At its core, insurance is a financial agreement. The policyholder pays the premium. The insurer pays the claim. But behind the numbers, there’s somebody’s life. When claims happen, they are often the result of difficult, possibly even traumatic events. That’s why it’s important to cultivate call center empathy.

Train Your Team to Step Into the Claimant’s Shoes

You’ve just been in a crash. Your car is wrecked, your back is injured and you’re not sure how you’re going to make it to work or support your family. You need help, and you know you have to report the claim, so you call your insurer. The person on the other end of the line is cold. They take your information and file your claim, but they don’t seem to care that your entire life just got turned upside.

You’re probably not too impressed. In fact, even if the claim goes well and you get your payout quickly, you might start thinking about switching to an insurer that actually cares about you.

It’s not just about claims, either. Maybe you’re having trouble with your insurance coverage, so you call the insurer. The call center representative talks down to you, as if you should know the ins and outs of insurance already. But why should you? That’s not your job. It’s the representative’s job.

A Key Part of the Customer Service Puzzle

According to the Microsoft’s Global State of Customer Service report, 90% of respondents say that customer service is important to their choice of and loyalty to a brand.

Insurance companies know that they need to deliver excellent customer service. Often, this can mean focusing on speedy responses and convenient digital tools. While these things can be important, they do not erase the need for empathy. For insurance customers, coverage isn’t just about numbers. It’s about protecting the things that matter to them. Emotions can be high, and call center agents need to understand that.

Why Call Center Empathy Can Be Lacking

From the policyholder’s perspective, insurance claims are rare and exceptional events, the sort of thing that you drop everything for. It can also be a scary time filled with uncertainty.

From the representative’s point of view, claims are an everyday occurrence. Call center representatives have a script to follow. They know the information they need, and they want to collect it as quickly as possible. To the representative, this may seem efficient. To the policyholder, it may seem cold and uncaring.

But what if the claimant is obviously upset? Why wouldn’t a call center agent express empathy then?

Humans are often naturally empathetic, but we can also be prone to desensitization. Call center representatives deal with dozens of upset individuals every day. As a result, their empathy may be stretched thin.

Bringing Empathy to Your Call Center

Empathy is a skill, and just like other skills, it can be cultivated.

  • Stress empathy in your training. Remind your representatives that the first notice of loss can be upsetting from the claimant’s perspective. Ask them to put themselves in the policyholder’s shoes and to think about times when they’ve had to file a claim in the past and how they felt. Repeat this type of training as needed.
  • Build empathy into your scripts. Small word choices can make a big difference. HubSpot has a list of 11 phrases that customer service reps should use. Some might not apply in an insurance setting, but many – like “We can work through this together” and “That sounds extremely challenging” – are pretty appropriate. The goal is to be validating, reassuring and positive without being dismissive. It’s also important to listen carefully to what callers have to say, and to show them that you understand.
  • Give your representatives room to be empathetic. Call centers can be fast-paced, and when call volume is high, every minute counts. At the same time, if you’re putting too much pressure on your reps, they might be too stressed and rushed to express much empathy.

You Don’t Have to Compromise

You don’t have to decide between call center representatives who demonstrate empathy and call center agents who provide quick insurance call resolution and scalable support. With Covenir’s insurance outsourcing services, you can have it all. Learn more about our customer support services.