How to Unleash the Power of Empathy

Focus on three key areas for success with customer experience: active listening, clear language and personalized experience.

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--By empathizing with client needs, emotions and concerns, an independent agent can foster trust and loyalty to ensure a positive and memorable encounter that drives long-term advocacy.  


Human-centric agencies take the time to build and nurture relationships, develop loyalty and show up for the local community, whether by supporting youth sports, being there when disaster strikes or giving to charities. But how do you take this human-centric connection to the next level and create a truly empathetic client experience? The first step: Understand the true meaning of empathy and the connection to the customer experience. 

Consider Brené Brown’s take on empathy. Brown, renowned for her work on leadership and for her widely viewed TEDx talk on the topic, says, “Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘you’re not alone.’”

Understanding the connection between empathy and client relationships can take your client experience to a new level. By empathizing with client needs, emotions and concerns, an independent agent can foster trust and loyalty to ensure a positive and memorable encounter that drives long-term advocacy.  

The facts

With economic fears high, many businesses are weary of additional spending, and some may even look to customer experience (CX) investments as a place to cut back. But many companies find that the short-term cost savings have long-term consequences. At Vertafore, my team understands any cutbacks to the CX department would be a huge gamble. Now is the time for steady investment in human-centered support as customers depend on these knowledgeable teams for a variety of business-critical activities.

In 2023, customers continue to look for exceptional service with not only a human on the other line, but helpful staff who can understand setbacks, talk through scenarios and work to find a solution. An article in Deloitte Insights says, “Two-thirds of customers who switch brands do so because of poor service, and analysts predict that customer experience—including support experience—is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” 

Focus on three key areas for continued CX success: active listening, clear language and personalized experience.

Active listening 

Insurance is a deeply personal industry. Clients come to insurance agents seeking protection and support during vulnerable times. The whole agency should practice active listening to build trust and foster long-term loyalty, leading to increased customer retention and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

By attentively listening to client questions, concerns and goals, agents can gain a deeper understanding of their unique situations and provide empathetic responses once the client has completed their exchange. This careful listening enables agents to offer tailored solutions that meet individual needs and build trust and confidence. Agencies that build a culture around kindness and respect will come off loud and clear to the end insurer. 

See also: A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

Clear language

By avoiding technical jargon and employing everyday language, agents can empower clients with knowledge and enable them to make informed decisions aligned with their unique needs. 

Clear communication can be achieved through multiple platforms. Interactions through different channels, such as phone, email or chat, can be adjusted for tone and pace depending on the client on the other end. Training team members to actively listen, ask probing questions and validate client emotions can significantly enhance the customer experience. Maintaining the right balance of professionalism and compassion is essential, as it enhances the customer experience, cultivates trust and ultimately leads to greater satisfaction. 

Personalized experience 

In an age where customers are inundated with generic marketing messages, personalization emerges as the key differentiator that sets agents apart, creating a competitive advantage that directly affects the entire agency. As businesses strive to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of customer expectations, investing in personalized customer experiences becomes not only essential but also a strategic imperative for long-term success and growth.

By harnessing technology as an enabler of efficient and empathetic communication, agents can leverage its capabilities to enhance client interactions and ensure they feel heard, valued and supported throughout their insurance journey. Technology can empower agents with a complete view of client history and preferences, enabling them to deliver more personalized support during interactions.

Reputation is everything in a crowded market 

When clients feel genuinely understood and supported, they become advocates for your agency. They're more likely to share positive experiences with friends and family, amplifying your agency's reputation and attracting new business organically. CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, which represents more than brand and price combined. 

Customer reviews and feedback play a crucial role in shaping public perception. By consistently delivering empathetic client experiences, you position your agency as one that values and prioritizes the needs of its clients. This positive reputation can help you differentiate yourself in a crowded market and attract high-quality clients.

The bottom line

For independent agencies, the losses that come from poor support can be measured in dollars. But there are other considerations here. Supporting clients with empathy, active listening and clear actions to solve their problem benefits the entire agency and builds a positive workplace culture. It also results in a tight-knit community of employees ready to handle whatever comes next.

Andy Mickelson

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Andy Mickelson

Andy Mickelson is VP, customer support at Vertafore

He focuses on driving a customer-centric organization by building scalable resolutions and high-performing teams and implementing client-facing best practices. He's previously served on customer support teams at Intuit, DIRECTV and AORN.

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