Policyholders and Customer Service After A Catastrophe

March 25, 2021

As adjusters, we know how important customer service is to our livelihoods. Policyholders are under a lot of stress when an unexpected event strikes their home. If the policyholder has a bad experience communicating with the adjuster, there’s a good chance the firm and/or carrier will hear about it.

Remembering the acronym L.E.A.S.T. — Listen, Empathize, Apologize, Solve, Thank — will help you provide excellent customer service:

Listen 

People, in general, want to be heard. In a tough situation when the policyholder is upset, they want to explain their side of the story and do so freely. Let them fully express their thoughts and frustrations.

Being interrupted is irritating, especially when you’re already stressed. If they’re not able to complete their sentences because they’re being cut off, it may make them more upset. Listen to the policyholder and take note of their concerns. They are probably anxious and upset about the damage to their home, so be sure to let them speak. 

Empathize 

After the policyholder has let out their frustration and explained their point of view, this is your time to speak. 

Why do we want to empathize with them instead of sympathizing? Empathy in customer service is much more powerful than sympathy. When you’re offering sympathy, you only acknowledge their feelings and frustrations. When you empathize you’re showing them that you not only understand their frustrations but you share those feelings with them. If they know that you’ve dealt with the same issue or similar, it shows them that you truly understand where they are coming from. 

Explain to the policyholder that you’re here for them. One of our goals is to help make their lives whole again. We see what their family is experiencing and we want to see the damage repaired as soon as possible. We want the family to live comfortably again!

Try sprinkling in a positive outlook by letting the policyholder know you’re thankful they’re safe. Be sensitive to their situation, but showing positivity can help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Apologize 

Miscommunication can occasionally happen, and in this case, a sincere apology goes a long way. You can tie it into empathy as well. Explain to the policyholder that you’re sorry for the inconvenience and you want to help solve the problem for them. Show them that you are working to better the situation. Again, they will want to be heard and feel like their concerns and frustrations are being taken seriously. 

Solve 

When it comes to a catastrophe, the policyholder is anxious and scared because of the damage to their home and the catastrophe they faced. How can we solve the problem of not being able to inspect their house the next day or the total of the estimate not aligning with the contractor? 

Many times the contractor’s estimate of the damage on a home will line up with the insurance adjuster’s estimate. If the contractor’s estimate is higher than the adjusters, this will need to be reviewed for consideration. For this reason, make sure you communicate with the policyholder to not sign any contracts with their contractor before the estimate of the damage has been approved by you! 

Another tip is to ask the policyholder to give your information to the contractor, or vice versa. This will minimize the stress of communication and improve the efficiency of the claim cycle. 

There are times when the policyholder is upset that we cannot visit their home the next day. If there was a tree in your living room of course you would want it removed and the damage repaired as soon as possible — it’s understandable! These claims are considered severity one claims. Any significant damage that alters the ability to live in the home is categorized as a severity one claim. It’s important that you’re creating available space in your schedule for these claims because you will need to go out to the property as soon as possible. In some cases, it could still be 7–8 days before you can make it out, but at least it won’t be 3 weeks.

Inform them to not repair any of the damage on the home or property. For example, if a tree is inside of their home, the contractor may remove the tree but they cannot complete permanent repairs. Temporary fixes are allowed, like putting a tarp over the area to protect from rain.

How does that fix the situation? Well, it doesn’t fix it right away, but the policyholder can be offered living accommodations if needed. This gives them ease knowing that they will have a warm place to sleep while the home is being repaired.

Thank

It isn’t easy to experience a catastrophe and it can take an emotional toll on the policyholders. We appreciate that they’re allowing us to repair their home and help to make them whole again. Thank them for their patience and the information they’ve provided you to complete their inspection.

Bonus tip

Give the policyholder information. Many times when a situation escalates it’s because there is a lack of understanding of what is going on. If a policyholder is upset about their inspection not being the next day, explain your processes and how you’re handling this catastrophe. 

There will be times, not very often, when you cannot make the policyholder happy. Follow the process, offer your help, and be there for them. It’s not personal, we only need to be present and ready to help them get back on their feet!