Service with a smile: how to ensure great customer service

24/05/17 00:00 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

How to ensure great customer service

Anne Roberts, Marketing and Communications Manager at The Insurance Institute, writes about how in an increasingly faceless, digital world, great customer service is imperative.


The digital age is one of the main disruptors of traditional customer service models. It has caused a revolution in the way we shop, interact and share experiences. But just because we are communicating with customers in a more remote fashion, doesn’t mean we should forget everything we have learned about great service.

As consumers we are all familiar with using websites, blogs and a multitude of social platforms to research, assess and even ‘test-drive’ products before setting foot in a store. Insurance is no different. Customers can research policies online, compare online quotes and ‘Google’ brand experience information before even speaking to you.

So here are my top 6 tips to help you ensure every phone conversation leaves your customers with a positive perception of your company brand.

1. Listen, listen and listen some more

The concept of active listening isn’t new. Historically used as a communication technique in counselling, it has since been adopted by corporate training providers and is ideal for contact centre staff to aid them in conflict resolution.

What does it involve? It requires that the listener fully concentrates on the needs of the customer and understands their requirements so they can demonstrate a willingness to help.

Allow the customer to talk without interruption and reflect back to them their main question or concern. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how often businesses overlook this in their training methods for their contact staff and as a result loose business and increase complaints.

For example: “So, you would like to learn more about insuring your engagement ring and other jewellery under your home insurance. I can certainly help you with that.”


2. Mind your P’s and Q’s

It goes without saying that any customer facing member of the team should be polite, courteous and show respect at all times. Always using please and thank you is a given. But little tricks like asking the customer their name, and if they are happy for you to call them by it immediately demonstrates respect and on a subliminal level shows they are important.


3. Ask, don’t demand

Engage with your customer by having a real conversation. Ask the right questions, relevant to their concern or issue (see point one) and don’t use harsh statements or un-necessary jargon to respond. Taking a personable, yet professional, approach will evoke a better response from the person on the other end of the phone than a scripted answer.

It is also important that you do not demand information from the customer, but ask. An example of how you can do this could be as simple as replacing ‘What’s your name?’ with ‘Could I get your name please?’


4. Avoid jargon

Avoid technical terms, jargon and acronyms unless absolutely necessary. It can be difficult in insurance as we deal in policies and procedures, but customers are not always going to be familiar with them. Stick to explaining the facts and highlight the pros and cons of each solution. There is a time and place for the technical bits, but an immediate clear understanding of a situation tends to decrease customer frustration and increase your credibility. It will lead them to be more open to any necessary technical jargon later as you have established trust.


5. That sounds about right

Never be afraid to be honest. If you don’t know the answer, or you feel that the customer’s needs are beyond your level of competency, refer them to someone who can help. Always remember to explain to the customer why you are doing this. Clarify that you have done what you can to help, but that in order to resolve the issue fully or to provide them with the right information to make a final decision, you are transferring them to someone who can effectively address their problem.

Never cold transfer though and always provide your colleague with the necessary information to help the customer. Taking the initiative to do this demonstrates that you have fully appreciated the set of circumstances, have been professional enough to know that you can’t fully resolve the situation and looked to go the extra mile to ensure the customer is getting the best service possible. 


6. Smile

A final cheesy one for you. Always smile when you are answering the phone, the person on the end of the line can sense it. Smiling is contagious and automatically changes your tone on the phone. Start the call on the right foot and the rest should come easily.

So the pressure needn’t be on. Enhancing customer service techniques should be a core focus for every insurance organisation, but doesn’t have to cost the earth.

By following these 6 simple tips, call centre agents can ensure customer interactions are more personal, professional and effective – improving the level of customer service offered and transforming how they are interacting with customers.

The result? Increased customer satisfaction, the promotion of a more positive brand image and ultimately, a more successful business.


This article was first published in our magazine, The Insider.  Log in to access the rest of the magazine.

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