Customer Service Focus
Make a difference with great customer service
Retaining the personal touch
By Laura Williams Calcagno, CISR, CPIW
What is the definition of great customer service? This question can be answered in so many ways. However, in my opinion, in order to build a successful business in today's competitive world of insurance, great customer service starts with a great greeting.
It is important for a successful agency to maintain customer relations on every level, beginning with the first person to greet the customer (usually the receptionist) and continuing with that approach all the way to the top.
As a business owner, I learned the importance of hiring professional individuals with excellent work ethics. Once that base of exceptional employees is established, your business's foundation becomes solid. For an owner or for an employee, good principles plus a positive attitude equal superior customer service and inevitable business success.
We all work for a reason, and money is usually that reason. Because we must work, it is essential to spend our time at a rewarding job with excellent co-workers. I am fortunate to be able to work in that kind of environment. My "secret" for success and financial growth is to approach my daily activities by doing the right things, whether interacting with co-workers or customers. This approach becomes contagious and my company ultimately profits. When that profit reaches the top, it trickles back down to me and my co-workers who are all working to be paid, just as I am.
It all begins with "hello." I always try to answer my phone calls and avoid having the call go to voice mail. I answer the phone by saying, "Laura Calcagno, how may I help you?" Good manners are my number one priority. I greet my clients with a polite "Mr." or "Ms.," depending on our relationship. I give my conversations a personal touch by adding, "Hello, Dr. Smith, it is great hearing from you. It has been a while. How have you been?"
If the client asks a question that I cannot answer, I always say, "I don't know, but I will find out and return your call shortly." I am never ashamed of not having an answer and never make up an answer in order to appear knowledgeable. A customer appreciates and trusts honesty. I make a point of returning the call as quickly as I can and either answer the question or let the client know the status of the inquiry before the end of the day. I use the words "Yes, sir," "Yes, ma'am" and "No, sir," "No, ma'am," and do not refer to my boss by his or her first name when speaking with a client. Professionalism, manners and knowledge are valuable keys to success.
Listening to your customer is vital. Customers depend on you as their agent to help and assist in every way possible. The average client does not understand insurance verbiage or coverages as we do. Put yourself in their situation and explain in simple terms that they can understand and relate to. I always provide examples in my explanations of coverage.
Provide clear explanations
I once had a client who was annoyed that the company was asking him to fence in his swimming pool. He lived on 10 acres and his home was right in the middle of the land. In order to get to his home you had to go through trees and brush and over a pond. However, it was an unfenced pool. The problem was he owned a landscaping company and his setting was beyond beautiful. He stated he could put up a fence, but it would be very costly and take away from the beauty of the landscaping. When I told him he had an "attractive nuisance," he argued that his neighbors would never go on his land.
I then told him the following true story: In a quiet neighborhood, one weekend a college student decided to have a party while his parents were out of town. He had approximately 15 friends at his home and they were all drinking. (Shocked, right?) One of the party goers became extremely intoxicated and wandered around the very large back yard. He sighted the neighbors' pool and announced he was going swimming and to watch his dive. The young man dove head first into the drained pool. He died from head trauma. Did he trespass? Yes. Was he drunk? Yes. However, the courts held that a pool is an "attractive nuisance." And the insurance company paid out the claim.
My client related to this tragic but true story and installed fencing. I listened to my client's argument about the fencing, but I also explained—in a way he could understand—why he needed the fence.
Tying it all up
Thank your customer. I end every letter with the following words:
"I would like to thank you for allowing Eagan Insurance to continue to service your insurance needs. We appreciate your business."
In addition, every e-mail I send contains this phrase at the bottom: "Smiles are contagious." Did you know that smiles can be heard through the phone? It is true; try it!
Finally, one of my favorite adages is: "Good, better, best—never let it rest—until your good gets better, and your better gets best." By making a difference in your position, you will make a difference which will echo back and forth in the halls of the business pyramid.
Every obstacle is really a stepping stone to reach a higher level. Never give up the strong desire to continue learning and always striving for excellence. This is the most direct way to stand out and be recognized and create self-fulfillment, pride, excellent morale and a winning attitude.
Laura Williams Calcagno, CISR, CPIW, is one of Eagan Insurance Agency's premier account managers, specializing in commercial property and casualty insurance. Laura has been in the insurance industry for more than 28 years, with extensive experience in commercial and personal lines coverage placement, claims handling, and business account management. Laura was named "Outstanding Customer Service Representative in Louisiana" in 1993 and again in 2011. For more information on the CISR program or the CSR of the Year Award, go to: www.TheNationalAlliance.com