Can Claims Professionals Execute Better Than Fifth Graders?

Basic Blocking and Tackling Are Keys to Success

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the key to successful execution in any organization is basic blocking and tackling. Why do so many business professionals struggle with this? Arguably, this is a question pondered by millions in every industry across the globe.  

Saying and doing are two very different things, however. Picking up a playbook and learning to run a 3-2 dive is much easier said than effectively executed; and that is a basic play. As complexity increases, so too does the chance for error. Getting it right at the most basic level gives one a head start in doing it right at all levels. 

A few years back, there was a group of fifth graders who played Pop Warner football. They were a unique group of kids who weren’t big and certainly weren’t fast. No one suspected that they'd be a champion team. It wasn’t because this group of kids was not intelligent enough. In fact, many of them were recognized by Pop Warner as national scholar athletes who have now gone on to become members of the National Honor Society (NHS). 

The team played an incredibly tough schedule, and by most accounts should have lost at least a few games. However, they didn’t. Rather, they went undefeated allowing just one team to score on them the entire year. How is it that a team of fifth graders could overcome such adversity, yet many insurers struggle to achieve even the most basic customer service, quality, and accuracy metrics?

The answer is simple: basic blocking and tackling. The team recognized that they had to overcome adversity to succeed, and the only way to do it was to outsmart the bigger and faster competition.

Perhaps this can be best summed up in a quote from the movie Facing the Giants when Chris Willis, who portrays J.T. Hawkins, Jr., says, “It don't have to look pretty, it don't have to look smooth. It can look like a dying duck as long as it goes through the goal.”

How we achieve success isn’t always pretty. If in doubt, catch the next Denver Broncos game where the words of J.T. Willis have seemingly become a reality for Tim Tebow’s division leading team. 

Attention to detail and a dedication to succeed at any cost are the reasons why the Pop Warner football team of fifth graders beat the odds. For them it wasn’t about winning or losing, but rather doing it right. After all, when things are done right, the winning comes naturally. 

Two steps meant two steps; moving on two meant not flinching on one; wrapping your arms around the opponent meant just that. Any breakdown at even the most basic level could have been disastrous. The same holds true for claims organizations. 

It’s a well-known fact that gaining control of a claim comes from building a rapport with a customer early in the process. It doesn’t happen by leaving messages and sending emails, but rather by being persistent. This same concept holds true during the entire claims process where it is incumbent upon the carrier to proactively educate the customer about the process. While such basic blocking and tackling sounds simple, execution consistently proves otherwise. 

Setting expectations early is no different than making a statement on the first drive of the football game. Setting the tempo provides a level of control that needs to be maintained through the life of the claim. From investigation and negotiation to settlement and recovery, there is no room for error.

Despite this, many seem to struggle with the basics. In fact, 15 percent of all claims are closed with a missed subrogation opportunity at an annual cost of $15 billion! This is money that could be used to hire staff, improve processes, and advance technology, which would in turn increase customer satisfaction, lower premiums, and increase market share, providing an instant competitive edge in the marketplace. 

Of course it is easier said than done. If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? The key to success comes down to hiring and training the right people, utilizing the right processes, and being innovative. Failure on any of these three counts will impede the ability to effectively execute. 

A great example is the domestic airline industry where many compete, however, only one is consistently profitable thanks to the innovation of Herb Kelleher. He broke the mold when he created Southwest whose people, processes, and innovative thinking have turned the remainder of the industry upside down. 

Such a dynamic parting of traditional workflows can work in claims organizations as well. It takes leaders thinking outside the box in a never ending search for perfection. Of course, perfection isn’t attainable, but as Vince Lombardi once said “if we chase perfection we catch excellence.”

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