At Central, our top priority is to maintain positive relationships with our agents, policyholders and employees. Every move we make is an effort to improve the experience of these vital individuals. Whether we are refining our product offering to meet the changing needs of policyholders, reconfigure employee benefits to exceed evolving industry standards, or adjust our catalog of services to better align with our agents’ preferred areas of business; Central is dedicated to a business model based on exceptional customer service.
Although this commitment has been at the core of our business model ever since The advent of Central in 1876 is increasing customer service to become a critical component of business-consumer relationships across industries today.
Since the covid-19 pandemic, 50% of US consumers report that they prioritize customer service more than ever when deciding whether or not to do business with a brand. Similar, 80% of consumers generally feel more emotionally connected to brands with customer service teams dedicated to solving their problems.
So how can you get started invest in customer service within your organization?
In this article we explore HEAT model of customer service– a tried and true method to handle a difficult customer service situation – and provide some expert tips for improving customer service in your business.
HEAT customer service model: 4 steps to success
The first step in the HEAT method is to “hrsear” the customer out.
While this isn’t always easy to do, the customer will feel better in the end because you gave them time to voice their concerns. Allowing someone to vent and listen to what they are upset about is also key to making a connection and getting the client to work with rather than against you to find a solution.
Try “Eempathize” with the customer and put yourself in their shoes. Look beyond their words to what they feel in the moment.
Practice naming their feelings and repeating them to the customer so they realize you are taking the time to understand their perspective. Try: “I understand that you are frustrated and I understand why. I would be too.”
By showing your customer that you relate to their mindset, you can begin to defuse the situation.
Following empathy, the HEAT model suggests “Asorry” to the customer.
This is an important step to remember, even if you didn’t personally create the situation that makes the customer angry. You must do your best to apologize on behalf of the organization while taking ownership of the mistake.
Remember that even if you didn’t do whatever it is that’s bothering them, your company did and you’re a team.
Heaslip adds, “a simple ‘sorry’ can go a long way to smoothing over situations like these. Stand united and take the HEAT for your team. Hopefully your team members will do the same for you when it turns around. After all, we all make mistakes .”
The final and perhaps most crucial step in the HEAT customer service model is “Trequest action.” Always make sure you have an action plan ready to follow up your apology.
How are you going to solve the problem? What can the customer expect next?
While you can’t promise that their problem will be completely resolved, make sure you let them know what steps you plan to take to try to help, who they can expect to hear from next, and what they can do in the meantime.
Customer service tips for insurance companies
Unlike customer service for a product or brand, “the customer service team at Central typically interacts with customers who have an urgent need or are in some sort of problem,” says Heidi Smith, commercial services supervisor at Central insurance.
Whether they have experienced a car accident, house fire, natural disaster, or other form of loss, these individuals often face time-sensitive, unexpected circumstances that cause anxiety or heightened emotions.
For that reason, customer service teams must be prepared to handle these calls with utmost care and sensitivity.
Always remember to be friendly, clear and direct with the customer in these situations, as they are likely to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. You should also demonstrate your investment in their safety and care by providing clear and actionable next steps and following up as often as possible to ensure their needs are being met.
Finally, remember to treat each customer as a person. If you feel so inclined, express your condolences as you would anyone you’ve met who has just suffered a loss. Be sure to note the tone of the response and adjust your future interactions as needed.
The central difference
Hospitality and excellence are two of Central’s core values, and our customer service team works to embody these values in every customer interaction.
“We’re here for the customer when they need us the most,” says Smith. “Insurance is not tangible. They can’t feel what they’re paying for. But when they need us, they call, and that’s where we can step in and show them our value.”
In many cases, this value includes being a comforting ear for someone experiencing a problem, but it can also require the team to be proactive.
Read more: Share kindness and compassion through positive customer service experiences
“To be exceptional, we have to anticipate,” says Smith. “We know that whoever is on the line needs something, but we want to go beyond what they called for that day and anticipate what the next step might be.”
For example, suppose a customer calls and expresses frustration with the shipping billing system. If so, the customer service team is ready to provide solutions, including directing them to Central’s extensive online billing and policy options.
“Our staff is trained to evaluate the current situation and consider what the next step might be, and then execute it in a way that best benefits the customer,” says Smith.
Note: This article was originally published in July 2015. It has since been updated for accuracy.