As claims investigators, part of our job is to canvass in an attempt to uncover additional witnesses or more intelligence and to help us in the process of making a claims decision. When done properly, the canvass will speed up the claims process for the claimant. The canvass may reveal that further investigation of the claim is needed or that the claim should be denied. The canvass should be conducted by an investigator who displays patience with people and who presents themselves in a positive and professional manner.
In order to succeed, the investigator performing the canvass should have direction with a clear set of goals. One of the most important parts of the canvass is the preparation, which includes the safety of the person conducting the assignment. As everyone has their own style when conducting a canvass, ACS would like to share with you some simple safety steps and helpful hints that you should keep in mind when conducting a canvass:
- Have a clear understanding of your goal by listing case information such as the DOL or timeframe you are investigating and the name(s) of the person/people in question. Write down any questions you may need to ask.
- Print two copies of the map of the canvass area and become familiar with the neighborhood and the main road.
- Dress in business or business/casual attire.
- Have a cell phone and notepad with you, along with several pens or pencils.
- Let your manager or someone in your department know where you are going and give them a copy of the map.
- Never carry a weapon such as a gun, baseball bat, etc., even if you have a CCW license. Not only is it against company policy, if you feel you have to use a weapon, you have been in the area ten minutes too long.
- Once you have arrived on site, drive down the street and around the block once. When driving by the subject’s residence, make sure that no one is outside and that there is a parking spot available on the street where you can park with easy access out of the neighborhood. Next, park several blocks down the street and watch the area for five or ten minutes. If the area appears to be unsafe, depart the area and return with another co-worker.
- Once you feel comfortable with the area, drive to the parking spot that you selected and park your vehicle.
- Exit your vehicle and start the canvass. ACS usually selects two houses on each side of the subject’s residence and three to four houses across the street. Depending on the type of canvass, the number of residences canvassed can be increased or, in some cases, decreased.
- Make sure you have a notepad, several pens or pencils, and some business cards. You may want to also have your microcassette recorder with you to record your notes.
- When you approach each residence, smile and present yourself in a pleasant manner.
- When someone opens the door, try to engage in small talk to break the tension. (For example: “What a nice dog/cat. It reminds me of my parents’ dog/cat.” OR “What a cute little girl. What’s the name of your doll?” OR “What a nice garden/landscaping. I enjoy working in the garden also.”) This type of small talk helps put both parties at ease.
- Introduce yourself by name and explain that you are a representative from (your client) Insurance Company. Never pretext, as it is against company policy and may even be against the law.
- Ask the person their name, as it is always easier getting someone’s name at the beginning of a conversation than at the end.
- Explain to the person that you are working on an insurance claim and that you are currently in the information-gathering stage, which will help speed up the claims process.
- Once you have completed the interview, thank the person for their cooperation and tell them to have a nice day.
- Once completed, remember to write down the name, address, and description of what the person looked like, including what the person said.
- Continue to the rest of the houses that you selected to canvass.
- Always keep an eye on the subject’s residence and the area around you. If it appears that the subject is aware of your presence, terminate the canvass, get in your vehicle, and drive away.
- If the subject approaches you and asks what you are doing before you get to your vehicle, explain to them that you are working on behalf of their insurance company, that you are working on their claim, and that you were asking the neighbors several questions in an effort to speed up the claims process. Then tell the claimant that your husband/wife/child just called and you have to get home right away. Always try to get out of there before a possible confrontation.
- Once you have completed the canvass for the day, drive back to the office and begin to complete your notes. Make sure you have your notes completed before you start another project, so you remember every detail of the canvass.