Claims culture and change: service or lip-service?

May 04, 2012

‘Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.’

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock

Is insurance undergoing change? From where we stand, some, but not nearly enough. Is Claims? Change might be in the air, but we don’t see Claims teams gulping it in quite yet. “What about ECF?” you cry. Well, the truth is, that's an externally-imposed change on the industry – more of an enabler than a self-generated necessity.

Claims is where the promise of insurance is really kept, or broken and how you do it, rather than what you do, is what really matters to those who do business with you. We’ve said this before, but all our surveys reinforce the point: ‘service’ is a critical element of any broker-insurer relationship, and Claims is a vital part of that service delivery.  But rather than see change as an opportunity, all too often Claims people are resistant, perceiving service as a dark threat to how they operate.

We wonder what the threat really is? ‘Great service’ doesn’t mean ‘we agree every claim’ – it means being open with people, seeing things from their perspective, showing how much you want to do business with each other, being prepared to think long-term. It also means having the integrity to act decisively when saying ‘no’ and giving timely, clear and consistent reasons that will play out constructively with the client.

Is it a threat to the binary, black and white, confrontational nature of Claims? For sure, if you think it’s all about winning the argument, not being legged-over, then the idea of ‘service’ is a bit wimpish. Trouble is, every other commercial field in the world has discovered that the adversarial route is a dead-end. (“When two tribes go to war, one is all that you can score”, as Frankie said.) Adversarial business cultures also tend to get dragged down by opportunistic behaviour and people putting quick wins over long-term relationships.

Is it a threat to ‘cleverness’? That’s one of the favourite adjectives used about people in the insurance world: a sign of seniority and superiority. Except it’s not actually a very good word. ‘Bright’ would be better. Business today isn’t built on mystique and black-boxes, it comes from collaboration, partnering, ‘open source content’-type thinking, creativity, sharing ideas and knowledge.

It’s really a threat to convention, the received ways of doing things.

Well, man-up, it will change, it is changing and if you're not embracing it soon your business health could be in jeopardy. And if London doesn’t doesn’t move with the times, the rest of the world will happily eat its breakfast, lunch and dinner.