In this difficult time for many of your insurance clients, they are counting on your insurance agency to be a guiding force in communication and leadership. They may feel frustrated, angry, and confused, and this can be reflected in their interactions with insurance providers. Listening to your clients can be the best form of maintaining successful ongoing client relationships, especially in times of crisis.
COVID-19: What Your Clients Are Navigating Right Now
On a regular basis, your insurance agency employees talk to clients who are worried, frustrated, or feeling like they're in crisis. However, the COVID-19 crisis is different in that a large number of your clients likely feel this way. They may have lost their jobs and they are worried about how to pay their bills. They may need to move abruptly due to changes in their living situation. While you can't change the way that your clients feel about what's going on in their lives, you can give them the best possible interaction with your own company. This positive customer service interaction begins with listening to your clients.
Communication in Times of Crisis
How can you be a reassuring presence in a client's day? The key to crisis communication is to build a solid foundation of listening. During client interactions, listening is even more important than speaking to a client. It helps you convey empathy and understanding and ensure that you fully understand the client's needs. In a crisis, problems add up and can seem insurmountable and overwhelming to your clients. They need a competent, empathetic customer service team that is not just there to jump to a solution but is there to thoroughly understand the problem first.
Listening is especially important during times when phone or chat conversation replaces in-person conversation.
How to Listen In Times of Crisis
According to Skills You Need , "research shows that an average of 45% (of an adult's time) is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading, and 9% writing." Listening is the core skill that your employees need when they're interacting with clients, particularly clients in crisis. How can you make it easier for your employees to listen?
Prioritize listening in your company culture. Let your employees know that you expect them to listen and understand the client's needs. Now more than ever, you need to have a listening first policy. When your employees listen to the client's needs first, they can understand the situation, empathize, and prevent communication about the problem.
Clients who are in crisis may not be able to clearly articulate their needs at first. They may sound very angry. That anger may be directed at your employee, but it may be about the client's general situation more than it is about your employee. Train your employees to regulate their own emotions before responding to a client who is angry.
Train your employees in active listening: how to reflect and summarize the client's needs. It's easy to listen and then forget what someone has said. Practice summarizing the core message of what you hear. It can be helpful to articulate some of this back to the client.
Create a plan in advance to escalate listening if needed. According to Forbes , "more companies would benefit from having a designated communication expert during times of crisis." Sometimes an employee is unable to manage a client interaction or a client demands to talk to someone else. Have a plan in place to navigate this when it occurs. Who is your insurance agency's listener extraordinaire?
Provide time for your team to troubleshoot client interactions together. This allows them to be more able to interact with clients in a consistently professional way.
Maintain ongoing staff dialogue to learn from client communication. Listening allows you to hear your clients' needs and respond accordingly so that you can better connect with all of your clients. For example, based on what you learn by listening to your clients, you might choose to offer resources such as an FAQ on your insurance website to specifically address their concerns during this crisis.
Listening is Good Marketing
Clients want you to understand them. Even if you can't completely fulfill their needs at that moment, by listening with empathy you give your clients a better customer service experience. Over time, businesses grow through word of mouth, and you want your clients to tell others how understanding your customer service team was as they worked to listen and solve their problems.
At American Agents Alliance, we're here to listen to you and to help you solve the challenging issues that you manage every day in your insurance agency. We work with independent insurance agencies to provide the support you need to run your business. Connect with us, and we'll help your independent insurance agency thrive: contact us today to learn more about our membership benefits .