Core to ACS’s values is a belief that better statements provide a tangible savings for insurance companies: they uncover more fraud indicators, collect more comprehensive treatment details, and never miss recovery opportunities. It’s why we put a special emphasis on training our own recorded statement takers and why many trust our after-hours statement service. It’s also a frequent topic of discussion on this very blog!
But we wondered- how much do other insurance companies share these values?
In the course of transcribing motor vehicle statements for our clients, we selected random, anonymous transcript files and analyzed them against 40 pieces of criteria. These would be the same criteria that ACS would expect from our own trained statement takers.
Our interest was in the aggregate: how often did adjusters avoid leading questions? How often were interviewees well-prepared? Which elements of the accident were commonly recorded, and which elements were commonly missed?
We’ll give you the results up front, and then you can decide if you’d like to parse all of the findings (contained after the break) or just this summary. (Or, to read an infographic, click here and here.) We went into this exercise expecting the industry to underperform some- after all, we began developing our training service as a tool to help in this area- but thought a lot of the criteria was relatively basic, and unlikely to be missed.
Instead, we found a surprising number of statements fall short in collecting information that we considered standard. No statistic encapsulated that observation better than this: 96% of the statements had missed opportunities to collect information potentially relevant to the resolution of the claim. In most cases, this took the form of missed follow-up questions that better listening would have been ready with. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that 96% of statement takers willingly passed on opportunities to save their companies money.
Adjusters’ behaviors varied greatly from statement to statement. Leading questions were a problem, asked multiple times per file, and with nearly one out of every five leading directly to misinformation. 34% of files had an adjuster need to ask for information that had already been given, betraying poor listening. And about 15% of statement time was used on elements that didn’t actually advance the investigation- often dealing with an interviewee’s questions or waiting for them to retrieve information they weren’t prepared to give.
Adjusters were generally good at understanding the key parts of the accident setting, but they weren’t always as detailed as they could have been. It was clear that companies placed an emphasis on the presence of police and injuries, as this information was gathered consistently. Strangely, treatment details both past and intended were not gathered consistently, which we find can have a significant financial impact. A number of other elements that could effect liability decisions, such as points of impact, driver actions, and more, were also inconsistently collected.
Finally, a criteria we were not even looking for initially until it kept cropping up: 8% of statements featured an adjuster who audibly admitted they probably didn’t get enough of the information that they needed. This was often a result of frustration with the interviewee, but that’s nearly 1 out of every 10 statements where all or at least most of the statement may need to be taken again
In all, the statements we reviewed would have greatly benefited from improved active listening skills and training on building rapport. It’s also possible that some adjusters valued rushing through the statement above gathering as much possible information. Although variance in the statements was high, only two of the 50 statements we checked covered everything we were looking for. With the need appearing so universal, we think it’s fair to say that statements like these represent a considerable but perhaps heretofore hidden financial toll for their companies.
ACS Recorded Statement Training
If you’re worried your company may be missing the same opportunities these statement takers did, we designed our Recorded Statement Training service for you. For over 25 years, ACS has been a service leader to the insurance industry, and we want to put that experience to work for you- with a flexible, accessible, and comprehensive training program. For more information, you can watch our video.
And now for the report.
ACS 2020 Statement Taking Analysis
About this Report
The data that follows in this report comes from 50 anonymous, randomly selected transcription files whose statements were taken by our clients. To evaluate each survey, we looked to confirm or deny the presence of over 40 different pieces of criteria, which we’ve separated into 5 categories for this report.
If you’re interested in the findings, but don’t want to read each data point, we’ve provided a Summary where you can read what we were looking for in each category, and a Verdict, where we highlight data points that stood out or went beyond our expectations. We hope you find this information as interesting as we did.
Part One: Rapport
Summary: We believe an ability to build rapport is foundational to a statement taker’s skill level. It’s not only valuable for its customer service benefits, but it has a tangible effect on the statement itself. A lack of rapport manifests itself in the statement in various forms of pushback from the interviewee. In this section, we looked for signs of that pushback.
8% of statements featured an interviewee showing resistance to giving information.
26% of statements featured an interviewee asking unnecessary questions during the recording.
42% of statements featured an interviewee who was not prepared to give certain information.
20% of statements featured either the adjuster or interviewee becoming audibly frustrated.
0% of statements with frustration came to a resolution that we would expect to build the company brand.
Verdict: We’ve written about statement taking as a Lost Art [link], but here it is apparent in the numbers. All of these failures are indicative of poor rapport-building, but it was especially concerning to see some adjusters themselves becoming frustrated. Insurance claims are ripe opportunities for brand-building, as consumers are shown to highly value clear and consistent information during a time of crisis. According to this data, that opportunity is too often lost.
Part Two: Time Management
Summary: We believe an interviewee that is sufficiently prepared will be sufficiently cooperative, and the adjuster will be able to control the flow of information and steer the statement towards the places it needs to go. In this section, we observed how often statements went off-track, to see how efficient adjusters were with their time.
