Strategy Feed

The Connection Between Social Media and Insurance : Five Questions

I was honored to be interviewed recently by ILSTV, "the source for daily insurance news and analysis and information relevant to the Canadian insurance industry" on my views and experiences in using social media as an insurance professional to support our clients, get involved and help give back to the community, as well as to listen to what people are thinking about. Every opportunity to listen to our clients and learn from them is an opportunity for us in the industry to provide better services and support.

The Financial services industry is one of the most complicated for individuals to understand, which is why I feel it is so important for "experts" and experienced brokers to reach out to their clients in as many ways possible and provide them with resources to learn about the things that affect them. Social Media provides an incredible opportunity here. It was very nice to have the chance to chat with Julie Hawrishok of ILSTV and answer her five questions, in fact we covered so much,  I even got a bonus one (Thanks Julie)!  Read more on our conversation in this interview:

"With more than* 15 years of experience in the insurance industry, Mila’s now embraced social media and has become a strong advocate for social media in the

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12 Most Powerful Ways to Staff Your Company with Star Employees

Insurance Brokers are in high demand in Quebec. As the Boomer generation heads towards retirement, this profession is one that is definitely seeing a shortage. The regulations governing insurance broker licensing and the high demands of the position which combine customer service with a necessity to be able to navigate insurance proficiently for clients, make it even more challenging to find the right fit. Add to this the changing environment where skill sets have to not only respond to traditional service, but now have to integrate into Social Media channels as well, star employees are key ~ I wrote this article to highlight some of the strategy we have been using to engage employees and make sure that as we move forward we build a strong team and that as a company, we recognize that our employees are our most valuable assets.

This blog post was originally published on The 12 Most... Blog : Blog, Business, Education and training, Talent & Professional Development , Dec 12th, 2011



One of the biggest challenges facing organizations today is finding and retaining the right talent for the job. Businesses have to become more and more competitive to survive in challenging economic times, and a key to doing this is staffing your company with a great team. Management has to adapt to changing environments and take on new approaches to hiring and retention to ensure a superstar team.

Here are the 12 Most powerful ways to staff your company with star employees:

Star Employee Boat Cruise Ogilvy & Ogilvy Retention Development and Appreciation


1. Empower your company with great leaders.

Leaders who are engaged, committed and motivated to work as part of the team.

2. Encourage your leaders to interact with their team members on a day to day basis.

This ensures that they have a true sense of what is happening, and puts them in a position to always respond.

3. Know your environment.

Determine what behaviors in the environment will generate reward for employees. Hire people who are motivated by what you have to offer.

4. Be open and authentic in presenting your company to new candidates.

Give a thorough overview of what they can expect. Don’t just stick to job tasks, include environment, team behavior, and walk them through what a day looks like in your company. Be as open with them and as authentic as you would be with your existing employees. Have you heard about how being authentic in Social Media is the key to success? Well being authentic when you are interviewing is also a key.

5. Allow the potential candidate to meet existing team members.

Something that I do when hiring, is I have existing team members meet with the candidate. I encourage the candidate to ask existing employees any questions they may have. This gives them a chance to feel if it is going to be a good fit from the start. Don’t wait for the first weeks of work for things to come up when it is too late and you’ve already spent your time and energy on the hire.

6. Take the opinion of current employees into consideration in the hiring process.

Their perspectives are different than the hiring officer, or the manager. These are the people who will be working closest with the new employee. Let them conduct their own “interview”. Existing employees can often shed light on people from a different perspective. They will have special insight that will contribute to the long term success of the team. Let them have candid talks with the new hire. Get their feedback. This also gives current star employees a sense of value and ownership of their own team. People who feel valued and empowered stay.

7. Get continuous feedback from employees on how things are going

Services such as Rypple or Cleargears allow for this kind of feedback in an anonymous way that allows people to express what is really going on. Getting this kind of feedback gives you an opportunity for recognition, support and opportunities to identify potential issues in operations, morale or service. Addressing issues and being proactive keeps the environment positive and productive.

8. Recognize individuals and teams for their accomplishments regularly

Everyone feels good when something they do gets recognized. Organizations are machines. Star employees need to hear about how they are doing – machines can’t do this, but leaders and colleagues can. Create an environment where recognition on individual and team levels are part of the “routine”. Celebrate each others’ success, recognize both small and large accomplishments on a regular basis and people will thrive. (Rypple also provides an excellent, self managed tool for doing this easily).

