One Person’s Quality Journey Begins in the Insurance Industry
by Laura M. Kelly
My quality journey began when I discovered the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (CPCU) designation and CPCU Society. At the time, I was a claims adjuster trainee, and when a friend suggested I consider the CPCU program, I was eager to learn as much as possible.
This advice proved to be invaluable—I am proud to say I earned my designation in 1997. Over the course of my career, I have been a claims adjuster, claims supervisor and litigation manager.
After nearly 16 years in the claims arena, I joined Goldberg Segalla LLP, a national best practices law firm, as the director of best practice compliance and insurance industry liaison.
I attribute a great deal of my career success to the knowledge I developed studying for my designation and participating in the CPCU. I have had the opportunity to strengthen my quality management and leadership skills, and meet many great people.
The CPCU Society
The CPCU Society is a community of insurance professionals who promote excellence through ethical behavior and continuing education. The society’s mission is to “meet the career development needs of a diverse membership of professionals who have earned the CPCU designation, so that they may serve others in a competent and ethical manner.”
Today, the CPCU designation is one of the most valued and recognized designations in the insurance industry. There are nearly 28,000 members in the society, as well as 151 local CPCU chapters and 14 interest sections.
Each section has a committee that produces educational programs, publishes newsletters and maintains a website. The total quality (TQ) interest section serves its members by assisting them in improving, excelling and becoming leaders in their business performance and promoting total quality management (TQM).
When I began my career at Goldberg Segalla, I was eager to enhance my skills in process and TQM. Although I was familiar with the basic principles of quality, this was the first time I was in a role solely dedicated to quality management and compliance. I volunteered for CPCU Society national service and became a member of the TQ committee. I also was inspired to complete the associate in insurance services (AIS) program.
I gained incredible insight from completing the AIS25 course and was surprised by how quickly I was able to apply that knowledge to develop a quality management system (QMS) at the firm.
The definition of quality can range from conformance to requirements, and includes achieving superior results and producing products or services with high specifications. Simply stated, quality starts and ends with the customer.
Prior to joining Goldberg Segalla, I was the customer. The focus on customer orientation led me to evaluate my past experiences with defense counsel and consider what they could have done to make my job easier. It was important that they understood my needs and goals, and that they worked with me to accomplish them.
I immediately set out to become thoroughly familiar with the guidelines of our clients, introduce myself to them, ask questions, secure constructive feedback, and understand their needs and expectations. The course materials helped me generate ideas to enhance how we proactively listen to the voice of our customers.
Process Management and Improvement
Next, I considered how we could achieve guideline compliance for multiple customers with very different needs and expectations. It was apparent that to be successful we needed to have a process to objectively measure and document our results, assist staff in understanding and fulfilling each customer’s requirements, and continually improve efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, we needed to take a process approach to managing our compliance efforts.
Process ownership requires responsibility for a plan’s design, operation and improvement. We already had the consensus of management, and there was a strong commitment to improve and deliver superior service to our customers. The creation of my position—devoted to compliance and quality—demonstrated that commitment.
Process planning refers to documenting, defining and understanding each step of a process. During this phase, I explored what we had done in the past, what processes or methods were already in place, how work flowed through the firm and what each person’s role involved. I encouraged others to share their thoughts and ideas with me along the way.
Process control ensures outputs are predictable and consistent with customer expectations. We developed a process that allows us to monitor and ensure the resolution of every matter fulfills each customer’s requirements from the time it is referred to the firm until the matter is closed. We also devised tools to assist in the identification of various clients’ guideline requirements and created firmwide protocols to provide guidance and make expectations clear.
Process measurement refers to mapping the performance attributes of the process and establishing criteria for evaluating them. Our file monitoring process allows us to continuously measure and monitor the results of achieving compliance with guidelines.
Process improvement involves increasing the effectiveness of the process. Although we now have a process established, we must continue to enhance it. We recognize that we might find more effective ways to achieve desired outputs, as a customer’s expectations might change and issues or problems might develop that will require us to revisit our QMS in the future.
When an employee is enthusiastic, energetic and cares about what he or she does, it is obvious to the customer. Our firm has a clearly communicated mission, vision and values. Employees are encouraged to develop and use their full potential and work together as a team to support the firm’s goals and objectives. The firm’s leaders listen to employee and client suggestions and take action based on feedback.
We have conducted firmwide meetings to discuss our goals, review the processes we have established to achieve them and encourage communication in an open forum for employees. Now that we have a process in place, we must continue to monitor it, test it and find ways to continuously improve it.
We take our best practices commitment seriously, and we truly care about the way our internal and external customers are treated. Ultimately, it is recognized that the manner in which employees are treated and clients are serviced throughout the litigation process is just as significant as the ultimate outcome of the matter we are handling.
Quite often, it is easy to miss some of the elements while creating or managing a process and to instead concentrate on fulfilling internal requirements, ultimately losing focus on the customer. However, without the customer there would be no reason for an organization to exist.
Today I continue on my quality journey. Wherever my journey might take me, I will continue to apply everything I am learning to bring value to my firm, the CPCU Society and ASQ.
LAURA M. KELLY is the director of best practice compliance/insurance industry liaison at Goldberg Segalla LLP, a law firm with offices in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A member of ASQ, Kelly is a certified quality improvement associate and moderates the Insurance Industry network discussion board. She has also earned the associate in claims and associate in insurance services designations.