Archive for February, 2012

If you want results hire for attitude

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.” This is an interesting paradigm that many across the business landscape consider to be counterintuitive.   But why is that?

There seems to be a prevailing thought that experience and claims savvy go hand in hand.  While this can be the case, it often is not.   From a technical perspective, it seems intuitive that the longer one performs their tasks, the better they will get.   After all, would you rather have an airplane mechanic with thirty years of experience or thirty days?

Talent and experience are two different measurements which can be co-dependent but often are not.   In the aforementioned example, the assumption may be that the thirty year airplane mechanic is technically sound.   But what if he has thirty years of bad habits?   Would it not be preferable to have the lesser experienced, albeit talented mechanic, work on the plane and when in doubt, seek the input of a proven, talented co-worker?

The same holds true in claims organizations where many leaders focus on tenure when evaluating new talent.  This seems to be especially true given the dreary economic conditions where long term claims personnel can acquired at discounted salaries.

As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, the employment landscape is comprised of A, B and C players.   A players typically comprise about 20% of the workforce.   They are those who don’t need to be asked twice and take a proactive approach to solving problems, resolving tasks and providing solutions.   C players are the opposite side of the spectrum, and often account for another 20% of the workforce.   They are the chronic whiners and complainers that account for about 80% of organizational problems.   In the middle are the B players, accounting for the remaining 60%.   By nature, they are followers and their migration is dependent upon the strength of management.

In a well run organization, this very important contingent of employees will migrate towards the A players.   In poorly run organizations, they will migrate towards the C players creating an atmosphere where success becomes impossible.

Herein lies the challenge; how do you differentiate between A, B and C players in the interview process?   If I had the magical elixir, I’d be extremely wealthy and with fewer administrative headaches.  While I don’t have the ultimate solution, I will share what has worked in the past.

First, there is not a linear relationship between talent and ability.   To the contrary, tenure can potentially lead to complacency and bad habits that simply can’t be fixed.

Second, technical skills can be taught, attitude cannot.

Third, ask the right questions including both behavior based questions (give me an example of when you…) and situational based questions (what would you do if…).

Fourth, evaluate the ability of candidates to effectively communicate, including their ability to coherently write a hypothetical letter to a claimant or an attorney.

Lastly, utilize a proven method for pre-employment testing.   While not perfect, it does enable businesses to proactively identify characteristics and traits of those most likely to succeed in your culture.

While there is no perfect method for hiring, these steps will improve the odds of success.   Let’s face it, even in the most perfect of circumstances even the best will have Ryan Leaf moments.

At the end of the day, attitude will provide the difference in organizations seeking to move from ordinary to extraordinary.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference– Winston Churchill

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Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of the 20 Essential Rules series, including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted.   He is a twenty plus year insurance industry veteran who has served in a variety of quality, management and leadership roles for multiple Top 10 P&C insurers.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com.

 

February 29, 2012 at 8:34 am Leave a comment

Preservation of Evidence: Getting the chain of custody right to avoid spoliation claims

With spoliation of evidence claims on the rise, insurers need to be increasingly aware of steps that must be taken to preserve damaged property.   To better understand this, it is important to first recognize and understand the chain of custody. 

The inception of the chain of custody is the point in time at which evidence is collected and the chain must be maintained until the evidence is disposed of.   Evidence comes in all shapes and sizes, and depending upon the nature of your claim must be cared for in a variety of different ways.   This chain ensures continuity in the accountability and is essential as any break in the chain may invalidate admissibility in court. 

The chain of custody is a chronological written record of those individuals who have had custody of the evidence from its initial acquisition until its final disposition. These persons in the chain of custody must be identified and any person coming in contact with the evidence must be documented.

Ideally there will be an evidence custodian.   It is incumbent upon the custodian to be a steward of the evidence while documenting everything that happens through the lifecycle of the evidence process.   Even more critical is an understanding of the various state laws pertaining to evidence and spoliation thereof, which can leave the custodian liable for damages. 

It is often advisable to utilize an independent Evidence Custodian as this will minimize charges of tampering with evidence.   By securing evidence in an independent location, all parties associated with the claim will have access to the evidence. 

Another key part of the process involves the utilization of Evidence Receipts.   Evidence receipts are provided to those who deposit evidence.   The Evidence Custodian will always retain the original, a second goes to the person depositing the evidence and a third goes to a case file.   Having the ability to electronically retain this documentation and back up in an offsite, secured location is ideal.   

