Listening and finding ways to listen are the key ways brokers and insurers can avoid claims disputes reaching the Financial Ombudsman Service.
FOS conciliation team manager Amie Cousins told delegates at the ANZIIF Claims Convention delegates yesterday that the methods the ombudsman uses to reconcile disputes are ones insurers and brokers can use to stop cases ever reaching FOS.
Cousins divided the methods into ‘phone’ and ‘in writing’:
With purpose: “Know what you want out of the call. Is there room in your call to say ‘is there anything else?’?”
With Correct Timing: Cousins urged delegates to schedule calls with clients to ensure a fruitful conversation. “The client might be in the supermarket and have a child hanging off her leg but he or she really wants to take the call.”
With structure: Cousins said FOS has a checklist of what they need to cover in conversations. She suggested this method might work for delegates.
Through language: “Letters can lead to a person being channelled in one direction and there is no chance to ask: ‘Is there anything else?’ Choose the language you use and think about the way you access questions in letters. If questions start with ‘what’ and ‘how’ you broaden the answers you get.”
Through layout/structure: Cousins told delegates that FOS sends consumers chronology tables in which consumers write what information and dates are significant to their case.
“You must create room to listen and act on what on what you hear but staff won’t do these things unless there is a process to support them and help them act on information,” Cousins said.
Cousins asked delegates to ask themselves a series of questions: “Where in your structure is there room for people to ask ‘is there anything else?’
“What incentives are there for your staff? How easy is it for your staff [to listen]? How do you know if they are doing it? Are there processes in place where you can create checkpoints?”
Addressing the common fear that once the financial services provider asks questions, they will be overwhelmed with information, Cousins said people only repeat themselves if they feel they are not listened to.
“If you do hear the person and you do respond and let them know you have noted it down, you are not at risk of those endless phone calls.”