When I started my career in insurance nearly eight years ago (I’m such a baby in this industry, right?), I had no idea what I was doing.
I didn’t walk in on my first day knowing what a deductible was or how coinsurance and copay worked. Growing up, chicken noodle soup was a poor man’s penicillin unless there was a dire need to go to the physician. All I knew about health insurance was that it was expensive.
At that point in my life, I had no idea who I was or who I was destined to become.
But there was one thing I did know: people.
The human body is a vessel for so much, namely–emotion. When you look back at your life, the people who have provoked intense emotion on your journey (albeit positive or negative) leave an imprint on who you are today. Your experiences are rooted in emotion and the ties you make or break in life are usually a choice made because of your emotional connection to that person or situation. When you get married, tradition suggests that you have an intense love for that individual. On the flip side, a decision for divorce would indicate a negative emotion like resentment or hate.
As I transitioned into a client-facing role over the years, during which I was granted a powerful position of connecting with these individuals, I wondered: how can I use my talents to serve my client and career? Math isn’t my strong suit, so I could not become their financial advisor. I’m not great at sales, so I could not pitch them a new product. My strength is connecting and finding that common thread between myself and another individual.
When I thought about how to put this strength into practice, I realized it was simple: treat clients and employees like human beings.
Your workforce and your clients are more than a name on a list or the sum at the bottom of a profit and loss report. They have significant challenges in their life that extend beyond the email you may be preparing to send them about a rate increase or a benefits reduction. They also have:
- aging parents
- financial woes
Do these things sound familiar in your life as well? When a client reaches out to you, ten out of ten times, it is because they have a need: a problem to be solved. During the course of our careers, how many times has an employee or client reached out to connect? Very rarely, if ever?
Throughout my tenure, I have been on the receiving end of flowers delivered at random by a client with whom I worked closely during a claims resolution nightmare. From time to time, there have been sporadic emails from other clients following up ad hoc to inquire about how my daughter’s first concert experience went or how my day off was spent for my birthday. There have also been times I have gotten that rare phone call because someone had not spoken to me in a while and wanted to make sure all was alright. I was not necessarily doing anything out of the ordinary to create the above scenarios, but I was doing something extraordinary. Each time I communicated with them regardless if it was a billing issue, a claims problem, or to grab a temporary ID card for a new employee, one thing always happened: it got personal.
Getting personal could have been something as simple as a question about how their child was doing after they mentioned in an email that started with, “sorry for the delay–I was out of the office with a sick child on Monday.” It is an intentional conversation where you try to get just beneath the surface of a generic conversation.
What you say, and how you say it is important. How you make someone FEEL is almost more important than what you say. It takes minimal effort to make someone feel they matter, that you are going the extra mile for them (regardless if you are or not). I’m not suggesting fake it; what I am demanding is that you care. It is critical to convey that to them because when they reach out to you – they need help and they need to know they are more than a dollar in your pocket or a checkmark to be crossed off.
This will not happen overnight, but if you practice this a little each day, you’ll be amazed at where your journey takes you in hindsight.