Customer Service Focus
Customer service has roots!
Cultivation creates a healthy relationship
By Bridgett Purpich, CISR
The roots of customer service seem to have been relegated to a "do another day pile" and replaced with handling the next item, boss's demands, meetings, and/or meeting goals in the fast-paced insurance professional's life.
Service and clients are what the insurance industry is based around. It's time to replant the roots of customer service—common courtesy, plain English and, of course, the Golden Rule.
Common courtesy seems to have become almost a forgotten skill today. In replanting the "to do another day pile," consider implementing these common courtesies:
• Be friendly, polite and respectful! Start with a friendly voice when greeting clients. On the phone, this will come across as a warm smile making them feel welcome. To show respect, address clients by their preference (whether it is Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.), by their first name, or even a requested nickname. Be polite and ask clients how they are doing and chat a bit about their life before getting down to business. In lieu of interrupting clients in conversation, replace with such courtesies as "May I . . ." "Would it be okay if . . ." etc., to show respect and politeness.
• Send courtesy replies and e-mails, and make phone calls. A courtesy reply or call simply lets clients know you have received their message (e-mail, voice message, text, etc.). It offers the opportunity to advise them that there will be a response even if you cannot respond in a reasonable time frame. A courtesy call may be made to a client as a follow-up to a prior conversation or simply to find out how the client is doing. Or—have you ever sent a courtesy e-mail to clients giving them a heads-up on a refund check being sent to them so they know what it is for and so they know to look for it?
• Use good manners and don't forget to say thank you! Please end calls with closings such as, "Thank you for calling!" or, "I appreciate your business and look forward to our next conversation!" These closings acknowledge the client's patronage, which is important.
These all may sound like little things, but rest assured that common courtesy increases clients' loyalty to your office. The way in which you communicate with clients says a lot about what kind of a professional you are. Being mindful of this can put any agent a step ahead of the competition.
Speak plainly! "Insurance" has a language all of its own that insurance professionals speak amongst themselves on a daily basis. It is not a language that should always be spoken with clients, however, as they simply don't understand it. When speaking with clients, avoid insurance jargon such as MVR & LPR, for example. These terms simply muddy the conversation and create confusion. Instead, discuss insurance in plain English using, for example, "driving record" instead of MVR and "cancellation form" instead of LPR.
When explaining coverages, a claim, or a scenario to clients, try plain English! For example, a client has a vacant building that has been unoccupied for 100 days and the client just informed the agent. This means the "vacancy clause" is now applicable. If the agent were to respond to the client with, "The vacancy clause in your policy applies," the client is not going to know what that means or how it impacts them. Instead, try this explanation: "You just shared with me that your building has been vacant for 100 days in a row. This is more than the 60 days allowed in the policy. Thus, the policy automatically removes coverage on the vacant building for vandalism, building glass breakage, water damage, theft or attempted theft, and sprinkler leakage (unless the building is protected against freezing). Plus, claims payments for covered losses like fire and wind would be reduced by 15%."
Spelling out the details in plain English helps clients understand such items as "vacancy clause" and its impact on them as the building owner so that they have the opportunity to take appropriate measures. It also provides them with a quick insurance education that they can use in the future.
The Golden Rule
Living by the Golden Rule is the most essential root for ethical professionals in the insurance industry—or any industry for that matter. This industry is complex, but the Golden Rule is simple: Treat others as you would like to be treated. There's nothing worse than to be on the receiving end of an error and then not to receive an apology! To err is human; to apologize is professional. A simple, "I'm sorry for the error," extended with sincerity to the client creates a neutral ground from which a solution can be achieved in order to restore client confidence.
Another example could be when an agent realizes that a phone call has reached him or her by mistake. The agent shouldn't hastily transfer that call but should take the time to listen and identify what the caller really needs. Then, the call can be transferred to the appropriate person or, perhaps that agent can provide the needed help, even though it is not his or her true job. The Golden Rule is the core root of ethical professionals and also deeply roots clients to their agency.
Our busy days—meetings, handling the next item, goals, client requests, company requests, and the boss's demands—need to be placed on level ground and balanced with the daily servicing of clients. These roots are essential to an agent's success. Providing good solid customer service and having rooted clients benefits an agency in a number of ways including increasing revenue, retaining clients, and decreasing errors & omissions claims.
Both client and agency benefit when common courtesies are extended, plain English is spoken, and the Golden Rule is followed!
Bridgett Purpich, CISR, has been in insurance since 1990, working in a service capacity at several agencies. In 2000, she joined Knight Crockett Miller as a personal lines consultant. In 2002, she transitioned to a commercial lines service representative. She is also a past winner of the 2011 Outstanding CSR of the Year Award for the state of Ohio, awarded by The National Alliance. For more information on this award or the CISR program, go to: www.TheNationalAlliance.com.
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