7 Tips for Handling Difficult Customer Calls
Insurance | Miriam Kasseris | Jun 27 2023
We’ve all been there — you answer the phone and offer a pleasant greeting only to be met with anger and a demand to speak with a manager. While these types of calls can be jarring, they are crucial for your agency and customer service. You are given the perfect opportunity to prove why your agency was a good choice for your customer and hopefully earn some good word of mouth promotion, as long as you handle the situation with care.
Over the years, I have dealt with many of these types of situations, both over the phone and in person when I worked retail prior to becoming an insurance agent. Here are some tips and techniques that I have found to help de-escalate the situation and help foster a better outcome.
1. Don’t Interrupt
No matter how much you want to, don’t interrupt — let the client ask questions and vent as much as they need to. What I have found is that some clients just need to get everything off their chest, and by the time they’re through, they are at a lower level of frustration and able to better verbalize what the real issue is for them. Often times it’s not what they originally started the call about, but something else entirely.
2. Take Notes
Try to take notes as they are speaking. I don’t recommend typing, as most keyboards are noisy, and the tap-tap-tap could make the person on the phone feel like you are not paying attention, making things worse. Keep a scratch pad nearby so you can jot things down, especially if they are asking questions.
3. Show Empathy
Clients often only call us when there’s an issue — late billing, a claim, premium concerns, change to family composition — so they are already not at their best. Listening to them and showing you understand the problem at hand goes a long way in diffusing tense situations. You should avoid saying things like “unfortunately” or “that’s just the way it is,” as these are seen as negative statements, which could strain the caller further. Something like “I understand your concern” or “I see why this is upsetting” shows you listened and that you valued their time.
4. Be Honest
Don’t make things up just to make the caller happy. Obviously, that should go without saying, but sometimes you may feel the need to say whatever the caller wants to hear in order to get them off the phone. This does a disservice to everyone. Instead, if you don’t have answers at hand, or the answers require some research, let the caller know you understand their concern, and that you will look into the issue and get back to them. Be as specific as you can with your timeframe as well; this way, they will not keep calling to check on the answers. If it’s going to take a few days, let them know, so they don’t have an expectation that you’ll get back to them the same day. Also, confirm how they want the information sent to them — by phone call or email. Some clients may be fine with an email rather than having to wait for a call.
5. Do an Email Follow Up
If possible, send an email to the client summarizing your conversation and what steps you are taking next. This will show them again that you paid attention and will do your best to resolve the issue.
6. Loop in Management as Needed
Sometimes despite your best effort, the call gets to a point where you need help. Let the client know you hear their concerns, but it may be in their best interest for you to speak with management and either get back to the client or have your manager contact them. You shouldn’t feel ashamed or annoyed if/when this happens. Some clients prefer talking to someone higher up, even if they tell them the exact same thing as you.
7. Always Say “Thank You”
Regardless of how the call goes, be sure to thank the client for calling. After all, they are the reason you are in business, even if things aren’t going well at the moment.
In addition, speak with your manager to see if they have any advice or specific workflows for handling difficult calls. Routine training for all staff members is a good way to keep up the skills and learn new ways to help make the client experience better for your agency.
Tags: Insurance , customer service