An agent from Kansas once shared a claims story with me that I have never forgotten. It demonstrates how important we are to the people we serve and, in particular, how important it is that we are quick and fair in our CLAIMS HANDLING.

Greensburg Kansas tornadoIt was 9:45 PM on May 4, 2007 when everything changed for the people of Greensburg KS.

Their town of about 800 people was struck by a devastating category 5 tornado, with winds of 261 to 318 miles per hour. It was estimated to be 1.7 miles across. This tornado destroyed 95% of their town. Homes were swept way. Trees were debarked.

One elderly lady climbed into her bathtub for safety. When it was over, she and her bathtub were in the middle of the street.

An agent who lived in a town close by had rushed to the scene to check on her customers. Upon seeing her agent, the lady from the bathtub walked up to her and said,” I’ve lived a lot of years and after this, I don’t know how much longer I’ll have. I don’t want to wait for my insurance money, I want it now.”

The next morning, our storm victim found a car and she drove to Wichita (110 miles).  Marching into the company office she asked for a check.

Normally, there is a set process to handling claims, especially claims for total losses. It can take a long time. However, the claims team did not send this elderly storm victim back to Greensburg to wait. They recognized that this was a unique situation. While she was in the office, they verified her address and that the house was destroyed.

Our lady left Wichita with her check in hand.

­­Data from independent agents indicates that how claims are handled by their carriers is the most important thing to them.

The agent told me this story years after it occurred. Both agents and their customers value exceptional claims service.  In fact, our data confirms that claims handling is even more important to agents than underwriting and technology. These memorable experiences become favorite stories that are told and retold to reinforce the value of coverage through a preferred carrier.

At the other end of the spectrum, a poorly handled claim risks negative word-of-mouth, a tarnished reputation, and the loss of current and potential customers. –

This begs the question. What do agents consider “good” claims handling? Agents share this with us through their comments, which typically fall into three categories.

1. Be responsive and fair with your agents’ customers

Most of us are so busy that we feel we do not have time to deal with even one more thing. This is especially true when we have an accident and are thrown into an unfamiliar claims handling process.

As consumers, we need someone to help us quickly navigate the claims process and fix our problem so we can get back to our “normal” lives.  Relying on our agent’s expertise, we expect our carrier to respond to us with urgency. When they don’t, we call our agents.

Agents who perceive a carrier as being responsive in their claims will describe their experience similar to this quote from an agent:

“Their claims are handled quickly and efficiently — customers love the concierge claims service.”

This contrasts with the following comment from a frustrated agent:

“The adjusters don’t get back to the customer, we end up calling the adjuster 80% of the time because the client hasn’t heard a word.”

2. Have a consistent and smooth process

Feedback from agents indicates it needs to be easy for their clients to report a claim. Then they would like for the claim to progress to resolution in a manner that requires minimal effort from the policyholder. The following comments give us some insight into what they like and don’t like from a process perspective.

We see positive comments like:

“From a claims perspective, my carrier makes it easy for claim reporting and claim updates. Because of this, I have a good relationship with the claims adjusters and managers. Keep it up – don’t change!”

Contrasted with:

“Claims were more efficient when it was handled by one adjuster from start to finish as far as the client is concerned.”

3. Provide transparent communication

As a policyholder, if I have a claim and I can’t get in touch with the company, or if for some reason the claim is not going according to my expectations, my next call is to my agent. Imagine you are an agent that gets the call and then can’t speak to the status of your clients claim!

As an agent, I want my client to view me as an insurance expert. To do this I need quick and easy access to claims information.  I also appreciate knowing about potential claims issues before I get a call from my client.

Agents share with us how much they value transparent communication on claims.

We see positive comments like:

“I not only get to see their claim file notes but I can view documents too. All standard carriers allow me to see their claim file notes, that saves me time on my monthly reports to our insureds because I don’t have to wait to hear back from an adjuster.”

“Communication is the key factor in claims. I feel that my carrier certainly exceeds other carriers in the claims arena.”

These contrast with comments like:

“It would be nice for the agent to have an update to save us calling the carrier when a client asks about their claim.”


“If there is a claims problem, please have the claims department notify the agency. Our agency does not want to lose an account over a claim.”

Key Take-Away

When it comes to ease of business with independent agents, claims handling is the most important thing for carriers to get right. The carrier’s successes and failures are the agent’s successes and failures, and they directly impact the agent’s ability to write future business.