Tag Archives: communication

3 Tips for Increasing Customer Engagement

Customers are rushing to embrace the digital space. Is your business prepared?

Even before the pandemic, insurance customers were moving to digital channels and demanding the kind of smooth experience they get with Google and Amazon. With customers demanding new types of interactions and agencies and companies needing to increase leads in a world that’s gone from face-to-face to zoom, technology doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Watch this complimentary webinar and learn how to:

  • understand your customers’ expectations
  • expand the ways you connect
  • streamline your communication channels
  • attract and service customers digitally

Don’t miss this free on demand panel discussion. Space is limited, so register today!


Presenters:

Joseph Jenkins

Director of Professional Services
Podium

Kyle Henrie

Regional Director of Sales
Podium

Paul Carroll

Editor-in-Chief
Insurance Thought Leadership

Whole New World for Customer Contact

Common things we hear these days: “If you really want to reach me, text me.” “Send that file to me via Slack.” “I live on Facebook, so send me a message on Facebook Messenger.”

We also observe that many people never answer voicemail, virtually ignore emails and throw away mail without even looking at it.

These are samplings of the communication patterns that are evolving in our society today. Meanwhile, how do we in the insurance industry communicate with our policyholders, agents, claimants and others? Email, phone calls and documents in the mail predominate. Web portals are also common. Some of the newer options for interaction are not on the radar of most insurers. Now, there are certainly individuals who still want to receive information in the traditional ways, and there will continue to be a need for these options, but the tide is turning.

See also: The Missing Piece for Customer Experience  

SMA has been investigating some new communication options and their implications for insurers. Our new research report, Advanced Customer Communications in the Digital Age: New Options for Insurers, explores how communications have evolved, how the insurance industry is using these options (or not), example use cases and what it all means in the context of an omni-channel environment.

Some of the new(er) forms of communication that have been gaining adoption and setting new expectations for customers include:

  • SMS texting and online chat: Although it is difficult to classify these as “new,” the insurance industry still has very little use of the technologies outside of the enterprise.
  • Messaging and collaboration platforms: These have been proliferating over the past decade or so, with tools like Skype, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Zoom and many others gaining large followings.
  • Voice assistants and chatbots: As voice and AI technologies have leapt forward, the opportunities to leverage AI-driven chatbots and voice assistants has increased dramatically. Much experimentation is underway in insurance.
  • Smart documents: Documents in many forms will continue to play a major role in communicating information to prospects, producers and policyholders. Rethinking those documents from a customer perspective and making them interactive and parametric provide great opportunities for the industry.
  • Augmented/virtual reality: Although a bit further out in terms of adoption and implications for insurance, there are already pilots and projects underway in the industry.

See also: How Customers Buy… and Why They Don’t  

The way the world communicates is rapidly changing, and everyone has their favorite options. Insurers would be wise to consider these in their customer journey and omni-channel strategies and plans.

11 Ways to Use Tech Better With Clients

Technology can enhance a strong, trust-based relationship with your clients, but it’s no substitution for face-to-face time. Here are 11 tips that will help you use high-tech tools in a smart and meaningful way.

Technology does a lot, but it can’t do everything. Sometimes, we forget that. We can get so dependent on email and social media that we lose sight of what people really need from us—especially in business. Yes, clients expect to connect with us in various high-tech ways, but they also crave the deep and meaningful connections that can only come from face-to-face (or at least voice-to-voice) connections. It can be tricky to walk the line.

Too little tech, and you’ll seem out of touch; too much, and you’ll lose the personal touch that keeps customers loyal and engaged. As you’re trying to find the right balance, just remember this: Your client relationships are built on emotions and trust, so use technology in a way that maintains and enhances relationships and propels them to the next level.

I attribute my career journey to my ability to build strong personal relationships. Following early success in the clothing industry, I experienced a devastating bankruptcy that forced me to rebuild my life from scratch. I went on to join Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., where I created an impressive financial portfolio and won multiple “Top Agent” awards.

