Hablas español?: Non-English speaking clients create new challenges for insurers
With the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. ranking in the top-five worldwide, insurers are finding they need to either use a translation service or hire Spanish-speaking staff.
According to the Pew Research Center, Spanish is spoken at home by 37.6 million people in this country. This eclipses Chinese, which is the second-most frequently spoken non-English language home with 2.8 million speakers.
One company in North Carolina experienced an increase in the number of claims by Spanish-speaking policyholders and took action to address this trend by hiring bilingual claims representatives. HVAC Investigators (HVACi) hired representatives who are fluent in both English and Spanish so customers are able to converse in their native language.
“I’ve processed a substantial amount of claims in the past few weeks where the policyholder only speaks Spanish,” says Ashley Reid, one of HVACi’s Spanish-speaking claims representatives. “Formerly, many carriers were using translation services to handle these claims. Now, we can overcome the language barrier without the complication of third-party involvement.”
According to Pew Research, the other languages spoken in U.S. homes include: Hindi, Urdu or other Indic languages (2.2 million); French (2.1 million); Tagalog (1.7 million); Vietnamese (1.4 million); German (1.2 million) and Korean (1.1 million). As the U.S. population becomes even more multi-cultural, the needs of these populations will change the way insurers serve their customers in terms of coverage and the use of technology. There are mobile apps that allow adjusters and claims managers to access translators through a third-party company if the insurer doesn’t have someone on staff who speaks a customer’s native language.
However, insurers see the value of hiring bilingual staff as well. “State Farm does have in-language claims teams meeting our Spanish-speaking customer’s needs,” explains Anna Bryant, public affairs specialist for State Farm. “Our teams are located throughout the company.”
Chubb, a global company with operations in Latin America as well as customers who do business internationally, has the ability to handle multinational claims. “We know of at least 30 people in our claims operations who speak Spanish,” says Mark Schussel, vice president and public relations manager for Chubb. “They are in a variety of different positions and disciplines in our claim center, branch and home office operations across the country.” Bilingual employees include adjusters, examiners, operations and manager in the areas of workers comp, casualty, property and marine insurance.