Making Your Dreams Come True

InnovationWalt Disney once said: “All of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

The challenge that we face is that dreams come easily, attaining them is the challenge.   From a vendor standpoint, getting into the corner office is the ideal situation because you, as the vendor, have an amazing solution that can change the way claims organizations operate.    From a carrier standpoint, the dream is to have that phone stop ringing with vendor upon vendor trying to convince you that they have a better mousetrap than what you are using today.   It’s a difficult dynamic that often ends up with insurance executives screening phone calls and vendors frustrated about their inability to pitch their solutions.

Having been on both sides of the fence, as both business executive and sales executive, I can relate to the challenges on both sides.   The reality is that there are some really great solutions, but there are also some not so great solutions.   Wouldn’t it be nice to cut right to the chase and focus on what really matters; continuous process improvement.

At ExecuLinc, our aim is to provide simplicity to the claims process.  By vetting out the best of breed in every facet of the claims process, our insurance industry contacts can be assured that what is presented will indeed improve their bottom line.

Our focus is on the fundamentals.   In every business, be it insurance or otherwise, there are three facets that drive success; people, processes and technology.   Arguably people are the most important, but they can also be the most challenging.   This is why having proven processes in place can drive behavior, which in turn drives outcomes.    Technology is an often misunderstood part of the process.   While some view technology as the savior, the reality is the best technology in the world will fail if the right people and the right processes aren’t in place.    If you accomplish those two things, then technology can take an organization to an entirely new level.

The key to success is to strive for not a insurer/vendor relationship, but a true business partnership.   This should be a two way street where the insurer challenges their business partner to do new and innovative things while accepting challenges to do the same.  It is this type of partnership that results in a competitive advantage for both parties.    It is our goal to forge these very types of alliances with proven solutions that drive bottom line results.    It is these very types of relationships that can indeed make your dreams come true.

Susan Tidball is the founder and CEO of ExecuLinc.   To learn more please visit www.execulinc.com or call 530.428.LINC (5462).

 

 

Loving Your Customers

The most successful organizations of the 21st Century have achieved their status by loving their customers.  Sure, everyone says they love their customers, but is that love based upon being paid or based upon an insatiable devotion to providing best in breed products and service?

Certainly it can be said that profit is always the driving force, but is it?  Is it better to provide an average service and receive a one-time payment, or provide over the top service and earn, as a byproduct, a customer for life?  The philosophy of the most successful organizations is rooted in the latter.

Let’s face it, in today’s business world there have been market forces focused on commoditization of many goods and services.   Think of airline tickets, where competition has pushed prices down.  Some airlines make up the difference by nickel and diming for everything from pillows to seats to luggage.  Interestingly, amidst the consolidation and commoditization, one particular upstart airline did none of the above and simply focused on LUVing their customers.   But beyond Southwest Airlines, let’s consider some of the love shared across a variety of industries.

Consider Trader’s Joes, which one former executive called a “7-Eleven with a great wine department.”  Their devotion to customers and growth despite a lack of advertising is unparalleled, prompting Mark Gardiner to take a job in order to pen a book under cover.    Look to Google, which goes beyond simply having people at a front desk to a product used by billions that rarely, if ever, breaks.   Think of FedEx, which delivers 10 million packages per day and, according to their mission, “places customer needs at the center of everything we do.”   Among the tech giants is Amazon, offering a user friendly website, low prices, one click shopping, no hassle returns, and often free postage with a mantra of “catering to its customers”.

Fostering relationships with customers is an integral part of long term success.   Remember the cardinal rules of sales;  1) people don’t like to be sold and  2) they buy from those they know, like and trust.   In a day and age of 24/7 news coverage and informational access, creating an excellent experience for customers has never been more important.

Perhaps Walt Disney said it best, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” By loving your customers, not only will they return but they will bring their friends”.  Never underestimate the importance of the positive word of mouth!

According to RightNow, 89% of consumers do business with your competitor following a poor customer experience.   In a survey by Forrester Research, only 37% of brands received a good or excellent rating, reinforcing that we truly do live in a society where mediocrity has become the norm.   Considering that more than 60% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, it makes sense to invest where it really matters; relationships.

What are my key rules for loving the customer?

1.  Remember the Golden Rule –   By doing unto others, you will grow a mutually beneficial relationship.  Never look at customers as a commodity, but rather treat them as you would like to be treated yourself.  I am not a commodity, nor are they.  Arguably they could purchase what I sell, technology and claims consulting services, elsewhere.   But why would they want to if I provide them with best of breed service with results that give them a quantifiable competitive advantage in the marketplace?

