Whether you are ordering a pizza, or buying an insurance policy, the consumer now more than ever needs to feel comfort where they are spending their money. Is the product worth the hassle of dealing with the employees who are just trying to earn a paycheck or would they rather settle for a slightly less impressive product and feel the comfort in knowing their business transaction will be handled smoothly and intelligently.
When it comes down to it, most consumers want to know that they will be taken care of if a problem ensues.
I will share an example: my family enjoys pizza. I am not a pizza maker, I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t fare well with my cooking abilities. After a long day, you come home, you hug your kids, kiss your spouse, throw a load of laundry in the wash, kick off your shoes, and the last thing you want to do is think or cook. You consult with your spouse, he doesn’t want to cook either … some don’t even know how to turn the oven on. The kids are always in the mood for pizza, and hands down, pizza wins.
Who are you going to call? Past experiences are flooding through your head. To avoid slandering the pizza industries, we’ll use different names. The last time you ordered from “Easthill Pizza,” it took an hour and a half, they forgot the wings, and the driver didn’t have enough change so he left with a large tip. How convenient.
I do love their antipasta though … um … nope, still feeling bitter.
Then there’s “PieShack,” oh! Don’t get me started. I called it in, they delivered, it came, it was not cooked all the way, and the “mild” wings were “scorching.” I called to tell them, they offered a $15 credit, so I took it. A week later called them back, they called me a liar about the credit, finally I named dropped the manager I spoke with who of course was gone for the day … they applied the credit, but two hours later, still no pizza order. When I called to question, they kept saying, “It’s on its way.” Finally, I called for the fourth time and they said it was a pick-up order and it had been waiting there for me. I assured them it was not a pick-up order and they said, “It’s on its way.” (Should I hold my breath?) The driver shows up, gives me the full price and I said, “I have a $15 credit” to which he looked at me clueless. I called them up, spoke to the fifth different person, and once again was called a liar. At this point, I am not only never calling them again, I’ve ripped their page out of the phone book. C’est La Vie!
Yep I’m calling on old faithful “Doughienos.” I don’t prefer their pizza, but they are consistent, they’re always courteous, and my order is always on time, if not sooner. My children are not as picky as my husband and I, and they eat more of the pizza than we do. I’ve actually had them call me back to make sure that my order was to my liking. This is a prime example of genuine customer service!
In lieu of the awkward questions that make people seem fake or clueless, one of the first questions an employer should ask during the hiring process is, “Do you think that customer satisfaction is important?” Wait for the reaction, is it “Absolutely!” or do they hesitate? For every employee that is hired and not dedicated to their customers, the employer is losing business. That customer that was “too small” to deal with, or “too annoying” to listen to, has the ability to tell other possible clients of their experience and you’ve lost business by word of mouth. I worked in customer service for ten years, and retained most of my clients with personality alone. In the insurance industry, you have to have personality, because the policies can be bought anywhere, and no one likes to buy insurance.
Same situation as the pizza places, just a different product.
If you were to walk into an insurance agency, with an appointment and sit for twenty minutes before the receptionist sees you. You “sign in” with an explanation of “who” you want to see and “why,” they still ask you for the purpose of your visit. (Almost as if they have the same training manual as doctor’s offices.) You finally see the agent you came to see only to find that the quote you received is astronomically priced, out of your budget and the quote was done two days ago when you called an gave her the information. Why didn’t she pick up the phone and tell you this price? Because she wanted you in the office, knowing you wouldn’t have time to go elsewhere and now you’re stuck. That’s not very good customer service. You go home and peruse through the yellow pages, and rip out their ad. Another company lost business because their customer service was poor.
In this case, their best bet is to network and ask people with similar needs where they would go for their insurance needs. This is when it’s important that people know a reputable company. That company will reap the benefits of “word of mouth” advertising. Is the name of your company going to roll off their tongue?
Learn to read your customers; are they having a bad day? Sympathize with them. It only takes a minute, and it tells them that you aren’t trying to rush them out the door, you actually care that they are human beings and have a life. I remember having a customer who told me his wife was pregnant, and every time I saw him, I asked how the baby was coming along. He was impressed that I remembered. When I opened a new account, I would write their birth date in the file. If they happened to be in my office on that day, I would open the file, and see it there, and guess what … I said “Happy Birthday!” and sometimes, I would send cards to those clients that I knew would appreciate it, not just to the ones that spent a lot of money. The little things that we do can cause a chain reaction for the better. You make their day, they make someone else’s. It’s not just about the business, it’s about humanitarianism, and it doesn’t take but a minute of your time.
Finally, know your product! It may not be the best that is out there, it is hard to find a great market in the insurance industry these days. Tell your clients up front what is covered, what is not covered. If they have any questions, here’s your card. Don’t try to sell something you do not understand. If you are asked a question you can’t answer, find the answer, someone in the office knows it. If they don’t, call the company right then and there, and if that’s not an option, write the question down, and assure the client you’ll call them as soon as you have the answer. The last thing you want is for your client to think that you do not know what you are doing.
After I left a company that I worked for, for ten years, my customers are still asking for me, about me, where am I now. I left to be with my son, and will be rejoining the insurance industry soon. I look forward to building a new book of business and know that the customers I receive will be with be for a long time.
You, the consumer deserve the best in customer service, don’t settle for anything less. You, the company, should give the best you have to offer. In the end, the client will be happy, and the company will prosper.