Human needs don’t change. Relationships mattered in the days of pencil, paper and snail mail, and they still matter in the days of Facebook and Skype.

Ideally, you would meet with all of your clients in person, but of course that’s not always practical. Still, you should invest in at least one face-to-face meeting with your top clients. Then, use a carefully balanced mix of technology to maintain the relationship. Here are a few tips for using tech the right way.

Don’t let “faceless” and “voiceless” technology become your primary communication tool. Nothing can replace the effectiveness of a face-to-face encounter (even if it’s by Skype), especially in the early phases of your client relationship. And meaningful phone conversations can be great, too. It’s fine to use less powerful tech solutions like email, texting and e-blasts to stay in close contact with your clients. These can enhance and strengthen a well-established relationship. But they should only be supplemental.

Skype important meetings if you can’t be there in person. Ideally, “in person” interactions are best for relationship building—especially with your top clients—but, of course, they can’t always happen. Video conferencing is second-best. Make sure you’re using this tech tool often. It’s a great way to read body language and facial expressions—crucial for building trust and establishing positive and productive relationships.

Pick up the phone regularly. Many people dislike the phone. Conversations can be long and meandering, and we’re all busy. But you must overcome your phone phobia. In terms of relationship building (not to mention problem solving), there is no substitute for the give and take that happens voice-to-voice. Schedule actual phone conversations with clients to catch up and find out how they are doing. Keep that human connection alive!

See also: How Technology Drives a ‘New Normal’  

Pay attention to how the client communicates. If a client seems to prefer phone, text or in-person communication, note it and honor the preferred style while maintaining your own dedication to person-to-person contact. This shows clients you care about and respect their preferences. Find a happy balance between the client’s style, yours and the demands of the day.

Match the medium to the message. If you want to distinguish yourself and have something very important to say, write a letter! If you are trying to book an appointment with a busy person, figure out something complex or discuss a potentially sensitive issue, pick up the phone. If you only want confirmation of a small piece of information and you’ve recently spoken with a client, feel free to use email. Let your instinct be your guide.

Be thoughtful and deliberate with social media. Your competition is taking advantage of these platforms, and so should you. But make sure your online presence is well-planned and -executed. Your Facebook or LinkedIn posts should meaningfully connect back to your brand and mission and provide value to clients and other readers. Don’t bombard your followers with inane content. This negates your credibility. Post less, and make sure your content is good.

Keep your website young and agile. Is your website in alignment with your business image and your mission? Make sure it’s as professional and sleek as your own personal appearance when meeting a client for the first time. Successful companies have streamlined, up-to-date websites with modern fonts, colors and layouts. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your design, your website is due for a tune-up and a facelift.

Use email to send links to articles you think your client might enjoy. Trusting relationships thrive on frequent contact. To solidify your connection to clients (especially when you haven’t talked in a while), send them little links and articles you know they will enjoy. This gesture shows you are thinking about them and know where their interests lie. Just keep these communications in balance. Bombarding clients with superficial links and articles may actually weaken the value of your contact with them and undermine your relationship.

Send e-newsletters to all your clients. This a good way to engage regularly with clients and stay on their minds. Create compelling content that connects with the various lines of services you are currently offering and craft interesting articles for your clients around related topics.

Personalize your high-tech communication. Sometimes e-blasts make sense, but, whenever possible, include a small personal note at the top that lets clients see they matter to you.

See also: 5 Ways to Enhance Client Engagement  

Allow clients to log in and access their information. Whenever possible, empower clients by putting information at their fingertips. This not only saves time for your clients when they need to get a small piece of information, but also goes a long way toward building mutual trust.

If you harness the power of technology correctly, it can do wonderful things for your business. But remember that it is only one tool in your toolbox. Use technology to enhance business, but don’t let it overshadow your mission to keep trust-based client relationships at the center of everything you do.

