Thoughtful Empathy Can Ease Uncertainty

The U.S. is heading into its fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the initial adjustments we’ve made to our lives have become part of a new routine. Some of us have come up with creative and effective ways to stay connected and productive during confinement, to the point that we might actually be enjoying a slowed-down lifestyle or the opportunity to work from home and spend more time with family. For others, though, illness, unemployment, financial worries, and issues of social justice have all contributed to a rise in tension and a general feeling of instability.

As an insurance agent, you’ll be selling to people in both categories, which may feel like a tall order. How will you even know which type of customer you’re dealing with? Consciously employing empathy can help you be successful in figuring that out.

A simple definition of empathy is the ability to understand or feel another person’s experience through their frame of reference. It’s not about how you would feel in a situation but rather trying to put yourself in their shoes instead.

Some of us naturally have empathy in spades. Others don’t. If you fall into the latter category, you can still learn how to express it in a way that is effective. What might that look like?

Start at the very beginning of your call with a new prospect or existing client. “Hi, X, this is YOUR NAME calling from NAME OF AGENCY. Before I get into specific questions about your insurance inquiry, let me start by asking this: [PAUSE] how are you doing?” 

This simple question can have a large impact, allowing the respondent a chance to express their feelings and you a chance to gauge how you should treat them for the rest of the conversation. If their reply is short and positive, you can quickly move into the insurance-specific portion of your call. On the other hand, a response like, “I’ve been better” or any expression of anxiety, fear, anger or sadness will require more time to deal with. 

In this case, giving your customer time to vent is important and a great way to demonstrate empathy. You can do that by limiting your interjections to phrases like:

  • “I’m so sorry to hear that. Tell me more.”
  • “That sounds like a tough situation.” 
  • “You sound like you feel NAME THE EMOTION. Is that right?”

Empathetic statements like these keep the focus on the customer and what they are going through, which can go a long way toward building rapport and a feeling of alignment between the two of you.

On the flip side, avoid phrasing like:

  •  “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
  •  “I totally understand.”
  •  “Here’s what I would do…”

However well-meaning you might be, those phrases can ring hollow and come off as insincere and/or just plain annoying.

As you get more of your client’s story, try to listen carefully to get a good picture of their most pressing concern(s). You can then use that information to tailor the rest of your pitch in an empathetic way. (If you’re not sure, don’t be afraid to confirm your understanding by saying something like, “It sounds like money is a real concern right now. Is that correct?”)

Someone who does have money worries may appreciate if you lay out how they can lower their monthly premiums by raising deductibles or dropping coverages. Someone who is sheltering alone without much support from family or friends may respond well to reassurance that they have chosen good insurance coverage and that you are available to answer questions any time.

Approaching your work with empathy also applies to your staff and coworkers. Take time to consider what they are going through and whether they could use a chance to vent and feel your support. A few kind words can go a long way to making them feel some much-needed relief.

Ready for some new prospects? Hometown Quotes has fresh leads for insurance agents all around the country. Give us a call at 800.820.8921 to learn more.


Brendan Sera-Shriar

Brendan Sera-Shriar is the CMO for Hometown Quotes and a Staff Writer for Hometown University.

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