Agency Performance Partners


Customer Service Strategies For The Insurance Industry: Handling An Upset Client

Posted on December 11, 2023 by Kelly Donahue Piro

Exceptional customer service is a huge part of an insurance agency’s strategy.  

Insurance is a service industry. Our people are our revenue. Customer service can make or break an agency. You will not grow and maintain customers if you have lousy customer service skills. 

Servicing clients and giving great customer service is a skill set that one needs to have to be successful in this industry. 

What happens when you get an upset client? Have you been taught to deal with them appropriately? It can be challenging and something many CSRs struggle with. 

So when dealing with clients and using Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry you must:

  • Understand the client’s frustrations
  • Build Empathy
  • Use Effective Communication Strategies
  • Have Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution  Skills
  •  Continued Training and Development for Staff Surrounding Customer Service Skills
  • Technologies and Tools Necessary to do a good job
  • Know What Strategies to use to Prevent Future Issues with clients in the Customer Service Realm 

Understanding Client Frustrations

What are some of the most common reasons customers get upset? I am sure a million things just flew across your mind. Right? 


Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry regarding CLAIMS. When a customer has a claim and they have no idea insurance works it can be stressful and overwhelming. 

Many carriers are backlogged and use voicemail to screen their calls making it nearly impossible for the customer to speak to a person. 

So the client already is struggling to get a hold of a claims representative. Once they do get a hold of a claims rep their claim may be denied or the carrier may need to investigate to determine fault, which will take longer. 

Sometimes as they determine fault they will not provide a rental car either. All of these can cause client frustration. I got t-boned by a driver who ran a stop sign going 45 miles per hour. 

My 2012 Highlander rear axle was severely damaged as was the rim and tire. It was towed to the other person’s carrier-specific shop (because I am an insurance agent and I know how it works.) I got a rental vehicle and paid initially on my card, I called the carrier and filed the claim. It took 2 days for them to contact me. In 3 months I had 3 different adjusters working on the claim.  

They finally accepted liability and reimbursed me for the rental that I still had. It took 1 month to repair, and when I got it back the bumper was attached wrong, they had to redo it. 

The second time the bumper paint started peeling, then the axle seals started leaking and I was required to pay a Toyota dealership to inspect it to prove that the leak was due to an accident ($150, that they had to reimburse me, everyone has $150 to pay out of pocket, right?) So you can see how this process can get extremely expensive, frustrating, and annoying and this is me who is an insurance agent. 

My Highlander is on its 4th bumper because I refused to not be put back the way I was before the accident. Oh, and did I mention I just got 4 new tires and they put 2 different tires on the rear, not the new ones I just purchased? 

Obviously, the one was damaged, but they came back and told me the tires were discontinued, I had bought them a month ago. All in all, it is fixed with the correct tires and a good bumper, but if I didn’t know about insurance and cars I would be even more upset than I was. During this process, I had to use one of my connections in the industry to get an adjuster from that company to get the ball rolling.

Policy Confusion

Next, you have policy confusion. Even after 15 years in the industry, there are still things that I find confusing. 

Have you heard of concurrent causation or proximate cause clauses? These refer to wind and hail and coastal risks but they are a thing. 

I didn’t learn about them until a hurricane came through North Carolina and a claim was denied, they said it wasn’t wind, it was wind-driven rain, I think was the answer.  

How about Uber and Lyft, do you know when their coverage drops to state minimum limits on the Uber policy and if they don’t carry their own special Uber insurance their car may not be covered properly, if at all?  

So we as insurance agents need to do our research and educate our customers as much as possible on these risks and the consequences and results if things aren’t covered properly. 

How about condo policies? The HOA covers studs out and the homeowners are responsible for studs in. It depends on the master policy, so you have to know better. 

Additions and alterations are also a factor here. What part of the interior is considered Personal property? I think you get my point. 

If these things can be confusing to an agent how do you think a client feels, we have to be the experts and understand coverages. 

If we aren’t sure whether or not they are correct we need to ask and do our research to ensure that the coverages we are providing for the client are correct, so when they need us on the worst day of their lives we do what is best for them. 

Premium Increases

I am sure this one is our favorite. We all need Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry focused on premium increases because everything is going up. 

This one wasn’t too bad when I started in the insurance industry in 2008. We used to get a list and it would show increases and decreases and there were actually both on there believe it or not. 

There were actually more decreases than increases and at the time the increases were usually due to accidents and/or violations. These days though we need to have a lot of tools in the toolbox on how to discuss rate increases with our clients. 

We need to show empathy NOT sympathy. We need to know the general rate increase for our area. We need to be doing reviews of the policy to determine other discounts we can find to offset increases. You can get our call review form free this month (December 2023.)  

