher? I’m sharing three tips based on my experiences managing claims departments that will help you create an environment that boosts productivity, protects employee wellbeing, and increases customer satisfaction:

Tip 1: Measure productivity

Knowing where your adjusters are spending their time is crucial to increasing effectiveness. Not only that, you’ll be able to understand if adjusters are following company procedures and protocols effectively, and so giving insureds great service. Are they prioritising the right tasks at the right time? Do they return a voicemail first or respond to an inquiry via email? Do they prioritise issuing payments or thoroughly reviewing estimates for accuracy? There’s a balance to be struck between the various tasks claims adjusters need do in order to move each claim towards a conclusion.

Once you understand what the current state of play is in your department, you can start to optimise. Take the knowledge you’ve gained and translate it into a plan which can be executed, reviewed, and measured. As you move through this process, it’s also essential to find a way to surface information to different audiences. Front line leaders need to be equipped with a live gauge of how their operation is moving forward. Leadership needs to be given a distilled view of progress. Finding a tool that lets you gather all the data you need, and present it in different ways to different audiences, will be essential to the success of your productivity monitoring efforts.

Tip 2: Make time for hand-holding

Too often that we see adjusters not having enough time to speak with claimants or insureds. This isn’t because they don’t care; rather, it stems from the adjuster’s lack of control in how they manage their day. A focus on high volumes drives adjusters to rush through claims – damaging customer service, and potentially missing important details.

Instead, try and engineer capacity for your adjuster which allows them to explain coverage to insureds, hear their concerns, and evaluate new information properly. Doing so will enable your adjusters to give their full attention to every claim they work on, and also give customers a better quality of service. Having a proven operations methodology is the best way to make this happen.

Tip 3: Maintain a balanced caseload

It has become normal for adjusters in 1:1 meetings with line managers to say they have too many claims. The high number of claims can be a challenge as it tempts adjusters to rush through the tasks within claims in order to hit targets. Claims departments need to realise that high volume does not equate to high productivity for everyone. Each individual brings a unique skillset and works differently. Learning the skillsets and behaviours of individual adjusters in your team, and giving them tasks that suit those skillsets and behaviours, will improve productivity and can boost your brand. For example, do not place a detailed-oriented individual in simple low-value claims – they’ll work slower than they need to, reducing productivity. On the other hand, do not place adjusters who make quick decisions in complex and high exposure claims – any mistakes made by missing facts or rushing will potentially be damaging and very public.

Achieving individualised management of employees is best done by having ongoing coaching sessions with your reports. Coaching and mentorship training allows leaders to have crucial conversations that enable them to plan workload in a way that delivers results. That ongoing dialogue also creates a healthy environment for the claims department by providing an opportunity for routine feedback – both for reports and managers – to keep operations running smoothly and employees feeling motivated.

Can productivity improve your brand?

By implementing these three tips, your claims department will have the resilience to face larger claim volumes and to tackle complex claims. The key to success is to understand how your employees are spending their time currently, and to actively optimise that time so that people are doing work that they’re suited to, in a timeframe that lets them work to the best of their ability. Taking these steps will maintain employee wellbeing, create more accountability, and enable managers to reward achievements – all of which result in better departmental results, but also talent retention, and even brand boosting.

How does productivity boost your brand? Many claimants perceive claims departments as the “bad guys,” mainly due to the fear that they’ll be denied coverage. To a claimant, their contract with you is more than just a contract: it is the trust they place in your organisation to be there when they need you the most, which is normally after suffering a loss.

When claims departments are working flat out to get through cases at speed, it’s hard for adjusters to give each claim the time and attention it needs for the customer to feel that they’ve been taken care of. This is especially true when denying coverage; if handled poorly, claimants feel ripped off, frustrated, and angry. If the adjuster has the time and the headspace to properly explain to the claimant why their claim isn’t being covered, show them the relevant documentation, and offer constructive advice about how to proceed, then the customer is more likely to feel that they’ve been treated with compassion and so have a positive view of your brand. Claims are less likely to get escalated to senior management, and your company protects its reputation – without paying out more claims.

If you’d like to discover how you can get started with understanding the working patterns and productivity of your claims department, click here to learn more about how ActiveOps can help. Our platform enables insurance carriers to understand their workforce in real-time, enabling managers to make smart decisions to ensure the success of your company.

“Awais Farooq is the US Insurance Practice Lead at ActiveOps, responsible for helping industry leaders drive measurable results in their organizations through truly innovative technology and management process automation. Awais has over thirteen years of insurance industry experience, both operationally and including serving as a trusted leader at organizations including State Farm, Chubb and Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance Companies.

Awais holds a Master’s degree in Insurance Management from Boston University. He holds the designations of CPCU, AIC-M, AIC, and LPCS, and is an active member of the insurance community where he serves as a mentor to professionals in various areas. He is also a founder and an advisor to a local youth group. When not in front of his computer, he enjoys spending time with his children and exploring local coffee shops.”

Awais Farooq, Insurance Practice Lead, ActiveOps