Don’t avoid difficult conversations with difficult clients. Use them to deepen the relationship.
No insurance agent ever wants to see a client leave. Yet the hard truth is that some clients can be a hassle for an agency. In those cases, an agent is left with two choices: let the client (and revenues) walk, or salvage the relationship by having a difficult conversation.
Both options are unappealing. According to the Independent Insurance Agents of Dallas, the average customer retention rate in the insurance industry stands at 84%, well below the 93% to 95% rate for the top five companies in any industry. The loss of any client is a major blow to an agency’s bottom line, especially given the high cost of acquiring a new client to replace a departing one.
But the prospect of a “confrontation” with a client is just as disheartening, because everyone dislikes conflict. This is especially true of insurance agents, who are taught to help, not battle, their clients. However, there are ways to preserve client relationships even when agents must initiate those dreaded talks.
Schedule a Meeting Immediately
An agent’s instinct whenever problems arise with a client is to postpone discussion, perhaps believing the issue will resolve itself in time. It usually doesn’t; instead, the problem worsens for as long as it’s unaddressed, possibly leading to more disputes and the client’s eventual departure. Therefore, it’s always best to schedule a meeting with a client to discuss the situation as soon as friction arises. Hold the meeting in private, ideally in a conference room, or a more comfortable setting like a nearby coffee shop.
Get to the Root of the Problem
Agents shouldn’t enter a conversation expecting an argument; it’s better to think of it as a fact-finding mission. More often than not, the root of the problem is a simple misunderstanding between the client and agent. Did the policy or product delivered not meet the client’s expectations? By attentively listening to the client and respecting their point of view, an agent can uncover the cause of the discord. An agent should never interrupt while the client is talking, but he or she can ask questions to clarify the client’s viewpoint. Maintain a professional tone throughout the conversation and convey your willingness to overcome any problems. Never use sarcasm or otherwise minimize the client’s concerns.
Develop a Follow-Up Plan
Once the agent and client have found the cause of the complaint, they can develop a follow-up plan together to resolve the problem. If it’s not a matter that can be ironed out in a single meeting, map out the next steps towards a satisfactory resolution. Keep the client updated on the progress. Successful agents follow through on what they promise to do. They reassure the client that they take their thoughts seriously and weren’t just making promises to end a difficult conversation. For their part, clients appreciate an agent’s legitimate effort to solve problems.
A difficult conversation doesn’t need be the end of a client-agent relationship. Done properly and respectfully, these talks can even strengthen the partnership and actually grow revenues.