Archive for August, 2012

Her majesty, Big Ben and the Jacksonville Jaguars?

Well, it’s official.  The Jacksonville Jaguars will begin playing home games in London next year.   Not all home games, but one per year for the next four years.   This is a big step for a franchise that has struggled to fill its own stadium on the banks of the Saint Johns.   It is also a very important step for not only the franchise, but for Florida’s largest city.

Yes, that would be Jacksonville, a city with more population than Miami and Orlando…combined.    As America’s 11th largest city, Jacksonville has struggled for years to find an identity.   In fact, many people never even heard of the city until it beat out Saint Louis and Memphis the NFL expansion race two decades ago.    Arguably, the Jaguars have done more to create an identity for the city than any other single occurrence in the recent history of the First Coast.

Even with the franchise, the city remained relatively obscure.   That changed with the 2005 Super Bowl, when Jacksonville became the center of attention on the national stage.   Now comes the chance to play in London, which gives the city another chance to shine; this time on the world stage.

While traveling to London to see the team play will be fun for fans, the bigger play for the area is the potential of exposing what it offers.   This is a city with one of the largest ports in the United States, an international airport, a hub of technology, low taxes, right to work laws, a reasonable cost of living and quality schools.  Add to that abundant sunshine, miles of beaches and golf aplenty, and it becomes a recipe for success.   The problem with Jacksonville is that it just hasn’t been discovered.

By sending the team across the pond, the city becomes an overnight sensation.   By playing for audiences in highly taxed and overly regulated Europe, Florida’s low taxes and limited regulation  becomes a magnet for business owners looking for a safe haven where profits can be reinvested instead of confiscated.

Some on the First Coast aren’t enthused about losing a home game, which is understandable.   But, it is more important to look at the big picture.   If the Jaguars continue to not sell out home games, where is the incentive for Shad Khan to keep the team in the city when far larger markets, such as Los Angeles, are clamoring for one?   The Jaguars have a chance to gain international acclaim and a much larger fan base with this international approach.

What if just one company relocates to the First Coast and brings in 700 high paying jobs?  What if tourism increases by just 1%.   These are the kinds of things that happen when a diamond in the rough is exposed.

As an international business leader, Shad Khan knows what is needed to succeed both on and off the field.  He has expressed a desire to keep the team in Jacksonville, but also knows that steps must be taken to keep them in the black.   By putting the team, the city and the state on the world stage, he is doing just that.

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Christopher Tidball is an executive consultant and the author of multiple books including the 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary series.  He currently provides a number of Fortune 500 organizations with techniques for process improvement and quality assurance.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com.

 

August 27, 2012 at 6:21 am Leave a comment

Using effective negotiations to improve claims quality

One of the most basic elements of the claims process is that of negotiation.  So why is it that so many in claims organizations struggle with effective negotiations?   Part of the problem is that the role of adjusters has evolved over the years.   Prior to the advent of technology, adjusters primarily spent their time with boots on the ground.

Whether it was writing an appraisal, canvassing a neighborhood and sitting face to face with an attorney, opportunities to hone critical skills were never lacking.   This was particularly true with negotiations, which were frequently done in person rather than over the phone.

In recent years, the claims process has transformed to one primarily done inside.   Certainly, technology has been leveraged for the benefit of staffing and production, but has it denigrated quality?  Is it possible to negotiate as effectively with, say, an attorney over the phone versus in person?

While effective negotiations can be conducted in any forum, it is crucial that those conducting them have the fundamental skills necessary to achieve accurate outcomes.   In some respect, negotiating over the phone can be less intimidating.  But, it can also lead to complacency, where negotiations succumb to other competing priorities such as disposition.

Organizations find themselves challenged on a number of fronts.   Let’s face it, the adjusting population is aging.  Many folks who began their careers negotiating in body shops or law firms now find ourselves overseeing claims processes with different dynamics and demands.  Others, arguably more fortunate, find themselves golfing or playing shuffleboard in a retirement community in Boca.   Complicating matters is the lack of newcomers into claims organizations.   Think about how many youngsters really say, “When I grow up I want to be a claims adjuster!”