Our review form walks you through steps to review policies quickly and efficiently.

Poor Communication

Poor communication is another reason customers get upset. How often do we as agents type an email or a text to give bad news to a client instead of calling them? 

This is a huge customer service failure! Do not email clients with bad news, this is a sign of poor communication and lack of customer service skills. 

I know it is easier and less stressful for you, but it is horrible for a client to get bad news that way.  There are also agents that are poor communicators in general and do not know how to relay information correctly to a client.  

These staff members need training, scripts, and strategies to talk to customers appropriately. We have those too, check it out on agencyperformancepartners.com

All of the above are reasons for customers to get upset and hopefully, we provided some Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry that you can use to train your staff to get ahead of these calls and have less upset customers.

After reading these, how are you feeling? Can you imagine the emotional stress these situations put on a client? Accidents happen and they literally can change people’s lives, normally adding negative effects.

Damaged vehicles homes, and injuries can all cause extra stress on anyone. The worst part is sometimes they didn’t even cause the accident and are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Having an agent with poor communication skills, and being confused about a policy and premium increases can all cause stress as well.  

It is very stressful and insurance agents need to take this into account when dealing with customers. Get our  Call Grading Form here.

While talking to an upset client you need to make sure you use empathy and not sympathy. You need to let the client know that you understand their situation. Listening without interrupting is the best way to start.  

Help calm them down by a calm tone of voice and letting them know you understand and that you are there to find them a solution. Active listening is very important and crucial when a customer is upset. 

I think we need to slow down, listen to the client, and not jump to react, we need to be able to think on our feet and make sure we are responding and not reacting. 

Reacting is impulsive, and responding is having a calculated answer, a strategy for de-escalating upset customers. There is a UCLA study that shows when communicating with people they pay attention to 7% of what you say, 38% by your tone of voice, and 55% by your body language.  

According to this, you lose 55% of their attention when you are speaking over the phone, so the way we react and our tone of voice is all they have. We have to be skilled at speaking on the phone, what we say, and how we say it.

Effective Communication Strategies

 Explaining complex insurance concepts clearly to a client is essential to ensure they understand their coverage and make informed decisions. Here are some tips on clearly explaining insurance to a client.

  • Know Your Client: Before you start explaining anything, understand your client’s background, needs, and level of insurance knowledge. This will help you tailor your explanation to their specific situation.
  • Simplify Terminology: Avoid jargon and use plain, everyday language. If you must use industry-specific terms, be sure to define and explain them. For instance, explain what “premium,” “deductible,” “coverage limits,” and “endorsements” mean.
  • Use Analogies: Comparing insurance concepts to something your client is familiar with can be very helpful. For example, you might liken insurance premiums to monthly subscription fees for a service.
  • Visual Aids: Visual aids like charts, graphs, and diagrams can make complex ideas much easier to understand. Use these to illustrate important points.
  • Tell Stories: Share real-life scenarios or examples to make abstract concepts more concrete. For instance, you could describe a hypothetical situation in which a particular type of insurance (e.g., life insurance) would be invaluable.
  • Step-by-step breakdown: Break down complex ideas into smaller, digestible pieces. For example, when explaining how a deductible works, walk the client through the process from claim to payment.
  • Questions and Answers: Encourage your client to ask questions throughout the conversation. This can help you gauge their understanding and address any specific concerns they may have.
  • Provide Options: If applicable, present different insurance options and explain the pros and cons of each. This empowers the client to make an informed choice based on their needs and budget.
  • Risk Assessment: Discuss the client’s risk profile and how insurance can mitigate those risks. By tying the concepts directly to their circumstances, they may better grasp the importance of certain coverage.
  • Policy Documents: Offer to provide policy documents and review them together. This allows the client to see the details in writing and ask questions about specific clauses.
  • Use Plain Language Documents: If possible, offer policy documents or summaries written in plain language. These can make it easier for clients to reference and understand their coverage.
  • Follow-up: After your initial conversation, follow up to ensure they didn’t have any lingering questions or concerns. Reinforce key points as needed.
  • (Reiterating) Engage and Empathize: Be an active listener and show empathy. Understand that insurance can be overwhelming, and clients might have concerns or fears. Address these with care and patience.
  • Repetition:  It may take multiple discussions for clients to fully understand complex insurance concepts. Don’t be afraid to revisit important topics and reinforce key ideas over time.

Remember that your goal is not only to explain but also to empower your client with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about their insurance coverage. 

