In the insurance claims environment, there is a picture I have used in a presentation, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? to show how opposing individuals often react to each other.

In today’s culture, we too often honor swagger and pithy bluster. Those with ability to ridicule in fifteen seconds often become leaders of opinion. We are “dumbing down” the process of learning from one another when we need hard and thorough reflection of issues. I am as guilty as anybody of this. Hopefully, my ego and competitive nature will not stop me from changing the rhetoric you read here.

An internal Allstate claims manual in use before implementation of its Claims Core Process Redesign in the 1990’s taught adjusters some practical tips for avoiding confrontation and coming to common ground when adjusting claims. It is worth copying here as I suggest that we can all learn a little better by listening a little more, appreciating our brother and sister’s position, and saying a little less:

  1. Let us seek to build our policyholder goodwill and cordial relationship by good, fundamental claim thinking and claim handling.
  2. Think first before suggesting any failure on the part of the insured. Weigh the nature of his error and the necessity for saying or doing anything about it. Investigation or inspection may prove such failures on his part are not important to his claim and may not relieve us of any particular form of obligation which we are so anxious to perform through the Claim Department.
  3. Be sure you know and understand thoroughly: the policy coverage’s and requirements; what we expect from our insureds and why; which failures by the insured are serious and which are best overlooked for the moment, at least, while the adjuster attends to the claim and does the things that he is bound to do.
  4. When it is necessary to call to the attention of the insured his failure to meet fully a policy obligation (and it may very well be necessary upon occasion) it should nevertheless be done with such tact, kindness, friendliness, and courtesy as to avoid as much as possible the natural human adverse reaction to any sort of fault finding or criticism.
  5. You well know that the work of the claim man is one in which controversy is inherent. Because controversy cannot be avoided, there is an absolute necessity that we at all times be prepared, with poise and tact, to minimize not only its immediate effect upon the matter at hand, but also its long-term cumulative effect upon our public relations.
  6. We must make conscientious efforts, constantly, not to allow ourselves to become so inured to controversies, misunderstanding and grief (which are every day things to us but which are exceptions to the average policyholder or claimant) that we are led to treat people with a lack of consideration, unkindness, or discourtesy.
  7. If we not only possess a disposition to be sympathetic and friendly but, just as important, if we conduct ourselves in a manner which makes that disposition apparent and have a cheerful manner through it all, we will arouse a feeling of reciprocity in the policyholder or claimant. Actions cause like reactions. Of course, we must be Specific also when there is need, and we must always protect the company’s interests with acumen. But to be firm and keen and alert to protect the Company’s interests does not in any case require that we be discourteous or tactless. If rebukes are necessary upon rare occasions, they must be gentle and be delivered at the right time. Do not use vinegar; honey is much better.
  8. Let us be courteous in every contact we have with our policyholders, who are our customers, and with the general public, whether we are dealing personally, by letter, or by phone. Be courteous even in the face of unreasonableness on the part of the other person. Discourtesy is a part of bad temper. Remember the old saying, “When you are right you don’t need to lose your temper; when you are wrong, you cannot afford to lose it.”
  9. Let each member of the Claim Department project himself or herself into the position of the insured when his loss takes place and let us project ourselves into the position of the salesman who sold the policy, so that we will not only be competent claim men and women but cheerful and courteous individuals who may well be considered true representatives of Allstate.
  10. No gifts, material considerations, or other things of monetary value are to be accepted at any time by any Allstate employee or members of the family of such employee from persons, policyholders, claimants, financial institutions, firms or corporations with whom we do business or with whom we might do business.

Where is Zepplin playin’ or Neil Young singin’ on a beautiful Wednesday in the Spring?