Want your insurance customers to have a smooth claims experience after a loss? Set appropriate expectations up front and overdeliver on the back end.

“I think that’s equally true for claims people and for agents,” said Timothy Wiedmeyer, vice president and chief claims officer with The Republic Group in Dallas.

Insurance professionals often become victims of their own good intentions when they tell customers to expect more than can be delivered, said Wiedmeyer, a participant on a claims panel during the recent Independent Insurance Agents of Texas (IIAT) annual conference in San Antonio.

For example, he said, whether it’s a property claim or an auto claim we might tell the customer: “We should get the estimate back in two to four days. Or we only say two days.”

“The most important thing we can do, all of us together, is set the appropriate expectation up front. Give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room and then exceed it—undersell and overdeliver,” says Wiedmeyer.

However, in those situations, it’s probably better to say four days—which is still reasonable—and if it comes back in two or three, the customer is happy.

“The most important thing we can do, all of us together, is set the appropriate expectation up front,” Wiedmeyer said. “Give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room and then exceed it—undersell and overdeliver. I’m noticing that more and more with the service that I get.”

Agents would do well to make sure the customer thoroughly understands the claims process, said Lynn Gims, claims manager with Houston-based Focus Insurance & Financial Services.

Gims, also a panelist at the IIAT session on claims, said she spends a lot of time explaining to customers what is going to happen with their claim.

“I spend a lot of time explaining a lot of the issues,” she said. “I prepare them: ‘You may not get a call today. It’s Friday, you may not hear until Monday.’ I go through the whole process.”

Sometimes in the case of a widespread damaging event, like a hailstorm for instance, it may be necessary to remind customers that the claims process may take a little longer, especially if there are thousands of claims being filed.

“I give them contact phone numbers and tell them in most cases companies are going to go to the most severe claims first,” Gims said. “If your claim is minor, you may have to wait a little longer.”

Most people understand how it works, she said, “but I do explain to them that it may take a while.”

Wiedmeyer said customers need to know that most policies cover emergency repairs. And it’s good to remind customers that in the event of extensive claims, adjusters are going to try to get to the most severe claims first.

However, Wiedmeyer said, “I wouldn’t back off from the advice that you’re going to be contacted within 24 to 48 hours in those cases even if there are a lot of claims. We’re going to still strive for that.”

In catastrophic situations most people are aware that they are not the only ones with claims, said panelist Albert Guerrero III, field product line manager with Travelers Insurance.

Guerrero said most companies do strive to contact insureds within 24 to 48 hours after the filing of a claim and agreed that most people understand that it may take longer.

But, he said, they may not be aware of the time frame for finalizing the claim after the property has been inspected.

“They’re going to want to get those done pretty quickly,” he said. “That’s the advice we give our claims professionals—customers know they’re in the queue to get inspected, but once they’re inspected they expect service…That’s what we focus on.”

In the event of a hail-damaged roof, Gims said she tells her customers to try to have a roofer on site when the adjuster comes for the inspection. That way, she said, if there’s a difference of opinion it can be discussed immediately.

Guerrero concurred. “If the roofer is not there and the insured disagrees with our initial assessment, we will go back out there…but in many cases it’s really better to have that done on the initial inspection,” he said.