By Kara Deveney
In the insurance business, no news is good news. You generally speak to your clients only when they’re acquiring a policy or when something bad has happened.
In the case of the latter, you become not only an insurance agent, but a friend, a therapist and an advisor. When you started your career, you never guessed that you’d be wearing so many hats, did you?
The best agents know how to get the technical parts of the job done while also showing their human side. And the happiest and most loyal customers are those who feel as if their insurance company is there to make their lives just a little bit easier.
Here are five tried and true ways to help customers who need some comforting in addition to a claim file number.
- Start with a Chat
Most of the customers who call you have just had a very stressful and scary experience. Whether they’ve been in a car accident, had their home broken into or become injured, they’re probably feeling upset and worried.
So, before you start asking them to relay details of the incident, just ask how they’re doing. Take a few minutes to express your genuine concern about their safety. This establishes you as an actual person, rather than insurance bot who’s just there to fill out forms. You’ll be surprised by how much more forthcoming they’ll be when it comes time to dig a bit deeper into the details of the incident.
2. Show Some Sympathy
While you certainly must remain professional, it’s important that you have authentic and sympathetic responses to what they tell you. Think of the way you’d react if a friend told you that her car was the victim of a hit and run. Statements like, “That’s terrible, I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you” or, “I know how worried you must be right now” can go a long way in creating trust and letting your customers know that they’re valued.
And, when appropriate, it’s even OK to make it personal. If you’ve ever experienced a similar situation to that of your customer, why not say so? Sometimes, when we’re upset, all we need to hear is that someone else has been in our shoes and understands how we’re feeling. You don’t need to get into specifics; it’s enough just to say that you’ve been there.
3. Reflective Listening
Reflective listening is a useful strategy employed by therapists the world over. But, don’t worry, it’s simple and very effective at making people feel heard and calm.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The first step is listening well – really pay attention to the words they’re using and the tone they’re using.
- Use small words and sounds to show that you’re listening: “Uh huh,” “Yes,”“Sure,” “Right.”
- Restate important points back to the customer: “I heard you say that…”
- Clarify your understanding: “Is this right?”
- Reflect feelings: “It sounds like you might be worried about…”
This strategy will actually help you to get a better understanding of what happened and it will also serve to communicate your respect and empathy for the client.
4. Focus on Solutions
Of course, part of your job is to get people to talk about the problem, but you should throw in positivity and solution-oriented talk whenever possible. Explain that the worst part is over and that now you’ll work together to make things better.
As soon as the conversation allows, change your tone from sympathetic and concerned to positive and encouraging. What are you going to do as soon as you hang up to put the wheels in motion? What should they do on their end to facilitate the process? At what point can they expect everything to be resolved? Focusing on these reparative actions and looking into the future to a time when this difficult chapter will be over will surely put anxious customers at ease.
5. Check for Understanding
If you’ve ever had a scary experience, you know firsthand that you’re not really thinking straight in the aftermath. When people are shaken up, they are far less likely to fully process or remember what you tell them. That’s why you have to do everything you can to make sure that they understand what has been said and what they should do next to resolve the situation.
Here are a few tips:
- Ask, “Do you understand?” or “Is that clear?” occasionally as you relay information.
- Encourage the client to write down details they’ll need to have later.
- Offer to send them the information in an e-mail after you hang up.
- At the end of the conversation, go beyond the usual, “Do you have any other questions?” Instead say something like, “I know that was a lot of information – is there anything you’d like me to repeat or clarify?”
- Make sure they have your direct number and e-mail address in case they have questions later.
It may take some practice to really incorporate these strategies into your everyday practice, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you feel like you have a diverse arsenal of strategies to use to help calm troubled customers.
Mastering these techniques will not only make your job easier, it will inspire serious customer loyalty. The value of forming personal relationships with your customers can not be overstated. In a time when your customers are bombarded with your competitors’ ads, nothing will keep them with you more than the feeling that you care about them as people.