With most consumers checking out online reviews these days, it may feel like your agency’s brand personality is on trial as you respond to each negative review. The negative feedback isn’t in itself a death alarm for your insurance agency. Instead, there’s immense public relations value in the humility you showcase by professionally handling negative customer engagements and turning those into positive experiences as everybody else is watching.
No matter the reason for client dissatisfaction, it’s a lot easier to resolve it when you properly understand the emotions that the customer experiences during service failure and the recovery process. As a responsible brand owner, you will need to pay special attention to the sentiments that your recovery efforts may trigger as those will impact the client’s satisfaction and loyalty.
The Mantra for Handling Negative Emotions of Customers (As a Result of Service Failure)
Service failure generally invokes negative customer emotions, such as anger. Conversely, your recovery actions can trigger negative or positive sentiments, which is why it’s important to be proactive in handling the situation once you spot a negative review online for your agency.
The ideal first step to foster positive recovery emotions is to initiate contact with the client and inform them of what you’re doing to remedy the situation and the expected wait time. Whether you offer a refund or discount, remember that monetary compensation is key to pleasing and calming the client down.
Below is a conceptual framework by Sara Valentini, a marketing research specialist at the University of Bologna. In the framework, she highlights the entire cycle of a service failure and the recovery strategies by a firm leading to the expression of different forms of emotions by customers and the outputs you can expect from your service recovery process:
Source: Customer’s emotions in service failure and recovery: a meta-analysis at Research Gate
According to this model, a dissatisfied policyholder is likely to experience negative emotions such as anger or frustration. Led by their emotions, they may either complain to your agency about it or express their dissatisfaction to others, such as on a consumer/product review website. In the negative review case, you will get the customer complaint on the review sites.
As per the model, if you act by initiating the recovery process from your end (check the “Firm-Initiated Recovery” graph), by the time the review is posted--or more proactively--even before it, you have a fair chance of winning back your unhappy customer. Your effort to reach out to the client and address their concern will elicit a second wave of client emotions, which can either be positive or negative. If the client is satisfied, they may experience happiness, calm, or gratitude. They’re more likely to return to or remain with your agency and spread word of mouth about it to others online.
On the other hand, if you don’t properly manage the recovery process, the unhappy client may experience more sadness, rage, or frustration. As a result, they might leave your insurance agency or file a formal complaint.
How to Handle Negative Reviews from Your Insurance Clients
Do you sometimes wonder why the folks at Disney have held the distinguished position of customer service king for decades? Well, part of it is because they cracked the secret to successfully dealing with unhappy customers—the L.A.S.T model! The acronym for this time-tested service recovery approach stands for:
If you look at the L.A.S.T. model closely, you will find that it so finely exhibits the essentials of Sara Valentin’s “customers’ emotions in service failure and recovery” framework.
We have provided below an implementable guide that elaborates on the essence of Disney’s L.A.S.T. and Sara Valentini’s models that will help you handle the negative reviews of your insurance customer and turn them into your loyal clients.
Step #1: LISTEN
- Ask for feedback: Requesting your clients to provide feedback shows that you care to listen. Most customers feel better and are happy about brands that value their voice regarding service quality/experiences.
- Don’t disregard negative reviews:Not replying to a negative review shows that you don’t care for the reviewer’s concerns. With this habit, you may lose not only the unhappy client but also the prospects who observe your disinterest in addressing customer issues.
- Respond quickly: Delayed response can only aggravate an already sad situation for the complainant. But prompt reply is an integral component of a proactive recovery strategy to ease the reviewer’s agony or anger.
- Don’t get defensive: Don’t reply when you are in a bad mood, as it can undermine your recovery effort. Instead of shifting the blame back to the reviewer, take time to organize your thoughts and be calm when responding.
- Don’t get pulled into an online battle: “Fighting in public” with consumers can result in an out-of-control PR disaster for your brand. It’s also bad for SEO.
Step #2: APOLOGIZE
- Acknowledge the issue & take responsibility: To show empathy, say you’re sorry for the client’s pain, even if you aren’t at fault. Otherwise, acknowledge any shortfall on your part to turn a negative experience into a positive one.
- Be kind and stay professional: Always be calm and professional, including when responding to nasty feedback or unwarranted complaints, to protect your image. Using an appropriate tone and language when turning a negative consumer experience into a happy one helps make a great brand impression in front of the current and prospective clients closely following your online responses.
