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An Interview With Art Coussoulis

Art Coussoulis was last interviewed in 2005 prior to his immersion in the Sacramento Claims Association as president for an unprecedented three terms and his involvement with the Claims Conference of Northern California planning committee.  As he has been asked to become Vice President of the CCNC for 2011 and has expressed an interest in returning to serve on the SCA board next year, it is timely to speak to him about the changes that the last 5 years have wrought; for his employer, AAA Insurance; the insurance industry as a whole and the claims community particularly; and how all of the community service efforts have affected him personally. 

“I feel that the experiences of these sometimes hectic years have made me a better adjuster” Art stated in the most emphatic terms.  “Working more closely with vendors has made me more aware of just what these hard-working companies are up against and that perspective helps me understand how we can work together for the benefit of the customer.  That’s important because the mindset of the insureds has changed from when I started with AAA 30 years ago on September 8th.”  He paused to let the significance of the time spent with one employer sink in.  “The focus of carriers doing property policies seems to be emphasizing cashing out on losses more than ever and it looks from my perspective like that it creating its own crisis.  The higher deductibles implemented to create lower premiums have been a challenge for some policyholders to come up with after a loss and that creates a problem with the mortgage companies so some of the carriers have lowered the threshold under which they name the mortgage company on the payment checks and that makes it more difficult for the already stressed contractors to collect the money they are owed…so the economy is entering the picture as a driving force in the claims process and the domino effect is challenging for anyone in the gravity force field of this business.” 

“The role of the field adjuster has expanded to that of a psychiatrist, structural engineer, computer wizard, confidant, attorney, concierge and hand holder at times” Art shakes his head “Particularly first time homeowners expect that you are going to take care of THEM, not just the claim.  I am amazed that there is a segment of these new buyers who have problems managing their own affairs but they have expectations of immediacy in the claims process.”

“If I had to sum it up the solution in one word it would be first and foremost; communication.  Constant updating between the adjuster, the vendor, and the customer is required to keep confidence levels high and that confidence is vital to the relationship that makes it all work smoothly.”  Art pauses “and you have to do it all without personalizing the claim to provide the best service.”

“There are always new challenges- we all know about doing more with less- fewer employees with high productivity expectations.  That is just a fact of life these days and the prevailing attitude seems to be ‘it’s not going to change so just get used to it’.  Many companies expanded operations into states all across the country so we’ve all had to juggle our time more efficiently to keep ourselves sane as we deal with different areas, different disasters (and they are all a disaster from the homeowner’s point of view) in areas that are unfamiliar. It’s become more difficult to follow my personal mantra of ‘under promise and over deliver’ while making the policyholder feel that theirs is the only claim on my desk, but I’m still trying.”

Relative to his experiences with the Sacramento Claims Association and the Claims Conference, Art is enthusiastic.  “It has been an incredible experience that has enhanced my life” he says.  “I’ve made friends through these organizations that I am sure will remain in my life forever and I value those relationships beyond anything.  I have received so much through my volunteer efforts and I am very grateful for the opportunities the associations have provided for me to grow and learn.  My advice for anyone who hasn’t yet taken advantage of the benefits of membership in associations like SCA is that in order to view your job as a career which is key; join a professional organization to provide answers, a network and leadership skills.  Where else can you get all that?” 

by Joan Barrett -

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