The Importance of Hiring Empathetic Claims Professionals
Aon and The Jacobson Group’s “Q3 2021 Insurance Labor Market Study” found that 53 percent of P&C insurers are understaffed and plan to aggressively hire in the next year, with claims being a top area of focus. While there is pressure to fill these open roles quickly, carriers should remain diligent in the hiring process to ensure they extend offers to only candidates who are well suited for the role.
Working in insurance is not for everyone, and claims can be particularly challenging. Over the course of my claims career, I’ve made amazing hires, and I’ve made some mistakes. Through those experiences, I learned to look for candidates with certain qualities— like someone who is intellectually curious (or nosy as my mother used to call it), has a positive attitude, a great sense of humor, somewhat unflappable and most importantly, someone who is empathetic.
Adjuster Impact and Influence Goes Beyond Processing Claims
An incorrect claims hire can negatively impact an insurance carrier across multiple dimensions. For example, an adjuster may handle 100 claims per month, 1,200 claims per year. For an auto physical damage handler, that’s millions of dollars going through their hands annually.
Furthermore, new hires impact a company’s work environment—and depending on if that is positive or negative, it can affect employee morale and retention. In Boston Consulting Group’s global survey of 3,000 insurance professionals, the majority of respondents “ranked good relationships with colleagues as the most important facet of their job,” even in a remote or hybrid work environment. Strong relationships with colleagues took the spot as employees’ top priority over maintaining work-life balance, demonstrating the importance of hiring claims professionals that will positively impact the company culture, care about their colleagues and value strong relationships. Put another way, no one wants to work with people who they perceive to be jerks, or who appear to be untrustworthy.
An adjuster’s attitude and approach can also make or break the customer experience. Hi Marley’s recent analysis of 25,000 claims customer satisfaction surveys found that a negative adjuster attitude or approach drove 23 percent of 1-star reviews, but a positive, empathetic adjuster attitude or approach was the top driver of 5-star satisfaction scores. An adjuster’s bedside manner not only impacts satisfaction, but a sub-optimal interaction with an insurance carrier can also impact customer retention. Accenture reported that 83 percent of policyholders plan to switch their carrier after one claim if they are dissatisfied with the experience.
Many policyholders’ first and only interaction with their carrier is when they make a claim—a time when they are often stressed and frustrated—making this first interaction critical for customer satisfaction. Policyholders and claimants will have a better experience when dealing with an adjuster who is patient, understands their needs and is considerate of their circumstances.
There is so much risk and consequence that comes along with a bad hire. Finding people who will delight team members and claims consumers and make the claims process as stress-free as possible is crucial.
Empathy is Essential for Claims Professionals
The best adjusters have a servant’s heart, compassion and an innate drive to help others. Insurance professionals are trusted to work with people during some of the toughest times of their lives. When dealing with peoples’ emotions in a time of need, nothing can replace empathy—it is one of the most important qualities to look for when hiring a claims person.
At the claims moment of truth, no amount of technology, automation or efficiency can replace empathy. While I can teach someone how to read an estimate or what questions to ask after an auto accident, I can’t teach someone how to sense and appropriately respond to someone else’s emotions.
“Adjusters are the critical link in delivering empathetic communication, explaining the claims process, setting claim handling expectations and providing a much-needed advocate when dealing with the stress and frustration that inevitably accompanies an auto accident, property loss or another type of claim.”
Empathetic people can see all different perspectives, recognize nuances, understand the feelings of others and tap into their own emotions to solve issues. Being emotionally invested in helping others allows them to care deeply about policyholders and claimants while also enabling them to sense when something is off. This skill is critical in the insurance space because not all claims are on the up and up; Let’s face it, some are fraudulent. Adjusters need to balance a servant’s heart with a healthy amount of skepticism—they need to trust their gut and ask questions if something seems suspicious.
Adjusters will encounter thousands of claim consumers in their careers and must have compassion and the ability to consider each person’s unique perspective in every interaction.
As Irene Bianchi, CEO and President of Peel Mutual, said, “Most people don’t have claims. They don’t expect to have claims; they don’t know what to expect when they have a claim. So you need to have that human touch…you need to have that human factor, the empathy and the trust really to make sure that everything resolves for the customer.”