Insurance Broker Blog

5 Steps to Showing Empathy for Clients

To be successful, a broker should be good at both sales and customer service. Both of these roles require many skills that, with training and practice, can be learned and improved. Showing empathy is one of those skills at the top of the list. Its importance in broker/client relationships cannot be overstated and is crucial for problem-solving and building trust. 

In a nutshell, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s something that most people are born with, but learning how to use it to provide excellent customer service and close sales takes practice. Even in difficult situations, it's important to remember that showing empathy will increase satisfaction in all your client interactions and become second nature over time. 
With empathy, it helps to think of it not as a feeling, but as a group of behaviors. Below are five behaviors you can practice and perfect to demonstrate empathy with your clients:

1. Listen actively
Effective listening must be active. It begins with focusing on the client. That means removing distractions and facing the client to listen not only with your ears but also your eyes. It’s estimated that only 7 percent of communication is verbal, which means that critical bits of information are being conveyed through body language or facial expressions.

If your client interaction requires taking notes, then active listening dictates that you have a pen and paper ready. It’s not possible to focus on the client while searching through your briefcase for something to write with.

Active listening also involves giving the client appropriate feedback. Providing feedback encourages the client to continue talking and reveal everything that’s on their mind. Feedback might be in the form of:

• A smile that encourages them to continue
• A nod that indicates, “I get it”
• Eye contact, but you must be careful not to stare, which can be intimidating or awkward
• Posture – sometimes leaning forward shows intensity

2. Recognize their emotions
Emotions are important signs along the way to solving problems. They tell us when we are on the right track. They also warn us when there is danger ahead and when to proceed with caution. Therefore, learning to recognize and respond appropriately to all kinds of emotions is critical.

Skillful customer service people know that you must heal the person before you can fix the situation. That adage means that sometimes the client simply needs to let off steam. And, in those situations, trying to fix the situation before they are receptive is like throwing fuel on a fire. Giving your client the dedicated time to communicate their frustrations or concerns before correcting the problem can help them feel validated and turn a problem into an opportunity to build more trust and rapport. 

3. Accept their interpretations
Accepting someone’s interpretation of an event or situation is not the same as agreeing with them. It allows you to view the situation from outside of your perspective and make a better observation of the client’s situation. That better assessment will enable you to come up with solutions that you might miss otherwise.

4. Restate the problem
Before trying to solve a problem, it’s wise to restate it. It’s okay to paraphrase as long as you don’t change the meaning. For instance, you can say, “Let me see if I understand you correctly. You agree that dental insurance will make your employees happy and be a great recruiting tool, but you don’t feel that it will fit your current budget. Is this accurate?”

Restating the problem is a powerful tool because it demonstrates that you have been listening to the client and that you respect and care about their needs. It also ensures that you accurately understand what the client has said. After all, you don’t want to waste time offering solutions that don’t address the situation.

5. Ask permission to move forward
Asking permission to move forward is about more than just being polite. It determines whether you and the client are at the same place in the discussion. If you ask permission to move forward, but the client still needs or wants to talk about the situation, then you should go back to the beginning and go through the previous steps.

Asking permission to move forward doesn’t have to be a question. You can use a statement like, “I have a few solutions that might help.” If you pause after the statement, the client might ask you to proceed. Or if you are actively listening, the permission might be unspoken. Either way, you’ve affirmed that you and the client are at the same place in the discussion and ready to move forward to discussing solutions.

You can use the above five steps in every interaction with a client, no matter how brief or how long. The only difference is the amount of time you spend on each step. You can hit all five steps even during a one-minute phone call. Everyone has some degree of empathy. But, showing empathy for clients, and using it to close sales and provide excellent customer service, takes practice.  Being the best you can be for your client starts with taking care of you. Visit our self-care guide below to beat broker burnout so you can show up as the best version of yourself for your clients! To learn more, click below for our FREE guide!

Beat sales burnout once and for all using self-care tips in our guide.