Insurance is a “grudge” purchase. No-one likes to pay for something they may never need or use. It’s a bit like going to the dentist for a tooth extraction. Then when you have an insurance claim, getting compensation for what you insured can be like extracting teeth – very painful. It’s not just the processes that cause pain, but it’s the attitude of the people working in the insurance claims function. Often they come across as doing you a favor and treating you with distrust. They create a perception that they are there to protect the company, not the customer.
A friend, who spent his entire working life in the insurance industry, told me that one of his early roles was as a claims officer. He said that whenever a valid claim was made he immediately paid out sufficient funds for people to replace the basic things they had lost. He treated customers with empathy and trust and did everything he could to fulfill their legitimate needs. It served him well. When he became an insurance agent for the same company, he contacted all of those people he had dealt with in his “claims” role to discuss their other insurance needs. He rapidly gained a large client base and became very successful. Many of his clients switched from other insurance companies to buy insurance from someone they trusted and could meet their needs.
Michael W. Zuna, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Aflac, says the company is committed to keeping the promise it made to its customers—to be there when they need insurance most and take their concerns to heart. “We realize that stress is heightened during medical emergencies, and we strive to make sure their experience with us puts them at ease,” Zuna says.
Especially in a changing health insurance landscape, customers do not know or understand the insurance policies that may work best for them or what they need to do when they’re faced with a health problem. Zuna notes that Aflac prioritizes educating customers to prepare for the unexpected and helping them through difficult times. “Medical bills can add up quickly, so we make sure to pay claims fairly, promptly, and directly to our customers usually within four days so they can use those funds as they see fit,” he says.
The bottom line is that insurance companies must listen to their customers, empathize with them, and help them address, and ultimately solve, the problems that they’re facing.
How can insurance companies do this on a consistent basis? They need a customer-focused culture that recognizes how customers can best be satisfied in a way that is also profitable to the business. This “customer centeredness” must exist in every department, particularly the claims department, for the “grudge” to be eliminated from the customer’s thought processes. This will ensure customer loyalty and retention and help safeguard the customer’s best interests.