Why it pays not to be an expert. Insurance in the Health and Fitness Industry.

Health professionals are passionate. Just ask any one of the many registered personal trainers in the country about how to get results. Yes, there are many proven ways, exercises, transformation challenges and more these health professionals can advise you on to get results. But ask these health professionals about the unsolicited tips you got from your non-qualified friend or co-worker and they’ll quickly dispel these fitness rumours and shortcuts. So why should insurance be any different? We get professional health advice from qualified and registered professionals, however in our industry we see time and time again unqualified and nonprofessional employees giving advice about insurance.

Why is pays to not be an expert. The industry is growing, reaching new heights of $2.2bn revenue turnover and 27,000 employees in 2017-2018 (Ibisword Business Industry Report R9111 Nov 17). Millions and millions of visitations across 4,700 health and fitness centres in Australia. Even if percentages are low, incidents, accidents and occurrences will increase as the industries grows. Do we allow a receptionist, or a gym floor manager, or a young facility manager to make key judgement calls on insurance?

A concern I share with many of you is there’s a risk in the industry that employees shoot first, and make judgement calls regarding insurance without checking with their insurer. Throughout my journey I’ve spent as much time undoing what staff, with good intentions, have said about insurance and incidents as I have by following the desired process.

Insurance. We pay for it, so why not use it. Have you ever heard the old “don’t inform your insurer, your premiums will go up if they find out”? Ok, so the risk of premiums going up by a percentage point or two is better or worse that an outstanding claim spiralling out of control and costing you $10,000s? Or my other favourite, “let’s not let the insurer know until we know we have to pay something out”, or as I like to put it, let’s not inform our partner at the time of an incident and void our current policy by not reporting on time.

We get value out of the policies we take out to protect our industry, and there are a lot of them; ranging from Public Liability, Industrial Special Risk, Motor Vehicle, Personal Accident, Travel, Professional Indemnity, Fidelity Guarantee, Directors and Officer and Cyber. With so many polices it’s hard to be across them all, and that’s where the real value of insurance comes into play, it’s not just the policies but it’s the advice and comfort of having an insurer we can contact and discuss anything that’s happening in our sites. Treat your broker, or provider, as a member of your team, use them as your expert. They will be happy to provide as much advice and time as possible, as this will reduce risk both for you and them in the future, and speed up resolution of incidents at your sites.

Have a plan. Have a system. Do you have an Insurance Claims Management policy? Do your staff have access to a Claims Flowchart, readily accessibly and easy to follow? The comfort knowing that all staff, regardless of status, tenure, shift or day, will follow the same consistent process will protect you and provide great customer service. Has your insurance provider reviewed your Claims Management and Claims Flowcharts? Heck, better yet, get them to draft up the initial documents and send to you. Delegate to an expert, get your management time back to focus on your customers.

Who wants to argue with a customer? I could start an argument in the lobby of my facility, with a member who tripped down some stairs, and yell, and blame, and threaten to ban them from facility if they don’t tone down their voice…. Or I could just provide excellent customer service, inform them that my role is to gather information and pass on to the insurer to review. Hey, if maintaining a relationship with my member, providing good customer service, referring a potentially legal item to the insurer and removing emotion from a situation is a good thing then yep, that’s what I’m going to do.
An example of a Claims Flowchart for your staff could be as simple as:

  1. Incident reported by Claimant to staff
  2. Staff request information, and / or written claim, and refer matter to Facility Manager. Do not admit liability nor offer opinion. Inform Claimant that your role is to gather information.
  3. Facility Manager and/or Company Representative (depending size of facility, business) will forward information to Insurer (including written claim, supporting documents, photos etc).
  4. Insurer manages claims process on behalf of your business, including investigation and legal process
  5. Insurer advises business of progress of claim
  6. If claim successful, business will pay excess to Insurer.
  7. Matter settled / finalised.

Following such a process will achieve a good customer service approach, identify roles, ensure Insurer’s process and polices are followed and achieve amicable outcomes for all parties.

Keep it simple, keep it legal, and keep it correct. There are multiple parties involved in all incidents and insurance exchanges in our facilities. To exclude one or many of the parties will slow down and confuse the process, and by not following an endorsed process (by insurance provider and yourselves) you may not yield the best outcomes. Partner with you insurance provider, use them as your ‘expert employee’, work together on advice and outcomes.
We are a service based industry, and the customer is at the centre of everything we do. The more positive interactions we can have with our customers, even around negative occurrences, will continue to improve the overall image of the health and fitness industry.

Alex Lord – General Manager of Corporate Services for Belgravia Health and Leisure Group, and his team are responsible for insurance at over 200+ sites including health clubs, swimming pools, water slides, golf courses, wellness centres and tourism parks. alord@belgravialeisure.com.au and 0416628756.

Belgravia Health and Leisure Group use the services of independent broker Victoria Gillespie for all their insurance needs. Victoria Gillespie (Marsh Insurance) provides some of the largest polices in the industry, and delivers specialist industry advice, training, workshops and seminars for all her clients. For more information about insurance, Victoria can be contacted at Victoria.gillespie@marshadvantage.com and 0410 414 220. www.marshadvantage.com.au.