Most people have one favorite basketball team; I happen to have two. I would not be a true Clevelander if I didn’t say that one of them is the Cavs. Why not? They were on fire this year, regardless of how the finals turn out. My second favorite team is the Washington Wizards. I don’t have a clue what their record is, nor do I watch the games. What makes them a favorite of mine is the leadership they have brought on board in the past, particularly the former President, Susan O’Malley. Susan has changed how they play the game both on and off the court.
Last month, I had the privilege of hearing Susan speak at our annual Acxiom Sales Summit. Her words were both inspiring and captivating. It was clear to us within the first five minutes why she was so respected by her peers, employees and players – she knew how to play the game and deliver the ultimate fan experience. She was also not afraid to challenge some of the players on the team (some twice her size!) and all of her staff to think outside of the game. She forced her team to think about things like who they are, what business they serve, and what their purpose is. So how did she do it?
Quite simply, she is brilliant! Susan used the eight lessons her Mom taught her at home and applied them to everything she did, then shared them across the organization. Today, I am going to share with you her rules and translate those into insurance speak. I am also adding two more, which I think are equally important. All of these can be applied and embedded into anything you do and across any vertical. When implemented, the net-net is a win-win for both you and your customers.
Rule #1- Make your bed
You will never do the big things right if you don’t do the small things right. We all know the end game in insurance is to get the person to renew their policy at the end of the term. If we don’t do all the small things right like delivering an exceptional claims experience, answering the phone quickly and anticipating our customer’s needs, we will struggle to hit the basket. Think of each of the small things you do that lead up to the big goal and deliver on each.
Rule #2-Plan your work and work your plan
What do you want the next day to bring you? If you are an agent, you probably want a sale. Plan for whom you are going to reach out to and when, then determine what message it is that you want to deliver (Happy Birthday, Congrats on your new house – let’s review your Life Insurance policy to make sure you are adequately protected, etc.) Make a list of what you need to do and stick with it.
Rule #3- Outwork everyone
Practice. When the game is on the line, you have to go to your default. Once you continue practicing, it becomes a habit. Players on the floor don’t achieve their best game by just practicing with their team during the required practice times. Instead, they practice again and again on their own, often when nobody is watching. If you have to deliver a message or make a presentation, practice often with your team and practice on your own. When you do, it becomes habit and you can do it in your sleep.
Rule #4- Set expectations
In order to win, you need to lay out a plan and set realistic expectations. If it’s going to take you more than four days to settle a claim and the customer is expecting four days, set that expectation up front and tell them why it’s going to take longer. Honesty goes a long way with a customer.
Rule #5- When you mess up, make it right
When you make a mistake, admit it and fix it. Seems so simple but this is one of the rules in my book that is toughest to nail. I think back to a social media case that hit the news a few years ago. A customer of a company posted a message, trying to get resolution with a claim. They were looking for resolution and sympathy. What they received was a canned/automated response. The message back to the customer was insensitive, offensive and quite frankly disrespectful. As you can imagine, things went viral very quickly. The lesson learned was this – when you mess up, say you messed up. Then determine, how far you will go to make it right.
Rule #6- Always do the right thing, even when nobody is looking
Listen to your head and heart. Susan gave an example of a season ticket holder that filed several complaints about a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his chair. When the complaint made it to her desk, she acted on it. That night when the arena emptied out after the game, Susan went out and scraped the gum off the seat. She also sent a hand-written note apologizing for their lack of response. Nobody was there to see and nor was it necessary for anyone to see. She just did the right thing. We have so many situations that arise from claims to answering calls where we have a chance to always do the right thing when nobody is looking.
Rule #7- People make the difference
It’s all about the people. This could not be a truer statement. From the agent you speak to, to the office manager that takes your money or the claims rep that comes out to meet with you about your claim, its people that truly do make the difference. When your customer experiences a loss or heartache of any sort, remember it’s personal to them and the best thing you can do is to put yourself in their shoes. Customers are looking for empathy. They want someone to sympathize with them. Be that person.
Rule #8- Be transparent
Lay all your cards on the table. Again, this is one that I think carriers struggle with. When a customer’s rate goes up, tell them why and what they can do to save or bring the rate down. Now some carriers do not want to go that route out of risk of introducing churn. To me, honesty and transparency will go a long way in building trust. Trust is something our industry struggles with on a daily basis.
Rule #9- Always look to see who is behind you and in front of you
Know where your competitors are at all times. Whether you like it or not, you have competitors in front of you and some behind you and some you don’t even know about yet like Amazon and Lemonade. Make it a point to know where your competition is at all times. Know what they are doing, where they are playing and what their game plan for winning is. Remember, they are all in business to win. It’s your job not to let them take over the ball.
Rule #10- Have fun!
Play hard, but have fun whether you win or lose. You are not always going to win even when you play your hardest. You are not always going to keep each of our customers even if you have done everything right leading up to renewal. We have to remember why we are in business and that’s to make money. We need to celebrate our wins, embrace and own our losses and use the losses to rebuild and plan for winning next time around.
If you follow these simple rules, keeping your customers happy will be a slam dunk!