If you follow industry trends, you probably expect the vehicle sales momentum of the past few years to continue through 2015. The first quarter started strong, with year-over-year sales up 13.7% in January, according to Autodata. The market will level out eventually, however, and smart dealers are utilizing the increased foot traffic to turn new customers into repeat customers.
While this starts within the dealership with service incentives, referral campaigns, etc., cultivating repeat business also extends into the F&I space and the customer experience with product administrators. Customers associate the selling dealership with the vehicle ownership experience . . . and F&I product administration. Service provided by the F&I product provider that reflects the dealership’s high service standards fortifies the customer’s relationship with the business.
Good experience with an F&I product goes beyond claims paid. It extends to customer service provided to your customers and your service center. Think of your own experience with call centers. The ones you hate are those that keep you on hold too long, don’t address your questions, or keep transferring you between departments. Good customer service includes answering calls immediately, listening to customer concerns, and responding to all questions politely.
Best-in-class claims administration and customer service can be difficult to achieve in an industry where a “deny-only” reputation and perception is prevalent. There is ample opportunity to turn claims administration into one of your greatest assets, however. With that in mind, several strategies must be in place to establish standout customer service that results in repeat customers and business growth.
Quality-claims adjudication starts with having the right people on the other side of the phone. When evaluating product administration providers, ask yourself:
- Do the claims adjudicators and customer service representatives have the technical knowledge to discuss repairs with my service team and make an educated decision on how to process the claim?
- Are claims adjudicators and customer service representatives friendly and amiable on the phone?
- Do they answer consumer or service center questions in a timely, polite manner?
Claims adjudicators and customer service representatives are often the face of the F&I process. Their competency in managing and discussing claims with the service center, along with their ability to relate to customers, are central in keeping all parties happy and in clear communication.
The greatest claims adjudicator can often be hampered by poor technology solutions, however. Again, it’s important to ask:
- Does the company provide a simple way for customers and service centers to check on a claim’s status?
- Do claims adjudicators have the necessary resources to quickly source parts to keep the claims process moving?
- Can customers and service centers to quickly access answers to commonly asked questions and claim status updates?
Technology can simplify life or make it more difficult. It’s crucial that your claims administrator’s technology solutions are appropriate, necessary, and up-to-date.
Additionally, it’s equally important for your product administrator to have a robust auditing and training model.
For example, we use a weekly, monthly, and quarterly internal auditing system to verify that the adjudicator stays true to contract terms, answers questions accurately and politely, negotiates the right service, and sources the right parts for the vehicle repair. Adjudicators and customer service representatives receive a weekly scorecard, outlining where they excelled and where improvements are needed.
Good auditing systems are motivating, spur training opportunities, and help foster a quality culture, while ensuring compliance with industry best practices, including:
- The time it takes to answer calls;
- The average call time; and,
- How often calls are abandoned.
Although each call center uses its own benchmarks, a recommended resource is BenchmarkPortal’s average statistics and calculations. BenchmarkPortal hosts the world’s largest database of contact center metrics. At our company, these metrics have ensured that during business operations, 96% of all claims are paid within the hour, claims calls are answered, on average, in 30 seconds, and average handle times for each claim call is 3.5 minutes.
Every product administrator should aim to achieve or surpass industry best practices, and investing in the right training is a critical component of quality customer service. For example, getting claims adjusters ASE Certified puts them on a more even playing field when negotiating services and parts. Also, creating one-on-one opportunities for claims adjusters to train customer service representatives fosters collaboration and team success, which builds a quality culture dedicated to providing superior customer service.
When administering customer claims, quality customer service and expertise is critical. A customer’s experience impacts the originating company’s business, and influences its overall brand and reputation. Third-party administrators must give its clients the highest confidence that claims will be handled expertly, efficiently, and respectfully. This ensures a positive customer experience, driving greater loyalty for their business—and more revenue.
Ken Overly brings more than 20 years of operational experience to his role as the vice president of operations at EFG Companies. With an always observing eye and big-picture mindset, Ken’s implementation of quality measures within EFG’s claims group exceeds industry standards. In 2014, Ken led his team to be certified as a Center of Excellence by BenchmarkPortal. This recognition is one of the most prestigious awards in the customer service and support industry.