2. Respect Your Customers- Nobody likes a pushy sales process.  The reality is that many critical, lifelong and cross generational relationships take YEARS to build.   Noah didn’t build the Ark in a day, just as these crucial relationships will not blossom overnight.   Be mindful of customers’ needs and respect their space.   Use this time to help them resolve issues and challenges in order to gain trust as a friend, confidante and advisor.

 3. Always Listen – As a consultant, I spend a lot of time listening.   I hear the challenges of my potential customers looking to gain a competitive advantage in a challenging industry. I not only listen, but can relate, having spent years in a variety of challenging roles ranging from executive to entrepreneur to mom.   My job is to help my client’s achieve their goals, but to do so, I must truly understand their issues, challenges and concerns.

4. Build Trust – If a customer wants to buy something that they really don’t need I am going to tell them.  I refuse to make a sale for the simple purpose of making a sale.  The last thing I want is a customer with buyer’s remorse who will think twice about buying from me again.  That said, often times the solution to true success of an organization may be right at their fingertips, and sometimes they don’t even know it, requiring a gentle, buy loving, nudge.

5. Be Transparent – This is a crucial element of trust.   Remember the part about people buying from those they know, like and trust?  Transparency means not being afraid to give and get feedback.  In fact, you thrive on having conversations with your customers.  The person you are outside of the office blurs with the person inside the office.  Whatever setting you are enjoying your customers in, you are just you.

6. Bet true to your word – If you commit to doing something for a customer, do it!  I can’t tell you how many times I have had dealings with others who over promise and under deliver.   It is infuriating.  Don’t commit to something just for the sake of making a sale.  It is a poor reflection on both the company and the people involved.

7. The Customer is Always Right – There are two rules in business;

1) The customer is always right.

2) Read Rule 1.

8. Understand the competition -  Just because you have great products or service doesn’t mean there isn’t someone aiming to do it better.   The biggest obstacle that organizations can face is that of complacency.  Don’t believe me, just look to the Big 3, who for years took their edge in the auto market for granted.   To succeed, organizations must adapt the paradigm of continuous process improvement.

9. Don’t be shy – Many (and this is the operative word) of your customers love attention, and word of mouth is a two way street.   Heaping praise upon those doing things well can yield amazing dividends.  Again, this is where building trust, knowing your client and being transparent are key.   If your client likes to keep a low profile, even if they are doing amazing things, then respect their desires.  If your client enjoys the spotlight, then work with them to bring attention to all the good that they are doing.

10. Always say “Thank You” – Being kind, grateful and respectful will take your organization far, especially in a society where manners have seemingly become a thing of the past.  More than 75% of businesses surveyed routinely say they will spend more time with a business as the result of positive experiences.

Perhaps most important is the realization that love isn’t always easy.   Having been married for 25 years this year, I hope that I have learned a thing or two about the subject.   First and foremost, it requires a partnership based upon mutual respect and honesty.   The same holds true in business.  Recognize that over the course of time there will be some days that are better than others.  It is how two entities resolve differences and leverage similarities and mutual goals that provide the foundation for longevity and success.

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it, but if you love what you’re doing and you always put the customer first, success will be yours.”  Ray Kroc; Founder of McDonald’s

Claims Sourcing: Getting to YES!

salesHaving been in sales for the better part of my life, I can relate to the challenges of getting to YES!  But often, that is the least of our problems.   Consider how hard it is just to find the decision maker.   Perhaps this is no more evident than in the world of insurance, where organizational charts can involve a myriad of potential contacts.

The good news is that at the top of even the most intricate hierarchy sits a decision maker.  The bad news is that it can take significant time, effort and resources to identify them.  Complicating matters is the breadth of some organizations which may have multiple departments that provide support services to the various aspects of claims.

Certainly it is relatively easy to get to an adjuster.  That adjuster can often provide the hierarchy locally, but may be challenged at a corporate level.  Plus, as anyone in sales knows, climbing the latter is a monumental task that typically won’t result in a deal.

In many instances, various functions such as PIP, property damage and casualty, may have different leaders.  There may also be oversight of the field staff versus the processes, involving multiple teams.   Taking it one step further, consider the multitude of business lines, including general liability, auto, property, workers’ compensation, etc.

I recall doing some work with a large insurer that had several hundred subsidiaries, each with their own hierarchy.  As one seeking to get to YES! this can seem like a monumental task.   They key to success is to understand how what you are offering will make a profound difference in three key areas:

1)      People – Improved productivity, higher internal and external customer satisfaction

2)      Processes- Improved quality and KPI,  decreased cycle time,  reduced defects

3)      Technology – Leveraging new innovation to achieve unparalleled outcomes

Keep in mind that price is but one consideration.   Far too often, there is the temptation to commoditize services.  This can be tempting in an industry that is price driven.  It can also be a mistake, resulting in any number of unintended consequences.