The original chain of custody form becomes a voucher and is given a voucher number when it is presented to the evidence custodian. Number evidence vouchers consecutively from inception to the current date.   This original voucher should not leave the custodian with the exception of submission to a court of law as evidence.  

An Evidence Sub voucher should be utilized to document any changes in the chain of custody that occur when the evidence leaves the evidence room.  Consider a situation in which a mold sample leaves the evidence room with the plaintiff attorney and is turned over to a toxicology expert for analysis, in which case a sub voucher would be utilized.  The number of the sub voucher should reflect the number of the original. 

Disposition of Evidence occurs when the materials in custody are no longer needed at which time the property should be turned over to the proper owner or if unknown to an applicable insurer, state or federal agency. 

As discussed in Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, the devil is often in the details when it comes to executing claims investigations.   Preservation of evidence is one of the simplest things to do right, yet one of the costliest when execution of basic blocking and tackling falters.    By taking the time to properly educate claims personnel, vendors and associates, insurers can minimize potential losses while protecting crucial evidence to ensure accurate outcomes. 

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Christopher Tidball is a claims consultant and the author of Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary to Extraordinary.   His claims experience spans more than twenty years with multiple leading insurance carriers.   His tips for success have been featured on MSNBC, CBS Market Watch, ABC, Yahoo Finance and in the Wall Street Journal and Kiplinger’s.   To learn more about optimizing your organizational results, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com.

February 20, 2012 at 7:18 am Leave a comment

Social networking and the claims investigation

Back when many of us began our careers investigating claims, we did it the old fashioned way.   There was no internet, cell phones were the size of suitcases and e-mail had yet to replace inter-office memos.  But somehow, we managed to get by using the relatively scarce resources available at the time.  

The key to success was a combination of intuition, tact and perseverance, where significant time was spent knocking on doors, canvassing witnesses and searching for the truth.   If it was suspected that a claim was a fraud, there was no such thing as link analysis technology to validate the hypothesis.  Rather, clues had to be gathered and put together like a jigsaw puzzle. 

Prior injuries and unrelated vehicle weren’t readily identifiable, but nosy neighbors and bitter exes made the job a little bit easier.    Skip tracing was a manual process and the local sheriff proved to be an invaluable ally when trying to enforce judgments.  

Flash forward twenty years and these things seem so routine.   With the click of a mouse, we can locate people, assets, jobs, personal property and an array of other things that make investigating claims a little easier.   But is this technological advancement a detriment to fundamental blocking and tackling?  

As discussed in Re-Adjusted, technology, along with people and processes, serve as a basic foundational element to any organization.  But, technology can also be used as a crutch to try and explain away organizational gaps, breakdowns or failures.

People are the most crucial element in any successful endeavor.   As a result, they must have the training and skills necessary to properly execute basic fundamentals.   Technology should be considered nothing more than a tool to make them better at what they do.

Technology, in particular social networking, can also be a distraction to those not properly trained and monitored on utilization.   Certainly seeing the injured party with “significant limitations related to the accident”  live on YouTube in some type of contradictive behavior can add significantly to an investigation.   That said, employees chatting on Facebook about plans for the weekend doesn’t serve to improve organizational quality.   

The key to successful utilization of technology begins with management where expectations guide organizational calibration.  

According to a study by Salary.com, employees spend an average of two hours per day on the internet.  This can be good, bad or somewhere in between, depending on what they are actually doing.   Monitoring internet usage with a variety of tools available can provide valuable insight, as well as limiting company losses that occur with uncontrolled access.  Aside from the potential for wasted time, unrestricted internet access can open the network to viruses, spyware and other security problems.  

From a claims professional vantage point, there are a number of online applications that can assist with many aspects of the claims process.   Social networking can give insight into the behavior of claimants, automotive and property sites can be used to assist with the valuation process, internet based investigative resources can help root out fraud, weather resources can identify historical climate data and the list goes on.  

Perhaps more than anything, claims leaders should recognize that the online experience will serve to make their best employees much more efficient, while bogging down their worst employees with distractions.  

The great employee will use the internet to dig deeper, seeking out answers to questions not yet even asked by the marginal employee.   Consider the following example:

Two cars collided in an intersection.   The insured readily admits fault, saying he didn’t see the stop sign.   The occupants of the claimant vehicle retain the services of an attorney and get medical treatment from a local chiropractor.   The marginal adjuster may confirm the accident facts with both parties, pay estimates on both cars and move along to the next claim.   The great adjuster will recognize that there may be more than meets the eye. 