How to Communicate Following a Suicide

More than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage regarding a death by suicide can increase the likelihood of additional suicide deaths in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude of the increase is related to the amount, duration and prominence of coverage. Business leaders can learn from these media studies and shape written and oral communication in a preventive way.

Media Lesson: Risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic, graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death. Use non-sensationalized language and life-giving terms. Avoid images that glamorize the death such as photos or videos of the location or method of death or grieving family and friends. Headlines such as “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide” should better be drafted as “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27.”

Business Application: Talk about suicide in a way that assumes the recipient will handle the information in a mature, responsible, life-giving way. Often, leaders avoid any reference to suicide when speaking with their teams. The rationale can be wanting to avoid any power of suggestion. “We didn’t want to give them the idea.” This belief is highly inaccurate. They already have the idea…especially immediately following a death by suicide within their social circle. Avoiding the topic lends it negative power. Discussing suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths, which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.

See Also: A Manager’s Response to Workplace Suicide

Media Lesson: Avoid reporting that death by suicide was preceded by a single event, such as a recent job loss, divorce or bad performance review. Also, avoid describing a suicide as inexplicable or “without warning.” Reporting like this leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading understanding of suicide.

Application: Suicide is complex. There are almost always multiple causes, including psychiatric illnesses that may not have been recognized or treated. However, these illnesses are treatable. Refer to research findings that mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90% of people who have died by suicide. Most, but not all, people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs. Identify a list of usual “Warning Signs”. Consider quoting a suicide prevention expert on causes and treatments.

Fully acknowledge the horror and the loss but emphasize what is being done to support those who are impacted. Change your language from “committed suicide” or “successful/unsuccessful suicide” to “died by suicide” or “completed suicide.”

Media Lesson: Do not cite the content of the suicide note or any “manifesto.” Better would be “A note from the deceased was found and is being reviewed by the medical examiner.”

Application: Communicate, communicate, communicate but determine what content is shared on a “what is helpful/need to know” basis and always prioritize respectful adherence to the needs and wishes of the family.

Media Lesson: Use your story to inform readers about the causes of suicide, its warning signs, trends in rates, and recent treatment advances. Include means of accessing resources.

Application: Knowledge offers healthy power. Have a hopeful, caring, life-giving tone. Focus the major portion of your remarks upon resilience and health rather than details about the death. Talk about available treatment options, stories of those who overcame a suicidal crisis, and resources for help. Emphasize faith practice and spiritual strength. Include up-to-date local and national resources where people can find treatment, information and advice that promotes help-seeking.

Business leaders can change the conversation and help keep people just a little bit safer.

10 Steps for Dealing With a Suicide

(Adapted from A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace: 10 Action Steps for Dealing With the Aftermath of a Suicide)

Death jars our concept of the way life is supposed to be. That dissonance is multiplied when the death is by suicide.

Following the tragedy of death by suicide, the workforce will include people whose personal struggles already leave them vulnerable and who now face increased risk for destructive behavior, including suicide. Tragedy can beget additional tragedies. Sometimes irrational blaming behavior includes violence. Sometimes suicide contagion, or “copycat suicides,” occur. How leaders respond (postvention) after death by suicide is critical to stopping that negative momentum.

“Postvention” can be prevention

Defined by the Suicide Prevention Resource Council as “the provision of crisis intervention and other support after a suicide has occurred to address and alleviate possible effects of suicide,” effective postvention has been found to stabilize community, prevent contagion and facilitate return to a new normal.

  1. Coordinate: Contain the crisis. Like the highway patrolmen on-sight at a traffic accident, postvention aims to prevent one tragedy from leading to another and return normal progression as soon as is safely possible.
  1. Notify: Protect and respect the privacy rights of the deceased employee and the person’s loved ones during death notification.
  1. Communicate: Reduce the potential for contagion. Communicate, communicate, communicate meaningful information. Keep it simple. Make it practical. Focus on solutions to immediate issues. Repeat it. Repeat it again.