As I have found over the years, the biggest impediment to YES! is that decision makers are busy.  It is often said that you have thirty seconds to make an impression, when in reality you have about seven seconds.  If this initial moment is not compelling, the opportunity will be lost.

Executives often  have hundreds of vendors knocking on their door, calling their phone and jamming their inbox with brochures, all in an attempt to make a sale.  Chances are they already have a similar solution in place, to what is being offered.  Even more important they have no interest whatsoever in “being sold”, the biggest mistake in the sales process.

So just how does one get to YES? The simplest way is to leverage a business partner who can provide access to key personnel within a target claims organization.   By having a clearly defined path with the hurdles removed, vendors can gain immediate access to business leaders as the result of established relationships.   Claims executives benefit as those presenting new ideas are put through a rigorous vetting process, and are being introduced by a known commodity.  Outcomes tend to be more predictable, and results less volatile.  Remember the cardinal rule in sales is that “people buy from people they know, like and trust”.

Susan Tidball is the CEO of ExecuLINC, which specializes in brokering relationships between executives and service providers.   She has more than twenty years of sales and leadership experience at multiple companies, ranging from successful startups to established Fortune 500’s.   ExecuLINC provides clients with a roadmap to success through direct introductions to senior decision makers, marketing support and consulting services.  To learn more, please visit www.execulinc.com or call 530-428-LINC (5462)

The Consistency Challenge

Over my years as a business owner and executive I came to the conclusion that consistency drives results. This is true in just about any aspect of the business world. But, is this always the case? Is it possible to have times when consistency simply doesn’t matter?

It dawned upon me this past Sunday that there are actually times when consistency can be detrimental. As I was watching the Jacksonville Jaguars getting trounced by the Arizona Cardinals the realization set in that Jacksonville may be the most consistent team in the NFL; in a really bad way. This is a team that has consistently faltered on the front line, has consistently made poor draft choices, has had a shaky quarterback situation for at least the past decade and management that has struggled to put the team on the path to success.

This type of detrimental consistency is certainly not limited to the gridiron. Just looking at claims organizations where a mere 3% of claims are paid with comparative negligence, resulting in consistently bad outcomes. Take it a step further and consider the multitude of HIPAA violations that occur throughout the insurance industry everyday! Failure to acknowledge comparative negligence simply leads to bad results; HIPAA violations can lead to significant fines!

Perhaps the best way to tackle this is through an understanding of what should happen. Just as a quarterback seeks perfection in their rating, so too should claims organizations. To drive results, it is incumbent upon leaders to lay out the expectations for success.

In the NFL it is generally accepted that failure to win 10 games will result in exclusion from the playoffs. Certainly there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. It is also recognized that going 16-0 is an improbable outcome, although possible. The key to success is to recognize where you are today and what is needed to achieve the next level.

It is important to benchmark against the industry, as opposed to oneself. Consider the Jaguars who went 4-12 this past season. Simply going 6-10 would be a marked improvement on paper, but still a disastrous result. Rather, one should focus on the best in breed. Look to those competitors who are at the top of their game and then study how they got there.

Results will come through three main channels; people, processes and technology. People are the lifeblood of any organization, but only so long as they are the right people. Another caveat is that the right people need to be in the right positions. Why has Tim Tebow floundered in the NFL? Arguably because he doesn’t have the accuracy and tenacity to be an NFL quarterback, although many believe he could be an outstanding tight end.

Finding the right people is often a challenge in itself. The key to success lies in attitude, which is far more important than technical expertise, as the latter can be taught. Of course, the biggest win is the disciplined adjuster with the requisite expertise and a positive attitude.

Beyond people, we must leverage processes and technology. Processes will provide a proven path for success to drive outcomes. Effective processes make organizations lean and nimble, giving way to an immediate competitive advantage. Technology is the final step, as it can improve productivity and provide tremendous economies of scale.

Prior to developing a plan of action, it is critical to understand the driving forces. In some situations it can be people driven, in others there may be a lack of or ineffective procedures. Perhaps this is coupled with a lack of technology, such as a robust claims management system or decision support tool.

At ExecuLINC, the focus is on understanding your needs and providing you with the right solution, often a no charge to the insurance carrier whatsoever! Give us a call today and let’s see if we can put together a winning game plan for your claims organization.

Susan Tidball is the CEO of ExecuLINC, an organization focused on providing top of the line solutions to claims organizations. She is a former executive at a Fortune 100 company and long time entrepreneur. To learn more, please visit www.execulinc.com or call 530-428-LINC(5462).

Leveraging Tools To Improve Claims Outcomes

Is it possible to build a house without a hammer and nails? How about producing a car without an automated assembly line? Surely it could be done with a tremendous amount of effort and some pretty substantial flaws in the end product. The same holds true for our claims organizations where investigations, negotiations and settlements can happen, but without the right tools there are destined to be flaws.

