A client-centered approach to communication – avoiding an OMG moment

A client-centered approach to communication – avoiding an OMG moment
By Cathy Hester
C J Hester
Communication can make or break an independent adjusting business – or any business. Technology has changed the way we communicate, opening the door to communicate via phone call, email, Skype, social media, and more. We can now move the claim file and investigation along even quicker utilizing emails and cell phones.
We utilize any and all forms of communication in working with our clients and adjusters. We value quick response times in our line of business, along with making sure we are always maintaining a level of professionalism with all the various types of communications.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you are communicating in business using the three major forms of communication: phone calls, emails, and texting.
Phone Calls
The fast-paced nature of communicating means we tend to rely on shorter forms – like texting. Although texting may be how you prefer to communicate personally, it is not the best way you should communicate in our industry. Text messages are hard to capture into the claims file and often get omitted from the investigation, which could cause a problem with discovery and producing information later.
The preference of phone calls tends to fall on generational lines. As a Baby Boomer I prefer a phone call over written communication, however the younger generation is more inclined to text or email. I’ve found that I can establish a stronger foundation with our clients through phone calls, which is key in any business relationship. Ultimately, you need to know your clients and find out what form of communication they prefer, individually.
If you receive a phone call, you should return a phone call – always. You can also utilize verbal communication to better convey your tone or to ask questions that are best explored verbally, as opposed to in writing. How many times in our profession do we hear, “if it’s not in the file, it never happened?” Since your claim file is the communicating of the investigation of the claim, you should always commit to the file any and all activity developed during the investigation. Just remember, don’t write anything that you wouldn’t want to be read aloud in court one day! Just the facts ma’am, no opinions please.
Which leads me to…
The great thing about email is how much it has sped up our industry. We no longer have to wait a week to receive letters, allowing us to turnaround reports quicker and take on more files. It’s important, however, to not get lulled into an overly casual tone using email.
Email is a versatile form of communication in our industry. You can use email to send quick responses (i.e., “in a meeting, call you right back”) or professional letters. It also can make or break your business – if you aren’t timely in answering your emails, it could be the kiss of death. You won’t have your client for very long if insureds make repeated complaints about response times.
Emails don’t always convey tone or context the way you can with verbal communication, so it’s important to not fall into too “casual” a tone with your emails. It’s important to follow “email etiquette” rules, like not using ALL CAPS (it’s viewed as yelling by the recipient) and following general grammar and punctuation rules. You should be aware of auto correct and always proofread emails.
Like I said earlier, emails go into the file, so it’s important to remember this before you hit send on an email!
You should limit your business communication via text message regarding your files.
I repeat you should limit your business communicating via text message regarding your files.
Text messages are nearly impossible to capture in the claims file. When the day comes that you have to produce your file, you have to produce it ALL. The issuing of subpoenas for phone records is becoming very common. This may change in the near future, with the development of texting tools and services to automatically capture text messages to the claims file.
It’s also much easier to fall into too casual a tone with text, leading to overusing slang or texting abbreviations like LOL, OMG, and others that shouldn’t be used in professional communications. Text does have a place in certain cases in our profession–make sure you know when it is appropriate to use text.
Although technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate in our industry, so has the younger generation entering the workforce. It’s important to read the client and know your audience when choosing how you respond. No matter which method you use, you must always remain professional, respond timely, and remember that everything goes into the claims file!
If you would like to contact the author, please contact Ms. Hester at (251) 401-5713 or email her at . chester@hesterinc.net .