TOP 5 CUSTOMER-FOCUSED PHONE TIPS
How to use phone calls to help drive client satisfaction
[W]hen a client calls you, they want your empathy and they want to know that you have the ability to fix what’s wrong immediately.
By Michael Wayne
Think about your agency’s business model as it relates to clients. More than likely, you reside in one of two camps—those with producers who secure business and pass off the overwhelming amount of service aspects to support staff or those with producers who are intimately involved with the day-to-day servicing of their book of business.
Regardless of which group you are in, client satisfaction is vital to your success.
Do not confuse “satisfaction” for “happiness.” According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, “Happiness is a momentary experience that arises spontaneously and is fleeting. Meanwhile, satisfaction is a long-term feeling, built over time and based on achieving goals and building the kind of life you admire.” Your clients’ happiness is not what you are striving for ultimately. It could be argued, however, that those fleeting moments, stacked upon one another progressively are the building blocks of what you want—their satisfaction.
Last year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index rated customer satisfaction for property and casualty insurance at 78 out of 100—basically a C-plus. Of the 12,841 people who were polled, only 77% were satisfied with the speed of claim processing and completion. While 80% were satisfied with their call center experiences, 88% were satisfied with their insurers’ mobile apps. Unfortunately, according to J.D. Power, overall customer satisfaction with insurers’ digital claims processes dipped for a second year in a row. Frustration with systems led to many clients opting to reach agents via phone. In our world, that’s an astounding and emotional step.
Consider this: OnePoll conducted a survey last year in which it asked 2,000 Americans what they would rather do than call customer support. Some 30% responded that they would instead choose to do their taxes; 24% stated they would rather shave their heads; an additional 22% stated that they would prefer to spend a night in jail. In short, when a client calls you, they want your empathy and they want to know that you have the ability to fix what’s wrong immediately.
Here are five ways you can be ready when a client has gotten fed up enough to actually call you.
- Be available. It’s okay to screen your calls, listen to voicemails, and understand what you are up against. Make sure, though, that you are responding quickly. Letting a client fester only increases their frustration. You do not want their frustration aimed at you, much less be because of you. Call them back and, if you get their voicemail, provide some information as to what you are doing to fix things. More important, provide them with a few definitive times when you are prepared to answer the phone as soon as you see their name and number pop on your screen.
- Write out the information you need to convey. And have it handy. Things can get heated in the moment. While you are keeping your composure throughout the call, it’s possible that you might neglect to mention a detail or two. Prevent that from happening by having a script of sorts. This isn’t so that you can read a prepared statement to the client like you are a bad press secretary at a hostile press conference. Rather, this is to prepare you to be natural in the moment and to assist in assuring your client that you have the solution to their issue.
- Practice what you are going to say. You don’t have to do it for every call, but every so often it is a good idea to role-play various scenarios. This is a great exercise to mentor another producer while keeping yourself sharp. You need to hear different voices and the way that you might be approached on the phone so that you can figure out how to appropriately respond. This is even an exercise that would make sense to do agencywide as a webinar or seminar.
- Know the end game. Before you dial, understand what you want to accomplish on the call. If you don’t have all of the answers that client wants, at the very least you need a plan with as definitive of a timeline as you can have to get them the answers they want. Presenting yourself confidently is a large part of the battle. Your client wants to know that you can navigate and captain this ship through this rough sea. They do not want to see you staring at the iceberg without the chart to steer safely around it.
- Take the lead. Once you have picked up the phone to speak to a client or have returned their call, the trajectory of this experience is in your hands. If a call was needed, most times the situation is not going to be fully resolved in one conversation. Moving forward, you have to be the contact initiator. Create a schedule of when you are going to provide updates until there is resolution. Do not try to ignore the issue away, and don’t make it so that your client has to track you down again for answers. That’s simply going to lead to more angry phone calls and voicemails before you’re dropped for a competitor.
Your success, or lack thereof, will depend largely on the relationships you foster. You’re not always going to beat everyone on price. Make certain that your clients are aware of the added value you bring to this long-term partnership and enhance the emotional connection you have with them genuinely every chance you get. Happiness is something that happens in the moment. Satisfaction, like memory, sticks.
Michael Wayne is a freelance insurance writer.