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Watch your lingo: Insurance jargon may stand between you and your customers
/ Categories: Marketing & Sales

Watch your lingo: Insurance jargon may stand between you and your customers

Insurance lingo can be very off-putting to customers. By way of illustration, we point to an amusing anecdote that one of our colleagues likes to tell about the first time she called an agent after a fender bender. The agent said "You'll have to file a claim with the insurer." "Oh no," she said. "I'm not claiming this, I have proof, I have names of two witnesses." A back and forth ensued with our at-the-time clueless colleague hanging up the phone with a great sense of unease. The jargon of our industry made her feel that her agent didn't believe her and that she was locked in an adversarial process. We use the term "claim" in our industry in a specialized way, but the primary definition is: "An assertion of the truth of something, typically one that is disputed or in doubt." So should we refer to our insureds as "claimants" or as "customers"?

That may seem like a small misunderstanding, but every business has its own insider lingo, and that lingo can be black hole to the uninitiated, a barrier to sales and service. Sometimes experts like to flaunt specialized insider lingo to bedazzle customers with their expertise but we'd suggest that the true expert can explain complexities in simple terms.

And we aren't talking about just consumers of personal insurance products: CFOs are often the decision maker when it comes to workers comp, but beyond pricing, how much do you think they really know about the complexities of this insurance product that can even baffle insiders? Our experience tells us "very little" - it's just not their wheelhouse. If you can offer a simple explanation of why a longer term risk mitigation strategy might be cheaper in the long run than saving a few dollars now, that is a real service. Don't assume that because they are finance people, CFOs or company presidents know the intricacies of work comp and are fluent in all the associated lingo!

With this in mind, we were delighted to see the article Your prospects don't speak the language of insurance. Translate for them in our newsfeed. Chris Amrehein is an insurance educator and in a recent class, the issue of explaining insurance products was raised. One of his students said that with many non-English speaking adults, she had to explain insurance concepts to a 12-year old intermediary and that added to the E&O risk. Chris replied:  “You know what your far bigger E&O problem is? Assuming the ones who speak English understand you!

So true. Chris uses this incident as a springboard to talk about the importance and challenge of explaining insurance terms and concepts to the uninitiated. Among the many great points he makes, we liked this one:

"When confronted by confusing or complex language, my natural instinct is to assign greater importance to any term I do grasp. Hence, in any scenario involving such language — insurance, legal documents, finance, or tech gadgets, for example — I will focus the entire conversation on price. Not because I’m cheap; that is simply the only term in the conversation I’ve understood."

He says that if an agent is forced to explain insurance to a 12-year old, that might a benefit:

Our agent is not only more aware of her need to explain complex coverages and terms to her prospects, she is extremely conscious that those explanations must be clear to a 12-year-old. How many E&O claims have arisen from an agent or staff member assuming too much knowledge on the part of prospects simply because of their age, dress or position? As any number of scammers targeting doctors, movie stars or other supposedly intelligent adults have long known and profited from, professionals may be the smartest in the room in their profession, but their knowledge of personal finance and investments? Zero.

Check it out and think about the language that you and your service & sales team use with your prospects and customers. Does it pass the "a 12 year old could understand this" test?

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