Tailoring your explanations to their needs and providing ongoing support will go a long way in ensuring their understanding. Ask APP how agencyperformancepartners.com

Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution Strategies When Speaking to Upset Clients 

While you are speaking to an upset client be sure to :

  • Gather Information: Understand the problem by collecting all relevant information. This may involve reviewing policies, claims, or client history.
  • Identify the Problem: Clearly define the problem and its underlying causes. Determine whether it’s a one-time issue or a systemic problem.
  • Set Objectives: Establish clear and measurable goals for resolving the problem. What is the desired outcome, and what does success look like?
  • Generate Solutions: Brainstorm potential solutions. Involve colleagues or managers if necessary to benefit from different perspectives.
  • Evaluate Solutions: Assess the pros and cons of each solution. Consider factors like cost, time, and impact on the client.
  • Select the Best Solution: Choose the most appropriate solution based on the evaluation. It should align with the client’s needs and the company’s policies.
  • Implement the Solution: Take action promptly. Communicate with the client, underwriters, or claims department as needed.
  • Monitoring Progress: Keep track of the solution’s progress and make adjustments as necessary. Ensure it’s on track to meet your objectives.
  • Document Everything: Maintain detailed records of the problem, actions taken, and communications with the client. This can be invaluable for future reference.

Remember to:

  • Stay Calm and Professional: Maintain a calm and professional demeanor when dealing with clients or colleagues in conflict. Avoid reacting emotionally.
  • Listen Actively: Allow the other party to express their concerns and actively listen to their perspective. This shows respect and empathy.
  • Empathize: Show empathy by acknowledging the client’s frustration or concerns. Let them know you understand their feelings.
  • Avoid Blame: Refrain from assigning blame. Instead, focus on resolving the issue and finding solutions.
  • Clarify Issues: Ensure that both parties have a clear understanding of the problem. Miscommunication or misunderstandings often contribute to conflicts.
  • Propose Solutions: Offer potential solutions and ask for input from the other party. Collaboration can lead to more satisfactory resolutions.
  • Negotiate Fairly:  If necessary, negotiate to find common ground. Be willing to compromise within reasonable limits.
  • Follow Through: Act promptly and follow through on the agreed-upon solutions. This demonstrates your commitment to resolving the conflict.
  • Seek Supervision or Mediation:  If a conflict cannot be resolved directly, involve a supervisor, manager, or mediator to facilitate a solution.
  • Learn from Conflicts: After resolving a conflict, reflect on what caused it and how it was resolved. Use these insights to prevent similar issues in the future.
  • Maintain Privacy: Respect the privacy of the parties involved in the conflict and adhere to data protection and confidentiality regulations.

Effective problem-solving and conflict resolution are crucial skills for insurance agents. They not only improve client relationships but also contribute to a positive working environment and long-term success in the insurance industry.

Training and development for customer service representatives in the insurance industry is essential to ensure that they provide high-quality service, have a deep understanding of insurance products, and are well-equipped to handle various customer inquiries and issues. 

This is a big part of Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry. At Agency Performance Partners we believe training is key. 

Not many insurance agencies have formal training processes. So staff members get into their own way of doing things and to them that is the right way. It is their perception of reality. 

At times agency leaders need someone from the outside to come in and help guide them through the process. APP can help your agency with roles and responsibilities, and different strategies processes, and procedures to help your agency run smoother and to get staff on the same page.

Below are some important trainings that provide Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry. Insurance agents need to stay up to date on the following:

Product Training

  • Policy types: Provide detailed training on the various insurance policies offered by your company, including their features, benefits, and limitations.
  • Coverage Options: Teach representatives about different coverage options, endorsements, and riders that can be added to policies.

Customer Service Skills:

  • Communication Skills: Focus on effective verbal and written communication, active listening, and maintaining a friendly and professional tone.
  • Empathy: Train representatives to show empathy and understanding when dealing with customers’ concerns and needs.
  • Problem Solving: Develop problem-solving skills, including how to identify and resolve customer issues and provide appropriate solutions.

Technical Skills

  • Software and Tools: Familiarize representatives with the software and tools they’ll use, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, quoting and policy management software, and communication tools.
  • Data Handling: Ensure that representatives understand data protection and privacy laws, as handling sensitive customer information is a critical part of the job.

Compliance Training

  • Ethical Conduct: Emphasize ethical behavior and compliance with insurance regulations to avoid legal issues.
  • Anti-fraud Training: Educate on recognizing and preventing insurance fraud.

Sales and Upselling Skills:

  • Cross Selling and Upselling:  Provide training on identifying opportunities to sell additional policies or coverage to existing customers.
  • Customer Retention: Teach strategies to retain and renew policies by building strong customer relationships.

Role-Playing and Scenarios: 

  • As much as people seem to hate these, they are an excellent way to build confidence and be better prepared for difficult conversations. They will also help agents be calm and collected for every call they receive.
  • Simulated Calls and Interactions: Conduct role-playing exercises to practice handling various customer scenarios, including difficult situations and inquiries.

