Issues—Questions—Concerns…they’re all part of the job description.
Hey, it’s an employee group benefit plan—a group of differing insured products, grouped together for a group of distinct individuals, grouped together through common employment. Therein lies the recipe for “you can’t please everyone all the time.”
But you try.
Part of what makes a broker standout in a saturated community like “insurance” is that the broker WORKS FOR the client, not the insurance carrier. And for that reason, when the customer is dissatisfied, it is imperative to respond. A lost client is lost revenue and therefore every customer should be treated as though they are the ONLY client who matters.
Upset customers come in all states and phases; from not having a claim paid correctly, to errors on dates of birth, family members not added, late applicants, employees not wanting to participate, overdue bills, incorrect billing statements, to when to use technology, to name a few. The challenge is ALWAYS to handle each situation as they arise, in a timely fashion, in a way that leaves the customer feeling appreciated, that their complaint was valid and received the attention it deserved, to come to a reasonable remedy.
When it comes down to it, many customers don’t even bother to complain. They simply leave when the next broker walks through the door. Research suggests that up to 80 percent of customers who leave were, in fact, “satisfied” with the original provider. Obviously, client satisfaction is not enough. To build loyalty, brokers today have to go above and beyond to ensure the customer KNOWS and understands they are valued.
Because fire-prevention (dealing with customer issues, questions, and concerns) forms so much of the day-to-day, here are some of the ways we work with our clients to ensure their situation is properly dealt with to a satisfactory end.
- First, we listen carefully to get the full story. Sometimes this means the client has to “vent” a few previous frustrations. We understand we are simply one element of a full day and every other encounter has colored their perception of how their complaint will be received. Patience is key. And the complaint is seldom, if ever, personal, so there is no need to get defensive. We take notes, repeat back what we have heard, make corrections to our notes and confirm what we have heard. This shows we have listened.
- Then we ask questions. These questions will be based on the experience of working through similar such circumstances. The more information we gather, the better we understand the perspective and are more equipped to take up the reins and get the issues resolved. We reconfirm what we know, put it together with the new information, and build the criteria to take the issue further to resolution.
- We are people too. We have problems, questions, or concerns. We too hate to spend money where it seems unappreciated, so we always put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. As the benefit broker, the goal is to solve the problem, not argue. We represent our client and it is therefore important, that our customers feel we are on their side and we empathize with the situation.
- Always, it is important to apologize. As the broker, we may or may not be at fault, but that is not a concern. The fact is, we steered the client towards whatever product or service which is not causing an issue and for that, we apologize that the plan is not running as smoothly as they would like. But we are here to help without blame. In this way, our goal is to diffuse the situation in order to move forward to satisfaction.
- If it is not readily clear, as in the case of missed dependent information, or an error on the billing statement, it is important to ask the client what they expect to come from the situation. What would be an acceptable solution? Positioning ourselves as partners in business success allows us to be a willing participant in solving the problem.
- Then we work to resolution. Either the problem is solved right then and there, or we find someone who can solve it—quickly! Unfortunately, though it may be beyond the broker’s control, sometimes we have to wait from answers from the insurance carriers, or benefit providers and research indicate when complaints are not solved immediately and moved up the chain of command, they add to the customer’s frustration. Our goal is to ensure proper dialogue and communication continues during this process so the customer remains informed up to and including the time of resolution.
There is no getting around customer complaints, especially in employee group benefits. However, by employing these steps and taking the time to review the issues, we strive to turn challenges into something constructive and proactive.
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