Digital relationships are still relationships.

by | Dec 12, 2016 | Broker, Customer-centricity, Relationships

We were pleased to be asked to participate on one of the panel discussions at yesterday’s Insurance Institute’s 2016 Symposium West in Cambridge. Our panel, facilitated by Lissa Seguin from the Co-Operators, included Brenda Rose from FCA Insurance Brokers, Karim Hirji from Intact and myself. We tackled the hot topic of product disruption and had a great discussion about the changing customer, innovative products and how Brokers, Insurers and technology partners can come together to leverage new opportunities.

We had a great question from the audience about how to develop relationships with customers when or if they only want to deal with the brokerage digitally. I love this question, firstly it assumes a relationship is only possible if you met in person or talk over the phone. The truth is that’s absolutely not the fact, meaningful personal or business relationships can be created and maintained totally digitally – email, online chat and texting only. So that’s the good news, but here’s the challenge, developing those relationships and training customer-facing staff is very difficult.

Albert Mehrabian, a professor from UCLA, has published some of the best findings on verbal and non-verbal communications and the relative impacts of words, tone of voice and body language. According to Mehrabian, words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38% and body language 55% when we determine our liking for a person who shares a feeling. What’s interesting about that in today’s reality is that when we communicate feelings or attitudes with each other over email or chat we’re only dealing with the 7%, or literal interpretation, and don’t have access to the non-verbal triggers that account for the majority of interpretation.

Don’t force your customers to use the channels you prefer or don’t think you can’t build a relationship digitally. However, if your customers want to do business over email, chat or text be mindful that the words you use and how you use them are very important. It’s far easier to be misinterpreted over email then on the phone or in person. If you’re expanding your digital service channels consider some etiquette training for you and your team – always a good refresher.