While some of the slack can be picked up by leveraging technology, the reality is there is no substitute for someone digging into that BI demand.   Think of the benefits of skilled investigators scrutinizing the facts, refuting excessive medical charges, arguing comparative negligence and negotiating a realistic settlement for that $100,000 dollar policy limit demand for claimant with the garden variety soft tissue injury and a history of prior claims.

This is a challenge in a world where negotiation skills have fallen down the list of priorities.   A simple benchmark in many organizations is to simply look at the percentage of claims settled with comparative negligence.   This is one of the most fundamental blocking and tackling skills in the world of claims adjudication.   A far more common outcome are claims being settled at 0% or 100%, even in situations involving premises, parking lots, lane changes or intersections.   How is this so when juries assess shared fault in similar situations nearly fifty percent of the time?

Simply stated, some have taken their eye off the ball.  Basic fundamental skills have taken a backseat to other priorities, such as claims disposition.  Don’t get me wrong, closing claims is important.  But doing so with accurate outcomes is even more important as it impacts not only those involved in the claims, but all policyholders and the public in general.

So where does one start in developing these negotiation skills?  Arguably it begins with the hiring process, where the insatiably curious are identified.   Like any skill, not everyone has the same ability to skillfully influence outcomes.  Some negotiators are amazing, some average and some just aren’t cut out for a career negotiating claims.   Some have the ability to role play for hours on end; others are paralyzed with stage fright in such a setting.   It’s not a knock against anyone, but rather a reality check to make sure that those building the foundation of success start with hiring the right people for the job.

Of course, not everyone is building an organization from the ground up.   The good news is that existing skills can be improved upon.  It just takes a conscientious effort to develop a plan that consists of initial training and ongoing support.  In many instances, some who may not be Perry Mason, can be given tools to improve skills.

During my tenure implementing solutions for a large multinational insurer, we leveraged tools such as ClaimIQ, a product of San Diego based technology company Mitchell International.    This particular tool provided adjusters with tools to effectively investigate, evaluate and negotiate liability and damages for claims.

What it didn’t do was tell adjusters how to resolve claims.  It also didn’t use past performance to drive future performance.  After all, if you are struggling today, why would you want to replicate those behaviors next week?  Rather, it simply acted as a mentor to point adjusters in the right direction because it is based upon the best practices and behaviors of the highest performers in an organization.  Simply stated, what if all of your adjusters had the ability to replicate the behaviors of your best adjusters on a daily basis?  Voila…ClaimIQ.

At the end of the day, we achieved results by focusing on proper execution of basic fundamental skills.   This is the key to success in any organization, regardless of industry.  By getting back to the basics, it becomes possible to very easily move an organization from ordinary to extraordinary.  Even better, once you are there, it becomes impossible to look back.

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 an industry veteran having served in various adjusting, management and leadership roles for multiple Top 10 P&C carriers.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

 

August 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

Bringing home the gold: What your organization can learn from the Summer Olympics

The United States again stands out as a beacon of freedom and hope for countries far and wide, gaining worldwide acclaim for their success in the 2012 London Olympic games.   While there were some questions early on about Lady Liberty’s ability to outperform the Chinese, there was no doubt in the end as to the world supremacy of our nation’s Olympic athletes.

From the 2012 “Dream Team” defeating Spain and Michael Phelps record breaking medal count to dominance in the sand and amazing feats on the bars, the diversity of success should be a model for the world.  It should also be a model for our claims organizations, where putting on an Olympic performance should be a daily occurrence.

Consider the myriad of triathlon’s faced in these organizations on a daily basis.

  • People, processes, procedures.
  • Coverage, liability, damages.
  • Hiring, promotion, retention.
  • Training, development, research.
  • Contacts, inspections, resolution.
  • Communication, Customer satisfaction, policyholder retention.
  • Investigation, evaluation, settlement.

Now consider the tri-athletes who must effectively execute each and every day.   While these adjusters, managers and executives may not have the finesse Gabby Douglas or the wow factor of Misty May Treanor, they must have the ability to fundamentally block and tackle in every aspect of the claims process.

