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Encounters of the Best Kind Can Create The Strongest Claims Organizations

Ideal Customer Relationships Matter in the Claims World Too

Steve Yastrow, who writes for Tom Peter’s Press, has written eloquently on issues of branding and the ideal customer relationship. In his first book, Brand Harmony, Steve hammers home the point that companies don’t really define their own brand because, simply put, their customers define it for them. In other words, the “brand” of a company is formed when customer interactions blend together to create a clear, compelling, and differentiating story.

The Claims Brand

‘Put another way, it doesn’t really matter what a claims organization says about its own services or its quality or how they do business, since it is each customer interaction that really defines the “truth” about the company’s brand.  “We provide the best, highest quality, and superior claims services in the world,” is not something the company defines; it’s something the company’s customers define.

Steve’s most recent book, We, delves into these interactions in great detail and distinguishes between “relationship-building encounters,” and “relationship-eroding transactions.” A premise behind this work is that customer “encounters” result in a “We” relationship (not an “us and them” one) and that in a “We” relationship customers stop seeing the company as a vendor or a provider, but as a collaborator, as a partner.

Claims Encounters to Build, Not Erode, Relationships

We all know companies where our interactions with the company have “felt right,” or have made us feel “good” about the interaction. We all know claims professionals that seem to be great “people-persons,” able to get what they want on a claim perhaps more quickly and effectively than their peers.

Steve points out that after each interaction with a customer only one of three things can happen:

  1. Your relationship improves
  2. Your relationship stays the same
  3. Your relationship becomes weaker

While transactions result in a weaker or same relationship, encounters make the relationship stronger.

Elements to a Successful Encounter

Three elements are necessary for an encounter. If even one of them is missing the experience becomes a transaction for the customer and the opportunity is lost. The three requirements are:

  1. Engagement in the moment – Be there! Be “in” the conversation 100%. Listen. Be in-tune to your customer. Get your customer to “be there” in the encounter too. Don’t be distracted. Customers can tell if you’re “with them” in the encounter.
  2. Conversation – Your goal is not to simply tell your story, or simply listen to your customer’s story. Your goal is to have a fluid conversation about what is at hand, in a way that creates a true dialogue, a “real” conversation. Monologues lead to transactions. Conversations lead to encounters.
  3. Uniqueness – Encounters are not scripted. They feel fresh, spontaneous, and one-of-a-kind. Instead of the customer and claims professional playing their “respective roles,” the interaction feels like it is between real people engaged in a unique conversation. Both parties recognize the uniqueness of it as it”s happening.

While there are many things that a claims professional can do to prepare for an interaction (in order to make them an encounter), these are the elements of a truly different experience, and one that helps to define your claims organization’s “brand.”

Are professionals who create encounters more successful in achieving their objectives?

What do you think your claims organization’s “brand” identity is with your customers?

Posted in Best Practices, Customer Service, SPOT on Issues, SPOT on Ops.

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