4 Steps Account Managers Should Take to Disarm Difficult Clients

May 20, 2020

When working in a customer service role in an insurance agency (or any industry), there is bound to be conflict at some point.  It can certainly be frustrating if your goal is to help the customer and they are not responding positively to your efforts.  

Here are four strategies for handling those challenging client conversations:

1.  Be empathetic.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  This can seem almost impossible depending on how angry a customer may be on the other end of the phone, but taking a moment to step into their shoes can be a great way for you to reevaluate the situation and really get to the root of the issue.  Chances are there is an underlying issue to their level of frustration.   They may have had a bad experience with the service provided by the agency in the past.  Or perhaps they are having a rough morning with a temperamental toddler.  Either way, taking a moment to dig into what is going on will give you an opportunity to find out what you can do to help.

2.  Slow the conversation down.  As a client tries to communicate information while stressed or angry, there is a good chance that may speak louder and faster and non-stop.  The combination of these things can certainly create more communication barriers.  One tactic you can use is very calmly and respectfully interrupt the conversation.  Let them know your top priority is to help, but that you need to be able to accurately record the information they are providing.  Politely request that they slow down so you can be sure you don’t miss any important details.  Framing the request emphasizing your desire to help will provide needed reassurance of a common goal.

3.  Choose your words and your tone wisely.  Just as the client’s tone and choice of words can have an impact on you as you listen, the same goes for the words and tone you choose in response.  

You can try explaining to them what you are sensing with a statement as simple as “It seems like you are very frustrated.”  Another option is to repeat back to them what you are hearing with something along the lines of “It sounds like you’re frustrated that we didn’t get that information for you when you needed it.”  The client may confirm or correct your statement.  Either way, you have conveyed to the client that they are heard and understood.

Clarifying back to them what you are hearing or sensing can be powerful because it lets the client know you share in their concerns and also gives the client an opportunity to reflect on how they are communicating.   

 4.  Reach out to a supervisor for support.  If the options above do not work to diffuse the conversation and the client continues to yell or be otherwise disrespectful, it is time to get someone with more authority involved.  Politely excuse yourself from the conversation by saying something like, “This is no longer a productive conversation.  I am going to put you on hold while I get a supervisor who can help us work through this problem.”  Allowing someone else to assist or take over the conversation may be the best route to finding a resolution to the problem at hand.

Most interactions with customers will be pleasant and positive, but there will certainly be those that seem impossible to win.  Implementing these tips will help you to better manage those stressful conversations which will lead to a better experience for both you and the client.

For more insight on this topic, check out the full episode of The Independent Agent podcast below.