5 Steps to De-escalating Everyday Scenarios

August 8, 2022

How to equip insurance agents to handle it all

When it comes to the high-stakes world of insurance, companies need their agents at the top of their game. One wrong move, inexperience, or just a bad day could result in a customer that's lost for life.

With retention and customer satisfaction being such vital components of a successful business, how can a company work to mitigate outside influences and help their agents not only hone in on finding solutions for problems but do so in a way that leaves the customer satisfied? Role Play at the Olson Agency has the answers you're looking for.

As the first and only live sales training program for insurance companies, we prepare agents so that they can confidently handle whatever comes their way. Here, we'll talk about one of the most important elements that make up a successful call: the art of de-escalating a situation.

But first, what is de-escalation, and why is it important?

Before we delve into how to de-escalate everyday scenarios, let's first discuss what de-escalation means and how it's important for not only protecting your company's bottom line but helping the agency grow.

De-escalation is a pattern of behavior or steps that a person takes when dealing with an agitated customer in an effort to not only prevent the exacerbation of conflict but to help bring about a resolution.

So why is de-escalation important? A successful de-escalation leaves the customer feeling heard and their concerns addressed. They feel valued as a customer and therefore, are more likely to continue to pay for your services. Positive reviews and word of mouth can increase sales and help your business thrive.

On the flip side of that, agents who are not trained in how to successfully de-escalate everyday scenarios risk losing multiple customers, as hardly anyone calls to tell agents what a great job they're doing. It's human nature to only get in touch with a company when a wrong is perceived.

That means that you could have hundreds of agitated customers calling in before leaving negative reviews when they believe an issue wasn't handled satisfactorily.

Are your agents trained and equipped to handle those calls? If not, we've got you covered. Let's begin!

Role Play at the Olson Agency's 5-Step De-escalation Guide for Agents

Step 1: Walk in the customer's shoes

The first step in de-escalating everyday scenarios? Ensuring you, the agent, see the problem from the customer's point of view. Most customers don't know the ins and outs of the insurance world. That means they're likely not privy to the steps they need to take to get a claim handled or their concerns addressed. That can lead to a frustrating experience for them, and speaking with an agent who is not able or willing to see things from their perspective will only make things worse.

Listen carefully to the customer without interrupting. Active listening reassures the client that you're not only hearing what they say but that you're fully taking it in and understanding the problem at hand. Allow yourself to see the issue from the side of the customer. How would you feel if this was happening to you, and you didn't know how to go about getting it resolved? You'd probably feel quite frustrated.

Speaking of frustration, it's important to know that some customers are heated at this stage. Many have just encountered an issue that angers or confuses them. A good defense? A calm and professional demeanor. Keeping your cool through a stressful situation can oftentimes help those you're speaking to calm down as well.

Remember, you're actively listening and putting yourself in their shoes while remaining calm.

Step 2: Make them feel heard and confirm you can help

What's the follow-up on walking in the customer's shoes? Make them feel that you heard their concerns, and confirm that concern or issue is something you can assist with.

This is the perfect time to show you've been actively listening and have taken a moment to put yourself in their shoes. Sum up what you believe to be the primary issue, and reassure the customer that you're there to help.

While this may not seem like an important step, it's a vital component of de-escalation. Making customers feel heard makes them feel valued. Plus, it's simply more difficult to stay angry with someone who has just listened without interruption, said how they would feel a similar way if something like that happened to them, reiterated the issue at hand, and confirmed they're not only able to help but ready and willing.

Just don't make promises or reassurances you cannot keep!

Step 3: Gather the facts

Here's where you need to expertly separate fact from feeling. The first two steps are all about how the customer feels – what they think of a situation and how they're unhappy. This step is about starting to solve the problem, which can't be done without the facts of the case.

Get the who, what, when, where, and why.

Who: Who all was involved? The policyholder? Another person? Multiple people? Is everyone involved okay? Are there any injuries to note?

What: What exactly happened, start to finish. Again, make sure you're separating fact from feeling.

When: Not just the date the issue occurred but specific times the incident happened. A timeline of the incident can be very helpful, especially when dealing with a complicated issue.

Where: Was there a specific location the incident occurred, like an intersection or a specific area of a home? Important answers to have, should a claim need to be paid out.

Why: While not always applicable, is there a "Why" in the situation? A reason the whole thing started in the first place?

Be sure to take detailed notes when gathering the facts of the case. It reduces back and forth time with the customer, which means a more speedy resolution.

Step 4: Educate

Once you've gathered the facts, is there an opportunity to kindly educate the customer about a specific process or rule the insurance company has? Are you able to shed some light as to why things are handled in certain ways?

Giving these bits of information can help the customer better understand the entire process, or perhaps why the situation they're facing is a difficult or more complex one than others.

Just remember; you're here to de-escalate the situation. Speaking down to a customer or making them feel like you're saying things they should have known all along will not help the customer calm down.

Step 5: Provide a plan

Now that you've gotten a clear understanding of the facts in the case, make a plan for moving forward. Then, share that plan with the customer. By notifying them of the specific actions you're going to take, you're making it easier for the customer to relax as a resolution is on the horizon.

If they have multiple options, make each known. When approached with a "let's do whatever works best/is easiest for you," you're again making the customer feel heard and valued. Just be sure the plan is an actionable one with clear steps.

Should the customer have any questions that you don't have the answers to, avoid phrases like, "I'm not sure/I don't know." Instead, say that's not something you readily have the answer to but one that you'll seek out or confirm if they don't mind waiting. You're there to be helpful, start to finish!

Teach agents the art of de-escalation with help from insurance sales training

It's one thing to understand a concept; it's another to successfully incorporate it into a potentially high-stress situation. The best way to prepare agents to de-escalate everyday scenarios is to give them ample time to practice implementing their new skills.

With help from the team here at Role Play at the Olson Agency, your company can enjoy live training sessions that guarantee results when out in the real world. We're so confident in our proven ability to help agents increase the number of policies sold, improve close rates, and de-escalate situations, that we offer a 100% money-back guarantee – and we're the only insurance sales training company that does so!

That means there is no risk to trying Role Play at the Olson Agency – only rewards. Request a demo of our services today or check out our episode library that features scripts, including a de-escalation training segment.

Our training topics are customized and driven by you so that your company and agents can get the most from each session. We look forward to helping your agents learn and practice our 5-step guide to de-escalation and more!

Get Started Today