As we meet with claims executives from all lines of business, the impediments to success share certain common denominators. By leveraging business partners who specialize various tools to address these key opportunity areas, carriers can derive immediate and quantifiable improvement.

From the earliest days of claims, a variety of tools have been used. Initially it was nothing more than a pen and paper to document the adjuster investigation. Then came cameras, Dictaphones and roller tapes. As technology has advanced, the tools have played a pivotal role in making adjusters more efficient with outcomes that are more accurate.

But at some levels, insurers may balk at tools. After all, aren’t we paying adjusters to adjust claims. Of course, that makes perfect sense, just as we pay construction crews to erect buildings. But having either complete the tasks without a blueprint for success and the proper tools just doesn’t make sense.

At ExecuLINC, we are focused in driving success from three key fronts; people, processes and technology. Tools in and of themselves will not take an organization to the next level; rather they will improve productivity of people and optimization of processes. Technology is merely the catalyst to derive the outcomes.

When translating defects into process, consider basic errors such as not contacting a party to a claim, missing a witness, not obtaining a police report. Add to this simple metrics such as missed subrogation or auto physical damage supplement rates. Further compound the challenges to accuracy with improper liability assessments or poor negotiation skills. Then pile on the potential litigation from HIPAA violations. These types of fundamental issues can really add up and compound the challenges for claims organizations.

While these types of errors can be found with a traditional sampling of claims, the ability to isolate trends can be slow and cumbersome. Arguably, a better approach is rooted in leveraging tools. Consider basic metrics such as allowable medical bills. Reactively, an auditor could pull a file an manually identify what was billed and owed. Proactively, this same auditor could cover exponentially more ground with tools that automate this entire process. The same holds true for other aspects of claims, whereby targeted selection based upon claim tool methodology can produce reports to isolate defects down to the adjuster level.

Back to the hammer can nails analogy. Could a house be built without these tools? Certainly, but much like a house of cards it would eventually collapse. Rather, by providing the builder of a house or a claim, with the necessary tools, a level of certainty about quality and outcome will emerge.

What we see throughout the industry is that claims departments which think and act in a manner rooted in consistency and fundamental execution tend to gain a significant competitive advantage. This advantage is not limited to claims, as these same concepts can be leveraged in all aspects of organizational improvement.

Susan Tidball is the CEO of ExecuLINC, an organization focused on providing top of the line solutions to claims organizations. She is a former executive at a Fortune 100 company and long time entrepreneur. To learn more, please visit www.execulinc.com or call 530-428-LINC(5462).

Blocking and tackling is the essence of the winning claims organization

There is no sensation like being the game changer. From catching the winning touchdown to brokering the million dollar business deal, the thrill is beyond compare. It is a chance for that often elusive moment of fame. For some it is fleeting, but for those who block, tackle and execute with perfection, it can last a lifetime.

As a mother of three boys, all of whom played football, the importance of blocking and tackling became abundantly clear. This same level of detail and focus transcends the gridiron into all aspects of life, from school to church to civics. This also holds true in the insurance industry, where simple mistakes, improper training and inefficiencies can prove as costly as injuries, turnovers and loss of downs.

While some claim that winning isn’t everything, it was Vince Lombardi who put it best, “If winning doesn’t matter, why do they keep score”? The answer is no different than why claims organizations measure metrics with a constant emphasis on bottom line results.

At ExecuLINC, the focus is on how to best leverage people, processes and technology to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. The key to success is in the development of a total quality process that ensures excellence in all aspects of claims handling. This holistic approach enables carriers to best identify gaps, weaknesses or deficiencies, and make recommendations on critical paths for success.

When looking at your bottom line the reality is that winning is highly important. The companies that do it better, faster and smarter than the competition will move ahead of the pack. Through effective blocking and tackling, carriers can have a positive impact on everything from First Notice of Loss and investigations to estimatics and recoveries.

By giving definition to the X’s and O’s on the claims playing field, managers can assume the challenges with a much improved game plan. Just as no coach should ever settle for anything less than a playoff run, no manager should settle for anything less than superior results.

Closing gaps on the production line is no different than closing them on the gridiron, resulting in smoother processes, reduced cycle times, improved quality and accurate results. By focusing on the basics, Blocking and Tackling will provide the essentials for a winning organization.

The essence of football was blocking, tackling, and execution based on timing and rhythm”- Knute Rockne

Susan Tidball is the CEO of ExecuLINC, an organization focused on providing top of the line solutions to claims organizations. She is a former executive at a Fortune 100 company and long time entrepreneur. To learn more, please visit www.execulinc.com or call 530-428-LINC(5462).