Amanda | 25th March 2021 - 5 min read
We buy insurance hoping we won’t ever need to use it, right?
In fact, we hope never to even hear from our insurers. We don’t want them to even be on our radar.
Insurance is like the crash-mat that sits on the ground below the window-of-life. If the walls collapse, or the window explodes, or someone accidentally leaves it open with a roller-skate on the threshold … you know it’s there. You don’t want the crash-mat shouting up at you during lunch, or knocking on the door. You want it reliable, comfy, silent.
But, when that thing you hope never goes wrong, does go wrong, your relationship with your insurer quickly escalates from ‘Don’t talk to me!’ to ‘F***! I need you NOW.’ It becomes disaster recovery – it can save you.
This is why the conversation around sympathy and empathy is so important. One will build trust, the other could dismantle it.
Insurance is business, yes. But it is unique in that unlike many other businesses, people will only get in contact when they are in a state of shock, feeling anxious or fearful. Insurer customer support, in this respect, is similar to a helpline – and any successful helpline will know communicating empathy (not sympathy) can be the difference between driving connection, or fueling disconnection.
Sympathy is linked primarily with pity. You may understand someone has had a bad experience, and you feel sorry for them, but you don’t engage with their feelings or reflect them back. It FUELS disconnection. Responses such as;
“You poor thing.”
“You should do this… (and go on to give advice, rather than listening to the problem first).”
“I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Empathy, is your ability to put yourself in that person’s shoes. To imagine what it must have been like, and feel it with them, rather than keeping a distance. It FUELS connection. Empathy shows someone you understand their experience and you can relate to it. Responses such as;
“I know it’s frustrating to be kept waiting, thanks for understanding.”
“It’s completely understandable that you’re feeling angry right now.”
“I’m so sorry this has happened, it must be incredibly difficult.”
Being sympathetic towards a customer could mean they go away from their interaction with you feeling small, misunderstood and brushed aside.
Developing empathic skills not only builds trust, but creates meaningful and genuine connections which guarantees the customer will feel reassured, listened to and understood at a time they need it most of all.