Thought for Today

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

On April Fool’s Day, it is difficult to know what to write that people will not look at and ask if it is a joke. Clearly, whilst it is not a bad idea to find something to laugh at in the current difficult trading conditions, the challenge we all face is too great to make light of the issues.

The last point I would make is to ensure you speak with your panel lawyers, those handling litigated claims on your behalf. They too will be experiencing difficulties and may benefit from any resource you have to deal with points of dispute on files they have. Litigated claims are going to take longer to settle because of Covid 19 and you should be asking your solicitor whether they have proposed any settlement discussions with their opponents. I know that Keoghs and Horwich Farrelly have been receptive but DAC Beachcroft less so and DWF, not at all. The significance of reaching out to those on the other side cannot be overstated. They will be experiencing the same difficulties as you and your solicitor. In terms of cash flow, they only get paid when they settle a claim and so persuading them to engage in block settlement discussions may be good for you and very good for them. Do not think they are happy with cases being left to rot. They are already facing the challenge from a reduction in new claims and will soon face a challenge from a lack of settled claims. Now is the time to capitalise on that opportunity and exploit their weakness to your advantage.


A week into lockdown and remote working, most business will now have taken on a new and different momentum. I expect that the external sales team and many delivery drivers will now be kicking their heels and most of the call handling teams are dealing with smaller volumes. Because of that I have already suggested re-deploying people to have them reviewing unsettled claims, resolving points of dispute raised by insurers, finding a new to engage with insurers and/or their defendant lawyers and looking at the difference between outstanding commercial rates and the offers, if any, made by insurers with a view to closing the gap. I know that larger CHOs will have been more successful at getting insurers to engage with them and I am not aware whether The CHO have set up any better mechanism to help smaller CHOs engage in a constructive dialogue. So, as we enter the second week of lockdown, it is an appropriate time to review what has worked and what we might now need to do differently.

I have offered before and repeat the offer now. I am happy to supply advice, help or support to any of you that might need it. I am happy to try to help without charge. Just email me at sae@96sae.com. So what should you be doing anyway?

The first thing is to review the output from those of your staff who are working from home. I suggested last week that it was important to measure performance differently during the lockdown just because if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it. As a general point, if I still ran a credit hire business then I would be allocating the minimum number of employees to manage incoming new business, to manage ongoing repairs and to collect vehicles at the end of hire. The rest I would deploy on reviewing files, on resolving disputes, on looking at the options to settle and I would ensure I could measure and manage the number of files reviewed by each of those staff members. I would also have some of my more experienced handlers trying to engage with insurers and defendant solicitors to create the opportunity to have settlement conversations even if it is on a claim by claim basis.

However, I would also need to be thinking about the future and all the things that I wanted to do but have been too busy to attend to. Whilst things are quiet, now is the right time to challenge the sales team to build a plan for recovery. Challenge them to set out how they are communicating with existing referral sources in order that they do not miss opportunities if the referrer suddenly re-opens for business in a week or two. Get them to populate the database of who they have to displace in an account, when the account is due for renewal, what terms are paid and so on. Beyond that, target them to identify which accounts they intend to target when the crisis is over. A salesman never has time to research and mine for prospects but now is a good time to do that and to start to think about how to build a proposition to win new business when the market returns to normal. There is no benefit in doing a mailshot now, but the time will be right in the next few weeks and planning for that marketing activity now will make the exercise more productive and impactful when the time is right.

It is also not a bad time to review existing business processes, communications and documentation to improve the efficiency of the business when things pick up and to ensure that the existing customer and insurer communications remain fit for purpose. That might also bring with it a need for training some staff, or even cross-training others, something that can be done remotely using video conferencing software like Zoom. If you do not currently use Zoom, it can be bought for £11.99 a month and that allows you to have conference calls with one or more people. It is money well spent even if the only use you put the software too is to call and speak to each of your remote workers once a week to make sure you can see the whites of their eyes and confirm that they are coping and to see if they have any needs to make their role more productive or suggestions for improving the business processes.

The last point I would make is to ensure you speak with your panel lawyers, those handling litigated claims on your behalf. They too will be experiencing difficulties and may benefit from any resource you have to deal with points of dispute on files they have. Litigated claims are going to take longer to settle because of Covid 19 and you should be asking your solicitor whether they have proposed any settlement discussions with their opponents. I know that Keoghs and Horwich Farrelly have been receptive but DAC Beachcroft less so and DWF, not at all. The significance of reaching out to those on the other side cannot be over-stated. They will be experiencing the same difficulties as you and your solicitor. In terms of cash flow, they only get paid when they settle a claim and so persuading them to engage in block settlement discussions may be good for you and very good for them. Do not think they are happy with cases being left to rot. They are already facing the challenge from a reduction in new claims and will soon face a challenge from a lack of settled claims. Now is the time to capitalise on that opportunity and exploit their weakness to your advantage.

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