On 29 January 2009, after two years of market consultation, the Association of Insurance and Risk Managers (AIRMIC) published a long-awaited best practice guide for claims handling. Arguing that good service within the claims handling process is crucial for the reputation of the insurer, this guide seeks to be both a tool for insurance buyers and also a reference point for insurers through the claims handling process.

The guide sets out eight distinct elements that determine the quality of a claims service. These are: Culture and Philosophy; Communications; People; Infrastructure; Claims Procedures; Data Management; Operations; Monitoring and Review. These components enable insurers to illustrate more effectively that they measure up to these criteria whilst also helping buyers to establish the quality of claims service on offer.

The guide recognises that there is a considerable amount of anecdotal and subjective evidence regarding the claims handling service provided by different insurance companies. What the guide seeks to do is make sure claims are handled in a "consistent, yet flexible and fair manner that is transparent, accurate and timely, as well as secure and compliant."

The guide author, AIRMIC technical director Paul Hopkin, said the guide, “points to the awkward questions that buyers should ask and the kind of responses and evidence that they have a right to receive.

The guide has attracted the backing of many big insurers with ACE, AIG, AXA, RSA, Zurich and XL all agreeing to report back to AIRMIC on how they match up to the different elements.

The guide is available from www.airmic.com.