Canadian Underwriter

Communicating with clients: Ditch the emojis! LOL

June 9, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Ditch the emojis and shorthand use proper language when communicating to clients in writing, an insurance executive urged during a recent webinar.

Insurance professionals would be wise to make the extra effort to be clear to clients when communicating in a written format, according to Erin Fischer, senior vice president, chief claims and regional insurance operations officer at Wawanesa Insurance.

In a world that has quickly become more virtual thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, clients are often emailing requests to their brokers. But an off-beat comment typed in an email is very different than an unclear message through a phone call, she warned.

“Words matter, tone matters and how you respond matters,” Fischer emphasized during the Insurance Institute of Canada’s latest At the Forefront series, entitled Exceptional Customer Experiences in a Virtual World.

It’s worth considering whether you should even email a response at all, she cautioned. Before you even decide to write a message to the client, ask yourself if it’s better to make a phone call.

“I periodically hear somebody tell me, ‘Well, customers just want us to text them.’ My response is simple: ‘Do they? Do they really? When? At what point of the process? Which customers? All of them? In every situation? What if there’s an issue? Do they want to text back and forth?’” Fischer said.

Erin Fischer from Wawanesa speaks at the Insurance Institute of Canada’s ‘At the Forefront’ webinar, ‘Exceptional Customer Experiences in a Virtual World.’

If you’re at all unclear in your initial email, subsequent messages can easily be misinterpreted. “They can create strings of complicated responses that cause confusion and anxiety,” she observed.

Fischer used the example of ‘reply all’ exchanges. We all know the potential for confusion that may arise from multiple messages in ‘reply all’ email chains. If you happen to leave your desk for a few minutes, for example, it can be a frustrating experience to read, interpret, and decipher how all of the various responses fit together when you return to your email inbox.

Customers feel the same way when they get messages from their insurance professional that are difficult to understand, said Fischer.

Oftentimes, a 10-minute phone call would cut out many of those issues and frustrations.

Taking it a step further, emails can often be written in a rush. That makes it more likely for the broker to omit an important detail in a message, resulting in a misinterpretation, and thereby upsetting the client.

“How many times have you wished you could recall the email after you’ve re-read it because it just didn’t come across with the message and tone that you intended?” Fischer asked. “How often do you send a quick email without taking the time to re-read it and ensure that your message and tone are appropriate? How many times have you sent a quick text to somebody, only to realize they probably misread the text — and you can’t recall it?”

In a virtual world, key aspects of in-person interactions are missed. “Our words matter; our tone matters. In virtual communication, without the benefit of facial expressions and body language, I would argue that it’s a far more critical skill set that we need to build in how we communicate,” Fischer said.

She urged P&C professionals to be more thoughtful about their messaging. She made three recommendations when communicating through email and text:

  • Context is everything. Consider the context of the message
  • Consider your tone and your audience. The former should match the latter
  • Don’t use short forms or emojis. Not everyone understands them. Use plain English

“And I think [proper communication] is the key to helping somebody feel taken care of instead of anxious,” Fischer said. “It’s a way to build strong relationships and trust.”


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