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Interview: What Makes You Tick?

Claims Adjusters have one of the most interesting and demanding jobs in the insurance industry. Here you get to tell us about the job and how you make it part of your life.

December 13, 2011 Photo

Vicki C., Staff Claims Adjuster/Appraiser
Santa Cruz, CA

How long have you been in the business?
For 32 years, which is weird because I'm only 39.


Did you originally plan on getting into insurance?
No. My mother was a claims adjuster and used to regale us with horror stories of the claims department. I knew I'd never do that job. I was going to be the best darned secretary ever.


How did you become an insurance adjuster?
I was bored being the best darned secretary ever, so I applied for an entry-level claims job at the invitation of my neighbor who was a claims supervisor at a start-up property and casualty company near my home.


What do you do to stay on top of your e-mail?
Is that even possible? I sort by sender to view what I know is important, I flag it accordingly, and set myself diary items. I try to set expectations for others so they don't send me a second e-mail on the same item before I've had time to reply to the first one. Keeping myself accountable and building trust helps allay the fears that motivate people to send multiple inquiries. When I get behind, I'll just block out some time and turn off my phone, which allows me to do nothing but address the e-mails as needed.


What do you do to stay on top of your voicemail?
I flag those items that need additional follow up and answer those that come in that I can do immediately. My clients are spoiled and get a response from me within 10 minutes or less, generally. If I can answer their questions or needs immediately, I do. If it will take more investigation or gathering of data, I let them know that and when I will respond to them, and I do respond within that timeframe. That’s the key to good customer service; you have to get back to someone when promised.


How has the nature of your work changed in the last 5-10 years and how do you foresee it changing in the future?
I have begun working from home two days per week. I'm able to use technology, such as online meeting software and attending webinars, to decrease the amount of work-related travel. I see incorporating more of these tools in the future to contain and reduce costs to the company, and wear and tear on my body.


Do you have an example of a huge process change in your job and how you handled it?
We switched to an [almost] paperless claims environment, which involved a lot of training, trial and error. I enjoy my position on the claims process committee that has structured how the document management system functions and is still working on needed modifications and enhancements.


What do you need to be more effective?
Our technology piece is awesome already, second to none. A lighter workload would be great. I worry sometimes that my workload impedes my ability to deliver the level of customer service my insured members count on and deserve. My company is good about measuring and responding to increased workload demands, and the ability to work remotely helps me a lot in being able to keep up with the ebb and flow.


Do you see your company using increased decision making technology to handle claims with fewer people?
Perhaps eventually. I am not employed at the management level, but do not think technology can ever replace the most important thing my company delivers which is personal and compassionate customer service.


Where do you see the future pool of new adjusters coming from?
From other carriers, mostly. My company is unique; we're a liability risk pool and have no stockholders. Our "investors" are our nonprofit members. Because of our niche market of serving the nonprofit sector alone, we are a great alternative to the corporate claims grind so that any claims job opening is likely to, and does, interest a lot of good adjusters who may be looking to make a change, particularly if they're set adrift from a company that is downsizing.


What is your typical routine on Friday afternoon?
Subject to the workload, Friday afternoons are about the same as every other day, really, except that it is one of my work-from-home days. I try to finish up by 5:00 p.m. so that I can decompress and enjoy the weekend with family and friends.


Anything you'd like to add?
I really love my job. Even at its most difficult, it is extremely rewarding to know that, at the end of my day, I've made a difference in the lives of people who are serving other people.
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