Continuing Education:

  • Ongoing Training: Implement a culture of continuous learning and provide regular updates on product changes and industry trends.
  • Certifications:  Encourage customer service representatives to obtain relevant industry certifications to enhance their expertise.

Feedback and Coaching:

  • Performance Feedback: Regularly assess representatives’ performance through customer satisfaction surveys, call monitoring, and feedback from supervisors.
  • Coaching: Provide one-on-one coaching to address individual strengths and areas for improvement.

Soft Skills Development:

  • Time Management: Teach time management skills to ensure efficient handling of customer inquiries and requests.
  • Stress Management: Equip representatives with techniques to manage stress, especially during busy or challenging times.

Multichannel Support:

  • Omni-Channel Training: If your customer service operates through multiple channels (phone, email, chat, social media), ensure that representatives are trained to handle inquiries effectively across all channels.
  • Laws and Regulations: Regularly update representatives on changes in insurance laws and regulations that may impact customer interactions.

Quality Assurance:

  • Quality Monitoring: Implement quality assurance programs to monitor and maintain service quality and consistency.

Career Development: 

  • Career Path: Provide information about potential career paths within the insurance industry, encouraging representatives to consider long-term opportunities.

Customer Feedback Integration:

  • Use Customer Feedback: Use customer feedback to identify areas for improvement in training and service delivery.

Remember that training and development should be an ongoing process to keep customer service representatives up to date with industry trends and customer expectations. A well-trained and knowledgeable customer service team can contribute significantly to customer satisfaction and retention in the insurance industry.

Technology and Tools

I cannot stress enough how important an agency’s CRM is. Agents MUST use the CRM for everything, all the customer’s information, all the notes, all files, everything. 

Your CRM is your ONLY OPTION. You must train your staff to use the management system at all times for all the client’s information. You cannot depend on the carrier’s systems to keep information for you. 

As we have seen in recent years carriers caught on to agencies’ rewriting and remarketing policies and started to batten down the hatches. 

They came up with a pretty good strategy. Once the policy was written with the carrier they started to hide pertinent information so agencies could no longer see it. So if you didn’t put the customer’s SSN or DOB in your management system, guess what? 

It forces you to call the customer and ask and then the customer loses trust because they can’t understand why you had their policy all this time and didn’t already have that information on file!

How is your agency utilizing technology?  In today’s world with AI (artificial intelligence) and Chatbots, it is necessary to stay up to date with technology. 

Make sure your agency and your staff are using all of these features to improve the customer experience. In a staff meeting discussing how your agency may be able to use AI and Chatbots, some of your staff may have some good ideas. 

Most systems, Hubspot, Zoom, Google, and Social Media platforms are all adapting and using AI, what can you use it for? Emails to customers, automation, social media posts, I think the opportunities are endless. I have heard some agencies use it to fill out forms.

This brings us to automation. Automation is good, if it isn’t answering the phone for you. I think in today’s society people are tired of automated systems that answer the phone. 

However, automated reminders and emails can be a huge time saver. Set up your systems wisely so they work for you. Automated payment reminders, automated workflows in your CRM that send birthday emails, and newsletters, it could even send follow-ups and reminders for meetings. Don’t overlook these items that have made doing business easier.

We all know of cases where a client was upset and then happy with the agency afterward, but we also know of situations where clients left agencies swearing never to return. 

We need to learn from these situations and grow.  Review these situations with staff and discuss how things can be done better or what was done properly.

It is also a good idea to get feedback from your clients. Whether good or bad feedback agencies can grow and thrive by using feedback, analyzing it, and coming up with strategies to improve.

How effective are your strategies, if you have them? Make sure you review and analyze your agency’s strategies often. 

The world and the people are changing, new generations are calling or texting in. Insurance agencies need to adapt and change with society to keep up and be able to sufficiently serve their clients.  Analyze and make improvements where necessary.

In conclusion when a client calls in upset, are your staff ready? Do they have the customer service skills to know what to say and how to say it? Can they turn a call around? 

They have to be knowledgeable and confident and if they don’t know the answer they have to be able to find someone who knows the answer or ask for grace from the customer and call them back. Review the bullet points above with your staff. 

I tried to make it easy to review them one by one. Make sure staff are responding to clients and not reacting! Use these Customer Service Strategies For the Insurance Industry tips to keep and maintain your clients for a long time. Review the strategies often and use staff examples of success to help motivate and guide your staff in the right direction. A positive leader builds a positive staff. 

December 2023 - Book a Meeting

December 2023 - Book a Meeting