The recorded statements we looked at lasted 10 minutes, but only 1.3 of those minutes were wasted time that did not move the statement forward.
The most common time-wasters:
- Waiting for an interviewee to find something (2.3% of all statement time)
- Resolving interviewee questions (2.2% of all statement time)
- Allowing the interviewee to ramble on an unnecessary or repetitive topic (2.1% of all statement time)
20% of statement takers omitted or truncated the formal close or open.
Verdict: All three of the biggest time wasters are solved with better training in building rapport. Time wasted is also a good indicator of the overall cost of undertraining: if your recorded statements and their transcriptions are 10% shorter, what does that save you on costs? And what could your adjuster do with 10% more time?
Part Three: Adjuster Behaviors
Summary: We believe active listening and competent question-crafting to be an adjuster’s core skills, and they are central elements of our training. Leading questions allow in misinformation while an inability to reveal and capitalize on quality opportunities for follow-up questions leaves information undiscovered.
96% of statements saw adjusters miss opportunities that were potentially relevant to recovery.
Of those statements, 35% of those missed opportunities had potentially major implications on recovery, and 40% had moderate implications.
Adjusters asked a leading question every 4.5 minutes, or slightly over twice per statement.
16% of leading questions led directly to a misunderstanding that would need to be resolved later, or it was not resolved.
58% of leading questions were agreed to without hesitation.
24% of statements featured an interviewee being allowed time to advance their own bias.
34% of statements featured an adjuster needing to ask for information that had already been given.
Verdict: To us, the single most surprising statistic of the entire study was the 96% of statements with missing information. Perhaps even worse is that in 75% of those statements, the missing information could have had a moderate to major impact on recovery. That’s an incredible amount of yield lost.
The frequency of leading questions did not surprise us, but the interviewee reactions were fascinating. One out of every three files had a leading question that led immediately to confusion. That’s a large and unnecessary roadblock those adjusters created for themselves, and that’s only the ones they became aware of.
Part Four: Understanding the Accident
Summary: We teach that the goal of every recorded statement taker should be to end the call with a complete understanding of how and why the accident occurred. At ACS, we have certain benchmarks we teach our adjusters to help ensure that happens, which we looked for in this category.
82% of statements had the adjuster fail to fully place the vehicles before asking about the accident details.
30% of statements had the adjuster fail to either understand or reconcile the points of impact.
78% of statements had an adjuster fail to demonstrate their understanding of the accident, either via summary at the end or verbal confirmation throughout.
38% of statements failed to give the interviewee an opportunity to add or confirm information.
8% of statements included an adjuster verbally stating that they were not confident they had collected enough details from the interviewee.
Summary: For a section that is core to taking a successful statement, this was the area where the most corners were cut. Adjusters repeatedly made assumptions, failed to confirm a mutual understanding, and talked themselves into corners in lieu of listening. The fact that nearly 1 out of every 10 files ended with the adjuster essentially admitting their failure was astonishing.
Part Five: Accident Data
Summary: ACS adjusters follow scripts to ensure that certain details about the interviewee, the accident, and any post-accident activity are captured. We understand that companies may not value all of this data equally, and that factors into how well they collected it. Nevertheless, because these data points are expected in every ACS statement, we captured them here.
17% of statements collected license restrictions.
19% of non-commercial statements confirmed whether or not the interviewee’s vehicle was used for rideshare.
62% of statements ascertained the interviewee’s purpose for using the vehicle and/or destination.
54% of statements determined if there were any passengers in any involved vehicle.
40% of statements determined if there were any witnesses present.
90% of statements uncovered whether or not the accident had a police presence.
54% of statements detailed any post-accident interactions.
60% of statements sufficiently covered traffic controls.
89% of statements sufficiently covered the accident location.
64% of statements successfully placed each involved vehicle precisely in the location.
58% of statements determined when the interviewee became aware of the other vehicle(s).
43% of statements determined any evasive actions performed by each driver.
61% of statements sufficiently detailed the points of impact on each vehicle.
32% of statements uncovered the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident.
85% of statements asked questions regarding injuries sustained in the accident.
35% of statements with injuries asked about treatments received and/or treatment plans for the future. (Half-credit was awarded for asking about one but not the other.)
46% of statements uncovered whether or not an ambulance came to the scene.
Verdict: Police presence, presence of an injury, and the determining the accident’s location are clearly prioritized by our clients. Some of these numbers may also be artificially depressed by adjusters who have some of the information available to them already, perhaps by police report. Still, many of these categories were covered in only about half of all statements or less.
At this point, we leave you to make your own conclusions about our findings, but we found it an enlightening exercise. What are your takeaways? If you have any thoughts you’d like to share, or any statistics that jump out to you, leave a comment below or tweet at us @acsacc.