If you’ve ever taken a recorded statement, you know there’s more factors involved than simply pressing record and reading from a script. Your behavior while taking a recorded statement has a great deal of bearing upon the quality of the statement itself: its clarity, cost, and length are all variables that are more within your control than you may realize.
We’ve put together a list of six of the most important skills for taking recorded statements, and broken each one into its contributing factors. Then we assigned those factors a score, which you can use to grade statements that you’ve taken. How many of these essential skills do you have?
1. Being Prompt
It’s extremely important that you contact all parties involved in the accident in the first 24 hours after a claim is filed. In addition to the fact that memory erodes over time and makes us more susceptible to suggestion, prompt contact of all parties involved is a major deterrent to fraud.
You may think that you don’t have much control over an individual’s inclination to do something dishonest, but that’s not entirely true. Research has found that fraud almost always stems from a convergence of three factors: pressure, opportunity, and rationalization. This is referred to as the fraud triangle theory.
Since money is a major contributing factor to pressure, that will be in play in nearly all insurance claims. But opportunity and rationalization both stand to grow as time passes. Long periods without contact can allow the individual the opportunity to coordinate stories or tamper with evidence. It also tempts one to begin to justify their actions- bending or altering the truth in ways that may not be sincere, further obscuring the details of what transpired.
There’s an old adage that goes: “God gave you two ears and one mouth, so you should use them in that proportion.” Setting aside the fundamental miscalculation should we all take such advice to be gospel, it’s nevertheless useful advice for productive communication. If we’re only listening for the point where we get to talk next, we’re not putting much effort into understanding what the other party is saying.
I’ve listened to statements where this is the case- the adjuster is clearly only “listening” for the opportunity to ask the next question on their list. I’m sure they think it’s efficient, but it was these adjusters who always seemed to extend the statement by five to ten minutes, wrestling with the interviewee over a key point the adjuster had sorely misunderstood. Instead of looking for the next point to jump in, give enough time to understand the entirety of a thought, and then seek confirmation that your interpretation is correct.
You should also consider eliminating your distractions. We live in an age of mobile internet use, with Americans spending an average of three hours a day staring at our small screens. Most of you are not as good at not sounding distracted as you think! If I can tell, your interviewee can tell, too. Give the person on the other end of the line your full attention.
Keep in mind that most interviewees don’t have the same experience with claims that you do: what is routine for you is unknown to them. They have likely endured something of a shock, and they may have even experienced personal injury. They might be worried about their financial situation, angry about what transpired, or scared by the ways their accident could have been worse. In short, they’re probably not feeling at their best.
Remember that it’s not personal. Be patient, calm, and rational. Listen for the needs behind their words. People are often willing to endure bad news from someone that they feel cares for them, but they will fight fiercely over small injustices if they feel ignored or marginalized.
Beyond keeping things civil, empathy can create promoters for your company. People share good customer experiences, and that has incredible value. For a barometer, consider how you would act on a call with the president of your company. Does that look much different than your usual call? If so, you might want to consider implementing some of those behaviors into your “regular” calls.
4. Controlling the Interview
Controlling an interview means that the interview proceeds to the points it needs to get to without any major detours or stalls. These detours are wasteful to everyone involved, including anyone who will come across the statement later in the process. The most common detours are arguments, dead air, or ramblings on the part of the interviewee. Even extending empathy can derail a statement if it leads to an extended, unrelated conversation.
Ideally, you should set expectations for the process and assuage an interviewee’s concerns before the recorded statement begins. This is part of building rapport. Part of setting expectations is instructing them of any information you will need them to access during the recording. It’s incredibly unprofessional to have three to four minutes of your statement taken up by the interviewee searching their house for a police report.
If you’ve set expectations before the call, it makes it easier to jump in when an interview careens off-topic. Some interviewees talk for five or six minutes on subjects that are barely or not at all related to the claim. It’s your responsibility to ensure that the interview consistently covers the important details, and this will be most effective if they are answering your questions, rather than given license to ramble.
5. Eliminating Unnecessary Utterances
There are two types of utterances that can clutter up a recorded statement: word whiskers and language affirmations. “Word whiskers” are placeholder utterances that you usually use while you search for another word, such as “uh” or “um.” They also may be a habitual part of your speaking. For instance, like, if I was talking to you, like, I don’t know, like this. I once transcribed a statement where the adjuster used “like” in this manner over 200 times!
Word whiskers are largely unnecessary. Their primary detriment is they make it harder to understand the thought you are trying to express. Thankfully, herein lies their solution- public speaking experts suggest focusing on the thought you are trying to convey over finding the perfect word. You may feel slightly less eloquent at first, but your thoughts will be easier to follow and you’ll be filling up the auditory space with less clutter.
Language affirmations- “Yep,” “mmhmm,” etc.- are another form of clutter on a recording. While they can be helpful to show empathy, I’ve found that most adjusters who use them do so much too liberally, sometimes as often as multiple times per sentence. Frequent language affirmations are not only distracting, but you run the risk of speaking over something important that the interviewee is saying. You can just as easily prove you have been listening by asking informed questions that draw from the context of what an interviewee has said.
6. Summarizing the Accident
Before you close your recorded statement, you should understand what occurred well enough to be able to create a comprehensive summary of how the accident happened and the injuries involved. If you have followed the skills we’ve listed in this article, this should come relatively easy for you. If you have been listening well, you will have established and confirmed the facts of the accident and detailed injuries, and you’ve likely avoided conflict, kept the conversation on topic, and eliminated distracting utterances.
Of course, that assumes that you know what to look for. This may seem rudimentary, but we come across poor or fundamentally misunderstood summaries more often than we would like. In these cases, it’s likely the adjuster was relying heavily on their script, and not putting things together in their own mind.
You should know what your company is looking for in a good accident summary. Auto claims require different information than Workers’ Comp claims, and so on. If you’re paying attention, the script should guide you towards this information, but it’s important that you are summarizing the accident in real time. If new information doesn’t seem to fit, ask clarifying questions to establish where the miscommunication lies. Failing to do so can further open your claim to risk of fraud.
It’s time to add up your score. How did you fare?