Double jeopardy

When the weather forecasts in
Florida are correct and radar maps
confirm the worst scenario is on a track to impact your home or business,
there’s much to be done to prepare — and
fast.

While enacting your preparedness plan for
a hurricane, fire, flood or other looming disaster, you can only hope your insurance
agent offers a proven, comprehensive
claims management program providing top-flight services to help you recover, rebuild,
restore and reopen as fast as possible.

“The time you need your agent the most is
not the time to find out he or she is not
equipped to administer your claim,” says
Carmen Kulhanek, claims manager, Gateway Insurance Agency in Fort Lauderdale.

Smart Business recently spoke with
Kulhanek about why having a product that
meets your needs is important, but also how
your agent’s ability to provide value-added
programs and excellent claims service
when the unthinkable happens is crucial.

How does poor claims service impact companies at a pivotal time?

From our standpoint, at the insurance
company or agency level, it certainly
impacts our client retention and the overall
ability to write new business. Clients expect
good customer service, every time, in their
time of need. When this does not happen,
they lose confidence, and their loyalty to the
insurance firm is jeopardized. Proactive
agents always try to anticipate your needs
before you ask for or require assistance.

What signs indicate your agent is providing
high-level claims service?

First, after reporting a claim, you should
expect a follow-up call from your agent to
gather information about the problem.
Second, your agent should be educating you
as to what necessary steps must be taken to
mitigate a loss. Third, and most importantly,
your agent needs to inform you about the
next steps you can expect to follow to avoid
a problem or delay in the claim handling. It
is essential for your claim liaison to meet
and exceed these expectations.

What value-added services should clients
expect from their agency?

From the agent’s perspective, it’s all about
‘going that extra mile.’ Exceptional customer service means going out of your way
for the customer, doing everything possible
to meet his or her needs and making decisions that benefit customers, even if it
comes at a minor expense to the company.
Examples include having claims procedures
in place to follow up with the client and the
insurance company to confirm that everyone is doing what each is expected to do.

Another very important service your
agent should provide is a program to assist
you when you have been served with a
summons. Thorough agents make sure the
insurance company has assigned counsel
and also confirm that a response is filed to
the plaintiff’s attorney within the time
frame allowed. That’s really important
because if a response is not filed in a timely
manner, the insured can be found in
default.

How does the relationship between agent
and carrier trickle down to the insured?

Many clients aren’t aware of the role this
relationship plays in their agent’s ability to
handle a claim. Having a strong, dependable relationship with carriers is crucial and
essential to providing the best claims service. At the agency level, knowing your contacts makes the claims liaison’s job easier
and adds a layer of confidence to the
client/agent dynamic. When you’re shopping for a new agent, it’s important to
request an explanation of these agent/carrier interactions.

How do thorough agents administer restoration work to a successful conclusion?

Once again, it’s all about having good business relationships with the restoration companies. When your agent knows how a particular restoration contractor conducts business, it makes a world of difference in your
time of need. There is a lot to consider when
choosing a restoration contractor. Your
agent should be familiar with a qualified contractor’s portfolio of projects and can help
you steer clear of restoration contractors
who don’t have the experience or the financial clout to complete your project to the
exact specifications in a timely manner.

Why is it important to investigate insurance
agents and look for superior customer service?

When a disaster strikes, you’ve got to
make sure all of your company’s assets are
properly covered. To mitigate the long-term
impact from any claim, your agent must
have trained representatives to anticipate
your needs and offer a 24-hour claim
reporting service — over the phone and on
its Web site — that can instantly jump-start
the claims process and even provide tips on
how to mitigate certain types of losses.
Finally, you should ask your agent about
the agency’s disaster preparedness plan.

CARMEN KULHANEK is claims manager with Gateway Insurance Agency in Fort Lauderdale. Reach her at [email protected]
or (954) 332-1835.

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