Great adjusters will leverage the internet to dig deeper.  They will not only ask questions from the parties to the claim, but they will look for discrepancies.   They will inquire about not only their medical treatment, but get physical descriptions of their clinics and providers.  They will ask for directions from home to the chiropractor’s office.  They will measure the damages and look for metal striations and paint transfers.  The list of what the great adjuster will do goes on and on and at the end of the day may show that this ordinary claim was actually a staged accident.  

While the internet cannot replace basic blocking and tackling, introspection and intuition, it can be a great resource.   Below are some free sites available on the internet that can provide a wealth of information:

 Skip Tracing Websites and Resources

 www.spokeo.com       

http://www.411.com            

http://www.pipl.com            

http://www.anywho.com                  

 Social Networking Sites

www.facebook.com

http://www.myspace.com    

http://www.linkedincom      

http://www.plaxo.com         

 

 

Weather History

 

www.wunderground.com/history/

 License Suspension Guidelines

 www.christidball.com

 Real Property, Asset and Liens

 Earth.google.com        

http://www.salary.com         

http://www.zillow.com

Subrogation Resources

 www.ambest.com       

http://www.arbfile.org          

http://www.subrogation.org

 Government Resources

 

www.cms.gov             

http://www.dol.gov              

http://www.noaa.gov

http://www.nhtsa.gov

 

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary!  He is a twenty plus year industry veteran with wide ranging claims, management and executive experience at multiple Top 10 insurance carriers.   To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com.

February 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

How the Giants went from ordinary to extraordinary!

Super Bowl XLVI is one not soon to be forgotten.   With the Giants written off around week 14 with a .500 record, this team exemplifies what it takes to go from ordinary to extraordinary.    Tom Coughlin once said, “If you are as good as you can possibly be, the rest will take care of itself.  What we need to talk about is winning before we talk about anything else.”   And win they did!

For full disclosure, I am neither a Patriots nor Giants fan.   Like many viewers, I just wanted to see a great game, a fun halftime show and some humorous commercials.   With that as a goal, this super bowl may rank up with the best of them.  

That said, this Giants team defined the epitome of what blocking and tackling is all about.  It is the basic execution of fundamental skills that brought the Giants back from the brink in the regular season and during the big game.  

With all of the much deserved hype around Eli Manning and his stellar offensive performance, the old adage that defense wins games shouldn’t be forgotten.  In 2011, the New England Patriots averaged 428 yards and 32.1 points per game.  In Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots gained just 349 yards and scored only 17 points as the result of fundamental execution of basic blocking and tackling by the Giants defense.

In our own organizations, we should look to the leadership of this team, both on and off the field to better understand their resurrection.   It was this perseverance with a focus on winning that ultimately ruled the day in a society where marginality has become socially acceptable and everyone gets ribbons just for participating. 

While the NFL season is over, our season is not.  It is a perpetual game of process improvement in an increasingly difficult marketplace.   Doing things “good” isn’t good enough for those who truly want to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.  

True success comes from looking across the business landscape.   Who does things well, marginally well or not well at all.  The Giants were a decent football team during the regular season.  They could have settled for the status quo.   But they didn’t.  They recognized that to attain success they would have to improve upon what they were already doing marginally well.  

This is true in any industry.   Most companies stay in business by things marginally well, or “the way it has always been done”.   The ones who succeed do so by being superior in quality and service.  They look beyond their own four walls across the industry to better understand the competition.  

In some organizations there is a propensity to focus on internal improvement by measuring against oneself.  This would be like the 2011 Indianapolis Colts saying they want to double their results next year, which would mean going from 2 wins to 4 wins.   As a successful organization, they won’t do that because their culture and leadership has defined them as winners.  They recognize that to win the big prize, they must get back to winning at least 9 to 11 games per season.    This is the mindset that will enable them to do just that.   This is also the paradigm that businesses striving for success should seize upon. 

Changing your paradigm from “what we do right” to “where we can improve” is the foundation for long term success.   As discussed in the book Re-Adjusted, casting aside the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way” to “how can we do it better” becomes the springboard to take your organization from ordinary to extraordinary.   Looking at the best of breed rather than just one’s internal results, forces companies to change for the better.  

Great leaders continually do this which brings about not only change in their own organizations, but the transformation of entire industries.   They force change internally and the ensuing ascent to success forces the competition to either change or falter.   As coaching legend John Wooden once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”   The Giants recognized this at a crucial time and went on to be world champions.  

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books including Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary.   He is an industry veteran who has served in various claims and leadership roles for multiple Top 10 P&C carriers.  To learn more please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

 

February 7, 2012 at 6:08 am 1 comment


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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at chris@christidball.com

Kicked to the Curb

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