Crisis Care Network, the largest provider of critical incident response services to the workplace, developed a crisis communication process that has been helpful for business leaders. The acronym ACT describes a means of acknowledging, communicating and transitioning amid a crisis.

See Also: 6 Things to Do to Prevent Suicide

Acknowledge and name the incident

  • Have an accurate understanding of the facts and avoid conjecture.
  • Demonstrate the courage to use real language that names what occurred.
  • Acknowledge that the incident has an impact on team members and that it is okay that individuals will be affected differently.

Communicate pertinent information with both compassion and competence

  • In the absence of information, people create it. Providing information reduces the likelihood of rumors, builds trust and provides a sense of order that supports moving forward.
  • Although very difficult to do when affected by traumatic stress oneself, communicating with both competence and compassion demonstrates leadership effectiveness in a caring way. Employee assistance program (EAP) consultants often help business leaders by scripting and coaching their messaging.

Transition toward a future focus

  • Communicate an expectation of recovery. Those affected must gain a vision of “survivor” rather than “victim.” Research indicates that humans are an amazingly resilient species and overwhelmingly bounces back from adversity.
  • Communicate flexible and reasonable accommodations as people progress to a new normal. Employees should not all be expected to immediately function at full productivity (although some will) but will recover quicker if assigned to simple, concrete tasks. Structure and focus are helpful, and extended time away from work often inhibits recovery. “If you fall off a horse…..get back on a pony.”
  1. Support: Offer practical assistance to the family and those affected.
  1. Link: Identify and link affected employees to additional support resources and refer those most affected to professional mental health services.

How to lead effective suicide postvention was likely not part of most business leaders’ education or training. When these tragedies occur, leaders often engage their EAP to deploy critical incident response experts – behavioral health professionals with unique training in response to tragedies. These consultants will:

  • Consult with the organization’s leadership regarding crisis communication strategies that facilitate resilience
  • Draw circles of impact and shape an appropriate response
  • Let people talk if they wish to do so
  • Identify normal reactions to an abnormal event so that people don’t panic regarding their own reactions
  • Build group support
  • Outline self-help recovery strategies
  • Brainstorm solutions to overcome immediate return-to-function and return-to-life obstacles
  • Assess movement toward either immediate business-as-usual functioning or additional care. Following death by suicide, they will be especially attuned to assess others for risk of self-harm.
  1. Comfort: Support, comfort and promote healthy grieving of the employees who have been affected by the loss. Critical incident response consultants will guide, coach, and script leaders regarding compassionate messaging. Leaders must “give permission” for help-seeking behavior.
  1. Restore: Restore equilibrium and optimal functioning in the workplace.

Sensitively resume a familiar schedule. People do best when their natural rhythms kick back in. Routine. No surprises. One foot in front of the other, just like yesterday.

Facilitate successful completion of familiar tasks. Doing something tangible reduces that sense of powerlessness and helps people focus on what they can do, rather than panic about what they cannot. The structure of doing what one knows how to do is helpful in finding a “new normal.”

  1. Lead: Build and sustain trust and confidence in organizational leadership. The team will never forget the leader’s response. Neither will the leader. Effective provision of both guidance and support will lead to the team feeling cared for in the workplace and result in loyalty and faith in their leadership’s abilities. People will go through the crisis with or without leadership. Lead them.
  1. Honor: Prepare for anniversary reactions and other milestone dates. Mark these dates on the calendar and then respectfully acknowledge them in large or small ways. Honor those affected by the death.
  • Sustain: Move from postvention to suicide prevention.

All involved stakeholders will now own the fact that “it can happen here.” Use that momentum to keep others safer. Following death by suicide, leaders all become “first responders.” Rather than being overwhelmed by the first tragedy, they can prevent others.