Lost in Translation

When a loss occurs, coverage is determined, priorities are acknowledged, damages are assessed, and a plan comes together to return the insured to the pre-loss situation.  But what if all the parties involved don’t fully understand each other?

Open and transparent communication between all parties is crucial to a successful claims settlement process. And clear communication depends on the ability to speak a shared language—which is not guaranteed in a culturally and linguistically diverse country like Canada. Although ninety-eight percent of Canadians can speak one or both of the country’s official languages, it does not necessarily mean that they are most fluent in them. In fact, 11.5% of the population reported speaking both English and a language other than French at home. This is not surprising, as a 2011 Statistics Canada National Household survey indicated that almost 70% of immigrant households are homeowners.

When it comes to insurance claims, any communication barrier can be problematic.  The complex terminology used while working through a claim can be difficult to decipher, even when the client and the adjuster speak the same language. However, if policyholders do not have enough facility with English to comprehend the complicated industry terminology of the insurance world, nuances can be easily lost between the definition of many terms, such as actual cost value and depreciated cost value.   Likewise, an adjuster may not recognize the cultural significance of certain items when establishing value. Lack of a shared language and/or common cultural assumptions can lead to disputes, frustration, and inaccurate valuations.

So how do insurance professionals navigate and mitigate linguistically and/or culturally rooted impediments to claims settlement?

At SPECS, it starts with our hiring practices. We have made a commitment to hire a diverse workforce who represents the multilingual, multicultural insureds that we support.  In fact, we offer services in many languages, including English, French, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Punjabi, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog, thereby reducing the risk that important details get lost in translation. This allows our consultants the linguistic fluency and cultural perspective to truly comprehend the needs and concerns of our clients, as well as provide them with a clear understanding of the process and outcomes.

By being able to converse in an insured’s preferred language, we can expedite claims more efficiently, more accurately, and explain concepts such as like kind and quality and indemnity with less frustration. Ultimately, this translates into greater customer satisfaction—something everyone can both understand and appreciate.

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