Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Should We Do To Spread The News?

Discussing politics is outside the realm of this blog. At CSE, we deal with all sides in an even-handed manner. Party labels and/or labor affiliations are immaterial to our fundamental directive, namely providing quality personal casualty insurance to public employees and the general public. That said, an illustration from the political arena provides insight into our profession.

College professor, published historian and political pundit Victor David Hanson recently wrote an article titled An Age of Untruth. In it he identified five lies permeating contemporary debate:

  • Calls for "civility" in debate after hurling whatever bile suits ones fancy;
  • The heralding of "diversity" where in fact none exists;
  • Overselling the effectiveness of alternative; i.e. "green" energy sources when they are incapable of supplying a substantive amount of energy needs;
  • Using euphemisms to disguise deficit spending;
  • An unwillingness to genuinely deal with issues related to border security.

Insurance is a practical business, one dealing with facts and not feelings. There are very, very few gray areas. A policy covers this but not that; one claim is legitimate while another isn't. Simple? No. However, it is usually rather cut and dried.

Be it at the provider or agent level, the basic principals of insurance do not shift with the blowing winds of public sentiment or presently approved speech patterns. This leads to conflicts, especially among those lacking genuine knowledge of how the business works. No, insurance companies don't have the resources to cover every everything. No, we do not go out of our way to deny claims and/or coverage. Yes, there are avenues of redress available should an insurer not act properly.

Are we doing a sufficient job explaining this?

Not really. Or at the least, not often enough.

The synchronized challenge and opportunity for the independent agent is spreading the truth in simple yet not simplistic terms about insurance; what it can and cannot do. There are no great trade secrets here. Insurance ought to be an open book, one where all parties involved avoid legalese in favor of straightforward communication. A business conducted honestly has no need to be anything but honest in its presentation to those who write its paychecks. Namely, the consumer.

So how can we best go about this? What can we do, as an insurance provider, to better serve those who have entrusted us with their business? What can be done at the agent level to disseminate factual information about insurance? We want to hear from you, industry professional and consumer alike. Leave a comment; let us know. We're listening.

P.S. Ed Morrissey expounds on some examples of what can happen when you don't communicate properly or accurately.

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  1. In first party Homeowner claims we see 3 or 4 claim scenarios presented repeatedly that are not covered under the policy. The handling of these claims ultimately leads to conflict and all the fallout associated with an unhappy insured. Perhaps we could put together a simple leaflet to go out with policy issuance and renewal mailings outlining these scenarios. A lot of policyholders seem genuinely shocked to learn that certain common damages are not covered. The leaflet could present these as useful tips so as not to appear negative. Getting this information out to the policy holders before they have a claim not only reduces the number of negative claims experiences but could ultimately save the policy holders money as well.

  2. First I would have to disagree with the statement there are "no gray areas" I believe there are. Things are not always not cut and dried. Policies are open to interpretation of how coverage applies.

    But on a more specific issue:

    What I have been faced with recently is a claim where the insured felt the company should not have paid to a third party. He was very unhappy that the claim was paid. He felt the company should have denied the claim.
    As an agent I did my best to explain the reasons why the claim was paid. I agreed with the company that the claim should have been paid. Unfortunately the insured could not see the reason why the claim was paid and canceled his policy. He said he lost trust with company and me as an agent. He also said he would follow up with a complaint to the D.O.I.
    Certainly a "negative claims experience".

    These are the type of things we have to deal with.
    Even when claims are paid legitimately you can still have unhappy clients.
    Does it have to be this way? I am not sure how much information or education can be provided. You will still have people that will be unhappy no matter what. Steve Cresci

  3. The handling of these claims ultimately leads to conflict and all the fallout associated with an unhappy insured. Perhaps we could put together a simple leaflet to go out with policy issuance and renewal mailings outlining these scenarios.