- Give customized response: Instead of issuing a generalized reply, customize your answer to demonstrate empathy for the reviewer’s unique experience with your brand. You can personalize aspects of the recovery process, such as by sending the policyholder a handwritten apology or asking for their input to avoid similar troubles in the future.
- Tactfully promote your agency’s positive image: Instead of portraying the reviewer as petty or a liar, use kind language to convey that their sad experience is rare. Also, you can highlight the positive things that clients have always loved about your services. This way, you’re showcasing your brand in a positive light without appearing to arrogantly dismiss the unhappy client’s negative review.
Step #3: SOLVE
- Make good the grievances: Depending on the situation, an unhappy client may change or remove their negative review if you remedy the situation, such as with discounted premiums.
- Take the matter offline: After apologizing to the reviewer, request for their contact info to address the matter comprehensively offline. It shows that your response isn’t a mere PR exercise.
- Show the steps you are taking: Reassure the client that you’re on top of the situation by explaining the remedial measures you’re taking. Don’t just say sorry. This move can help ease the client’s frustration and sense of helplessness early in the recovery process, restoring their trust and hope in your ability to successfully address their current pain points.
- Offer compensation, if necessary: To retain an insurance client or prospect who has suffered financial loss as a result of your fault, you can consider issuing a refund. In most cases, financial compensation may be the only way to make the client less angry or sad after a service failure.
- Clearly communicate the time & procedure of recovery: According to Sara Valentini’s study published on the Research Gate, “Clear communication of the waiting time and procedures required to complete the recovery process can strengthen positive emotions.” Therefore, quickly reach out and explain the recovery process before the client considers more avenues to vent out frustration, such as by complaining about your brand to their friends or writing more bad reviews across social media.
Step #4: THANK
- Be appreciative and say thanks: A gesture of appreciation for submitting a review encourages future customer feedback, which is great for your reputation. Always thank your clients, from when you’re taking their concerns to when initiating contact to resolve the issue.
- Request for an edit or a new post: With the thanks, you can also request for the unhappy client to reconsider their negative feedback. About 80% of them would consider posting a positive review after successful dispute resolution.
Don’t Hesitate to Flag Inappropriate Reviews
It’s important that you properly handle genuine negative reviews to restate or restore trust in your insurance agency brand. However, business listing platforms like Google recognize your right to fair consumer reviews as it impacts how prospective clients perceive your brand. To protect your agency’s image, you can flag offensive or inappropriate feedback based on the Google guidelines.
Similarly, Yelp encourages reporting reviews that don’t accurately reflect the reviewer’s experience with a brand. You should flag such feedback too, including inaccurate, damaging comments based on hearsay or media reports. Do the same for false consumer reviews on Facebook that violate the community’s standards.
The Inevitability of Negative Reviews & Stratosphere’s Solution for Handling Them
The idea of independent agents evolved with the need for an insurer-neutral entity that can listen to consumers to understand their unique needs. Unlike captive agent services, unbiased agents help prospects select the best insurance products that are best suited to their requirements without inclining towards a particular carrier.
However, the pressure to perform and survive in this extremely competitive insurance industry might have led many independent agencies to focus solely on sales and ignore their role of value addition for their clients. It often leads to negative customer experiences as prospects feel that agents are forcefully leading them to purchase a policy without taking the time to listen and understand their unique needs and requirements.
With the increased focus on sales and profits, cases of customer disappointment are on the rise. According to a Bright Local study, up to 40% of consumers consider expressing their dissatisfaction online after a negative service experience.
It is important to understand that policyholders aren’t cash machines. Properly handling their emotions after they’ve left a negative review is vital to keeping them happy and can help return unhappy clients to your insurance agency. You can accomplish this by tactfully handling negative reviews, which entails turning undesirable situations into opportunities to portray your reputation in a positive light.
Instead of jeopardizing your business image, leverage the Stratosphere Online Reputation Management tool. Our insurance reputation management solution will track and notify you of unfavorable online reviews so you can promptly reach out to the client before they’ve inflicted serious damage on your reputation. Do you wish to streamline the customer service recovery process with our ORM solution? If so, contact us today for inquiries!