Connecting with the many professionals and departments in any one insurance company is a huge challenge. There is no one unique structure of such a company but typically a department might be client/customer facing or, alternatively, ‘back-office’ operations (with, for example, insurance experts in claims investigation, compliance, audit). The quality output of both types of department rests on their technical strength and competence but throughout the company, communicating a positive culture and communicating effectively at a face-to-face level are both crucial to reinforcing these technical strengths.
It is essential that the purpose and values of the company are agreed, made explicit, and are there to inspire and guide all members of staff.
A leading insurer described their core values as:
- Care more – about our customers, our communities and each other
- Kill complexity – making things simple for customers
- Never rest – thinking bigger and do better
- Create legacy – positive ways forward
These values link to the widely accepted Total Quality value of ‘meeting and exceeding customer expectation’ and ‘putting them first’.
Another leading and relatively new insurer described the best thing about their company was that ‘the people are great’. What does this really mean? This brings me to the second aspect of effective communication – face-to-face interpersonal ‘people’ skills. Irrespective of the every day pressures on all of us at work, one of the keys to effective operations is the ability we all have to listen and talk in positive and effective ways to each other whether by telephone, face-to-face or through emails and letters. When we learn to communicate, we see the importance of verbal and non-verbal listening, the sharing of the conversation space (e.g. talking 50% or less of the time each), using summarising to ensure mutual understanding; focusing to maintain the point of the conversation; and then being able to influence a conversation towards a ‘win-win’ outcome.
Reflecting on our own communication style does not have to be hard, embarrassing or a distraction from ‘real work’ – any company and any good manager with a ‘bias for action’ can apply this to encouraging junior, middle and senior staff to look at their face-to-face communication skills and even provide simple training or CPD opportunities to polish up their micro-skills in communication. When ‘people are great (communicators)’, the operational side of any insurer will be boosted and become more effective.
Koch HCH, (Enhancing Communication Between Departments. Modern Insurance Magazine. July 2018).