The Gilmore Research Group of Seattle surveyed more than 900 employers and injured workers between June 10 and July 1 of this year. It found that of the workers injured so badly they couldn't work, 74 percent said they were satisfied with their claims experience. That is a significant increase over a survey Gilmore conducted in 2000 when 61 percent said they were satisfied with the service they received. Gilmore also conducted an identical survey in 1998 that found that 56 percent were satisfied with services they received.
The Gilmore surveys are part of an ongoing effort by L&I to improve customer service. The agency hired Gilmore in 1998 to do a baseline survey of customer perceptions. Follow-up surveys were conducted in 2000 and again this year.
Injured workers reported positive feelings about L&I's claims services related to perceptions that L&I cares about the worker, encourages questions and answers them in an understandable way, protects the worker's interests and handles claims in a timely manner.
Of the workers just receiving medical treatment for their injuries, which make up the vast majority of L&I claims, 87 percent gave a positive response to how their claim was handled. This compares with 74 percent in the 2000 survey.
Employers, too, were generally satisfied with the way L&I handled claims filed by their employees. Three-fourths of the employers interviewed in the survey said they had a positive experience. Asked why, employers most commonly referred to the speed and diligence in which claims were settled.
In recent years, Gov. Gary Locke has told state agencies to improve customer service. In response to his order, Labor and Industries is making dramatic changes in how it administers claims. Among the changes is a campaign to get injured workers well and back on the job as quickly as possible.
"We've still got a ways to go, but this survey indicates that we're headed in the right direction," said L&I Director Paul Trause. "Across the nation, workers' compensation systems are facing tremendous challenges. We are doing everything within our power to meet those challenges and hold down the cost of industrial insurance to employers and workers. We're working to eliminate delays caused by us and urging all involved to do everything they can to get a worker back on the job as quickly as possible. Nobody benefits when a worker is injured and stays off the job for an extended period of time. That costs the worker in earning power and the employer in higher premiums."
Virtually all of the numbers in the Gilmore survey showed improvement over previous surveys conducted by the company. For example, only 3 percent of the workers surveyed reported being "very dissatisfied" with L&I's handling of their claim. In 2000 that number was 12 percent. The survey also indicated that L&I staff are communicating well with their customers.
Among employers, Gilmore research found that:
- 93 percent reported that staff was courteous and professional
- 93 percent said questions were answered in a way they could understand
- 87 percent said claims were handled in a reasonable amount of time
- 81 percent said phone calls were returned promptly
- Among injured workers the survey found that:
- 82 percent of those workers receiving time-loss compensation said the decisions L&I made were fair
- 85 percent reported that the staff was courteous and professional
- 80 percent said their claim was handled in a reasonable amount of time