by Rob Berg
Insurance is an industry famously associated with numbers, statistics, and financial data. And yet, behind every policy, every claim, and every transaction, there are individuals – people just like you and me – who have feelings and emotions, ups and downs, good days and bad.
From the customers who purchase insurance policies to the employees who work for insurance companies, there is a human side to insurance company operations that is often minimized, unnecessarily subjecting the insurer to being poorly perceived. During decades of providing insurance operations consulting services, we have seen the upside of companies that recognize the power of their people – and the problems that arise when they don’t.
Agents establish the tone of customer relationships
Most obviously, insurance companies interact with their policyholders. When a customer decides to purchase a policy, they’re often making a significant financial commitment, and the insurance company is charged with ensuring the policy adequately secures a given risk at a fair price.
As the face of an insurance company, agents are often the first point of contact. They help customers understand their insurance options, explain the benefits and limitations of different policies, and answer any questions they may have. In many cases, insurance agents build long-term relationships with their clients, providing ongoing support and assistance as their insurance needs change over time.
However, in our age of increasing self-service and minimal human interaction, countermeasures must be taken to preserve the value of the relationship. During insurance operations and technology consulting engagements, we always caution our clients against letting automation usurp the very real value of a genuine human bond.
Claims managers must be sensitive to customers in crisis
Of course, when a customer experiences loss or damage, they must file a claim to receive compensation. This is a particularly stressful and emotional time for the customer; it’s critically important that claims managers handle the claim with sensitivity and efficiency throughout the process. Claims adjusters who investigate the claim, determine the extent of the loss or damage, and work with the customer to reach a settlement are especially prone to being perceived as greedy and unsympathetic, which reflects poorly on a carrier brand.
Because adjusters are often best positioned to provide emotional support and guidance during this difficult time, they’re vulnerable to tacking too far to the analytical side of operations (often in service of their organization’s key performance indicators) while neglecting the claimant’s very real emotional and financial needs.
Adjusters take note: A failure to satisfy customers during the claims process can cause a tremendous hit to an insurer’s credibility and reputation. Take a random look at online reviews for practically any insurance company for proof.
Satisfied staff members perform better
Perhaps most importantly, because work consumes a substantial portion of our lives, insurance companies are increasingly responsible to their employees for their wellbeing. This means, in addition to providing a safe and healthy work environment, competitive compensation, and opportunities for professional advancement and development, that they actively support their autonomy (their ability to work without constant managerial intervention), competence (their feeling of being appropriately challenged by the work they do), and relatedness (the feeling that they’re adding value to something larger than themselves).
Unsurprisingly, according to Self-Determination Theory – a rigorously researched psychological construct for human motivation – autonomy, competence, and relatedness are three psychological needs that underpin employee engagement. Failure to respect those needs can result in poor morale, burnout, and high turnover.
Support the communities where you write business
Finally, insurance companies have a social responsibility to the communities they serve. This includes investing in programs and initiatives that promote safety and prevention, supporting local charities and organizations, and working to make insurance more accessible and affordable for everyone.
The human side of insurance company operations is often overlooked, but it merits greater attention as it is essential to the success of the industry. From the agents who sell insurance policies to the claims adjusters who help customers in their time of need, to the employees who work behind the scenes, and the communities they serve, the human element is what makes insurance companies truly effective and valuable to society. By recognizing and valuing the people who are involved in every aspect of insurance operations, we can build stronger, more resilient communities and a more compassionate and sustainable insurance industry.