Once upon a time, I managed the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) cable network account for a Madison Avenue advertising agency. When I would visit my client in Norfolk, Va., I would be greeted with an enthusiastic “Hello, my brother” by the guard stationed at the front gate. Once inside, the receptionists at the front desk greeted me with similar enthusiasm. By the time I arrived at my client’s office, I was entirely ready for business.
I recall a meeting back at our New York office in which a modest inbound telemarketing program was being discussed. When the meeting was ending, my clients prayed for the program’s success. Although I am not particularly religious, I was taken by my clients’ fervor. By seeking the intercession of an all-powerful God on this modest program, I felt their enthusiastic energy would help power it to success.
When traveling to work in the morning, I would take New Jersey Transit to Penn Station in New York City, where I would board a subway train. I like to begin my day early and would be joined primarily by construction workers arriving for an early shift. I was struck by the way these construction workers enthusiastically greeted each other as they stepped onto the subway platform. Their behavior was unlike what I would soon witness in my office, where my colleagues would quietly file past the reception desk. I thought how much better it would be if we high-fived each other as we walked to our desks. Enthusiasm is contagious, and it adds muscle to our joint efforts.
At the entrance to New York’s Central Park at Sixth Avenue, young men gather to offer bicycle rides through the park. Each time one of these young men crosses the street to join his colleagues for a workday, it would seem he was arriving for a New Year’s Eve celebration. You would think it was these young men who would soon be traveling up elevators to warm, well-appointed offices with a cup of coffee and bagel in hand, rather than the office workers walking quietly past them.
When fielding requests from my clients, I inject enthusiasm in each response. Instead of replying with a lackluster “I will do it,” I reply “I will do it right away.” Since this is how I will do it, why shouldn’t I communicate my enthusiasm? I recently told you how when a client requested a plan, I told her I would deliver it at 8:00 the next morning. She responded to my enthusiasm by awarding the business to me on the spot. We had added depth to our relationship.
When your insureds are up for renewal, there are two ways in which to approach your task. You can treat it as a burdensome chore, or you can treat it as a valuable opportunity to review and improve your clients’ coverages. By approaching each stage of the process with enthusiasm, you will be communicating to your clients how much you care about their business. This will result in an even stronger relationship. If and when your clients switch jobs, are they more likely to bring along an affectless partner or one who managed their risk with enthusiasm?
The same can be said about claims. While there is nothing happy about a claim for either the insured or the carrier, claims can also be processed in one of two ways. Either the carrier can add to the insured’s unhappiness by dragging out the process, or the carrier can make every effort to process the claim in a responsive, expeditious manner. By choosing the latter course, the carrier builds relationships with both brokers and insureds.
I once had a direct report who would come into my office each morning to say “Good morning, big guy!” It may be coincidental that this bright, shining person was later recruited by a mutual fund company. Although he had no relevant experience, he would go on to become rich. I choose to believe there was causality.
Of course, when I say enthusiasm builds relationships, I am not advocating substance-free blarney. Our insurance industry is in the midst of a sea change. Our best leaders will be energized by the challenge as they reimagine the future with equal parts energy and wisdom.
Our insurance business is a community. Some of us depend on it for a living, while others rely upon it to transfer risk. By seeding all of our activities with enthusiasm, we tighten the bonds that draw us together.