View from The Helm

Navigating Disability Claims in Times of COVID-19

Navigating Disability Claims in Times of COVID-19

At SALT Associates, we often work directly with customers. Sometimes that means using our skills in Short Term Disability, Long Term Disability, or other products depending on our clients’ needs. Currently, I’m supporting a Short Term Disability claim operation which means I have the opportunity to work with employees who have recently suffered an injury or illness and are in the early stages of navigating the disability claim process.

Many of my customers are suffering with symptoms of COVID-19 and working with them has reinforced important claim methodologies that treat customers with dignity, compassion, and expertise.

For disability claim professionals, the magnitude of COVID-19 is uncharted territory and requires a heightened awareness of how our customers are feeling and what they are going through. What can we do to best support them as they navigate this difficult time?

One approach is to put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? Would you be scared? Would you worry about how you were going to support your family? In an ideal world, we would have built enough savings to prepare for these sorts of emergencies, but what if we didn’t?

Active communication is a way to build trust with your customer and to show empathy and compassion. Listen with the intent of hearing, not reacting. We should try to remember that our customers don’t speak “insurance” and we can frustrate them with contract wording and acronyms. Let them vent a little if needed to help them clear their mind. The unknown causes anxiety. Setting mutual expectations and keeping your end of the bargain will minimize their concerns.

Things move quickly during the Short Term Disability period.  Customers can become overwhelmed with telephone interviews, questionnaires and medical requests. Some may become agitated and sometimes place the blame on the claim professional. When this happens, take a step back, take deep breaths, and let them know you hear them and that you can appreciate their concerns. Patience is a virtue now more than ever.

What about you, me, and our fellow claim professionals? We do this because we recognize the importance of the work we do. Day in and day out, we help people. Often, our work changes lives.

It can be stressful enough during normal times. During this pandemic, stress, burnout, and fatigue are real and we need to find time to take care of ourselves so we’re at our best with our customers. It’s perfectly okay to end a call with a claimant and take a few minutes to get your emotions in check, reflect on the customer’s situation, and prepare yourself for the next call. Don’t forget your teammates. Reach out, check in, and offer to help if you can.

COVID-19 has challenged us in ways we never imagined. It affects us in all aspects of our lives. As claim professionals, we’ve changed workflows to accommodate for increased claim volumes, we’ve adjusted how we obtain the appropriate medical information, in many cases we’ve worked harder than we’ve ever had to work before. All of this while balancing working from home, teaching our kids, and learning how to do everything through video calls.

Stay true to a core claim management philosophy: empathy, patience, active communication, and self-care. We’ll succeed and continue to make a difference in our customers lives.