But there is also an important lesson that we should learn from our Olympic stars; they didn’t do it alone.   The Dream Team, while extremely talented, leveraged the genius of Coach K and a whole slew of support staff and sponsors.   It is these behind the scenes, often transparent, business relationships that help take sports heroes from ordinary to extraordinary.   The same holds true for your claims organization, where leveraging partnerships can create a competitive advantage.

Consider the claims organization that develops a state of the art auto physical damage repair process.  While there are many such relationships, the success is derived from the relationship between the carrier and network.

So too would this hold true for things like forensics experts, defense counsel or technology companies.  As is stated in the Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Claims Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary, success is derived from people, processes and technology.  It is this triathalon of the business world that allows claims organizations, or any organization for that matter, to begin to exceed the wildest expectations of customers, shareholders and employees.

Consider the example of a run of the mill bodily injury claim.  In many organizations, the adjuster reviews the claim, settles the property damage, reviews the attorney demand and attempts to settle the claim without the need for litigation.  But, was there an effort worthy of the Olympics in doing so?

During my tenure overseeing process and quality for a large multinational insurer, such claims were common place.   What wasn’t commonplace was consistency, such as what we saw during the Olympics.

It was rare that comparative negligence was assessed, despite juries’ nationwide assessing shared fault nearly half the time.   Medical bills were often considered at face value, even though it was evident that treatment and charges appeared to be excessive.   Attorney demands became a starting point for adjusters to negotiate against themselves.   Across the board, opportunities accounting for millions of dollars were identified.

Yet, our organization wasn’t alone.  This is a common occurrence in many claims organizations faced with multiple competing challenges.   With a tough economy, people are doing more with less.  The workload of today is greater than at any point in recent history.   Hence the need to leverage technology to assist the adjusters in achieving accurate outcomes, while limiting leakage.

There is no question that conducting the “right” investigation takes longer than just doing a basic investigation.   But, it is imperative that this basic blocking and tackling occur.   Think of the Dream Team leading by just one point going into the final quarter against Spain.  Would a marginal performance have sufficed?  The team focused on fundamentally executing the basis to bring home the gold.   This is no different than our organizations where the basics need to be continually taught and reinforced.

Olympic athletes train for years to shave a mere tenth of a second off of a 50 meter freestyle.   That tenth of a second is the difference between being a medal winner and going home empty handed.   It is this level of detail that should be paid to training claims organizations on achieving the gold standard in investigation, evaluation, negotiation and settlement.   After all, like swimming, gymnastics or fencing, adjusting claims is an art.

Adjusters should also have the tools to assist them in making the proper decisions, such as the price of a quarter panel, the cost of a surgical procedure, bundling of medical codes or the duties breached by a claimant.   It is this combination of tools and skills that sets apart the extraordinary from the ordinary, giving some insurance carriers the ability to bring home the gold.   But, unlike the Olympics, there is a chance for everyone to bring home the gold with the right people, processes and technology in place.

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 a veteran of the insurance industry, frequent industry speaker and provides claim related solutions to insurance carriers of all sizes.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or email chris@christidball.com

August 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

Breaking News: Unemployment Rises to 8.3%; Real Unemployment 14.9%

The highly anticipated jobs report for July has been released amidst much media and administration hype that hiring is on the uptick.  To the contrary, the unemployment rate actually ticked up a notch to 8.3%, which still does not reflect the true crisis facing our nation this election year.

There is no question that many pundits and reporters will try to put a positive spin on this disastrous result.   After all, there is an agenda among some in political and media circles to convince voters that our nation is better off than it was four years ago.   For this reason they will focus on the 163,000 jobs created last month without mentioning that this figure is still substantially less than what is needed for sustained economic growth.

To put this in perspective, consider that Politifact, a non partisan fact finding organization has verified that more jobs have been lost during the Obama presidency than any previous administration in history.  For comparison’s sake consider that 22 million jobs were added during the Clinton administration and 16 million were added during the Reagan administration.

In addition to record unemployment, the incumbent faces trillion dollar deficits,  energy and food inflation, an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and an unpopular heathcare mandate validated by the Supreme Court as the single largest tax increase in history.   All told, the tide of public anger is rising amongst informed voters.  Top this off with a real unemployment rate of 14.9% and this November could become one for the record books.

Yes, 14.9% is the actual unemployment rate being reported by CNBC.  According to a report released today, their research shows that unemployment remains a grim problem in the United States, with real unemployment rates very troubling.   When looking at reported unemployment rates, it is important to understand that this figure does not count those who have simply giving up  their job search, or those who are underemployed.   For that number, the government releases a U-6 report upon which CNBC based their results.

To get a true picture of the devastation across America, this is the report that should be shared with the public.   Consider that in 2007 Nevada’s U-6 rate was 7.6%; today it is 22.1%.   Rhode Island’s rate of 18.3% is more than double the 2007 rate of 8.3%.   California’s real rate of unemployment is a staggering 20.3%.   As a nation, the current rate is 14.9%, eclipsing the reported unemployment rate of 8.3%.

As discussed in Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down, much of the job loss has come as the result of an over reaching and intrusive government.  Excessive corporate taxes, a healthcare mandate and massive new regulations imposed since 2008 have forced business owners to scale back.   In a nation where two thirds of all new jobs are created by small business, this has proven to be a recipe for disaster created by an administration that lacks a fundamental understanding of the private sector.

Let’s face it, if one has never run a business, met payroll or even so much as held a job in the private sector, how can one possibly understand what makes the economic engine of America run?   Simply stated, a Board of Directors would not put someone with no business experience in charge of a global business enterprise.   This is why there are CEO’s, who understand the very principles espoused by  Adam Smith, the father of free market economics upon which American prosperity was born.  It is through these very principles that America will regain her exceptionalism.

The root of the problem today was the faulty premise that the federal government could solve our problems, when in fact it is this very body that is the cause of many of the problems facing our society.   As a result of this detrimental reliance on an academic approach to solutions, the American economy shed roughly one million jobs in July alone.  Of course, that won’t be the number reported because of season adjustments resulting in the modest reported number of 163,000 jobs.

While seasonal adjustments are important, factoring such things as Christmas helpers and teachers on summer break, there is a school of thought among experts that economic turmoil has disrupted the calibration, undermining the BLS estimates.   Equally as important, Federal Reserve officials have cited doubts about the accuracy of the monthly jobs number as one reason for their uncertainty about the health of the economy.

The reality is that the jobs numbers reported in the mainstream media should be measured with the same healthy skepticism as the typical polling data, which often doesn’t depict the true sentiment of the nation as a whole.   The only real conclusion that can be drawn is that the employment picture remains bleak for the millions who have lost their jobs during the Great Recession dating back to 2008.  It also puts working Americans on shakier ground, as an outcome to double down on failed policies this November would most certainly result in millions more being kicked to the curb in coming months and years.

Make no mistake; there are solutions for what ails our job market.   Recognizing that states and private business are far more capable of solving problems than the federal bureaucracy is a good start.  Steps need to be taken to eliminate the national debt without increasing taxes on job creators or working Americans.   Money can immediately be found by scaling the federal workforce to a reasonable size through the elimination of redundancies.    Entitlement spending needs to be reigned in without harming current or near term retirees,  while providing an opt out for those working Americans who know they can do better.  Of course, this would require leaders who recognize that government is not the solution, but rather the crux of the problem.   Just as business leaders understand profit and loss, they also understand that reversing the trend of record tax increases, onerous regulations and burdensome mandates is the only solution to return prosperity to our nation.

Christopher Tidball is a business consultant and author of multiple books including Kicked to the Curb: 20 Essential Rules For Coming Out On Top When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down.   He has been featured at dozens of media outlets including Wall Street Journal, Kiplingers, Career Builder, CBS Market Watch and ABC News.   To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com

 

August 3, 2012 at 9:47 am Leave a 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

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