9. Be trustworthy and reliable: listen and respond

Things go wrong, people have off days, humans have conflict – when this happens, listen. Listen to people and ensure that people know who they can talk to about issues. Clearly define and assign people to be there and resolve issues. Half of solving the problem is listening. Once you have heard the problem, be committed to respond, investigate and resolve issues. Part of being in a strong team is working together. Most importantly, however, is having someone for employees to rely on so they can focus on their work and do what they do best.

10. Create opportunities for people to be engaged

People who are happy in their positions are engaged. Hold meetings or activities that bring people together and use team communication to help everyone stay in the loop on an ongoing basis. Yammer is a great tool which I have used in my department to keep team communication active. Encourage idea sharing, value adding activities, and active participation. (Example: We have “Team Think” meetings and we also take our employees on activities like Dinner Cruises, Cocktail evenings, Bowling.) It is also important to have fun together.

11. Focus on strengths and give opportunity for development

Everyone may be doing the same job tasks, but every individual has their own strengths and special qualities. Managers should take the time to get to know each of their employees. be observant, ask questions and then develop an understanding of who they are, where their strengths are and what their goals are. Create opportunities in the team to use those strengths and reach those goals. Acknowledge these thing so people know they are valued and they matter as people to you. If you use the strengths of your people you will always have a winning team.

12. Do not lose your focus

Make a commitment to all of the above points and review yourself and your managers on a weekly or monthly basis. Are the employees of your firm happy? Do they feel recognized? Have you created touch points to stay in tuned with what is happening? Have you addressed issues and resolved problems? Have you created opportunities for people to use their strengths and develop their skills? Are people feeling fulfilled and rewarded? The importance of reviewing this regularly, and maintaining consistency is critical to ensuring you have created an environment where star employees can not only shine, but stay and drive the company forward. When people are happy, feel engaged, recognized and are given opportunities they will thrive at their careers and in their job. Like attracts like – keep your superstars happy and the environment will thrive. This kind of engagement makes for an exceptional team, and this is what lays behind any great company: great employees.

Mila Araujo

Mila Araujo is the Director of Personal Lines at Ogilvy & Ogilvy Inc. in Westmount, Quebec. A third generation, family owned financial services firm with offices in Toronto and Montreal. Mila has a diverse background in management, having held positions in restaurant management, public relations, non-profit organizations, and event management. Mila started her career having studied food service & restaurant management and owned her own catering company which specialized in French cuisine. After doing this for several years, Mila took her passion for service and events into Public Relations and worked in the field organizing international conferences on health care, as well as national events and programs to promote health. Mila has lived in Los Angeles, Paris, Hawaii and calls Montreal home. She loves traveling, food and connecting with people. As part of her role at Ogilvy & Ogilvy, Talent Development, Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Media are some of her focal points for 2012 . She is currently organizing the “State of Now” (#140Conf) Montreal for May 2012.

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Commentary - Do you do favors for strangers? Let's look at some advice.

The Globe and Mail online published an article entitled "Singing the Home Insurance Blues" March 9th, 2011  (Presumably to appear in a print copy today?).

As brokers, when insurance rates increase, at the front line dealing with our clients every day we feel the results. Not only do we feel the results, but we share the feelings of our clients. Our clients are not nameless, faceless people to us, we think of them and their families and the first thing we do is try and figure out how we can negotiate the best rates for them.  As brokers, I will attest that we also "Sing the Home Insurance Blues", but  we use our expertise to try and guide our clients through with the best prices and the best options for the insurance industry's current rate trends.

Although there were many issues brought up in the article, some of which I cover in other posts on my blog, I will focus in this post on one statement with some advice attached, that stood out for me.

Rob Carrick, well known journalist, financial columnist stated the following in the article :

"The standard advice if you’re unhappy with how much you’re paying for home insurance is to shop around, but you have to wonder whether that’s just a one-year solution. What if you move to a new company that socks you with a big increase on renewal?

You just switch again. It’s time consuming to find competing quotes, but there’s nothing to stop you from jumping from company to company."

It is good advice to take a look around. It is good advice to find out more about who is insuring you and what their capabilities are in regards to market research.We live in an age of consumers.  Business is business.

However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the statement above. There are many things that should force you to reconsider before taking an approach of switching from insurer to insurer - year to year.

In my experience and opinion, it is not at all advisable to switch from year to year.

When you stay with an insurance broker over time, you are the broker's client. The broker can switch you between insurance companies from year to year, however you still maintain the relationship with the broker as a long term client.

Loyalty and long term relationships do carry clout with insurers.

I am willing to wager that  if a survey was done within the broker community across Canada, that brokers would state that they have more power of negotiation on rates as well as ability to assist a client in the event of a claim when they have had the client for several years.

The reason for this is simple.

  • The broker can establish the total revenue the client has represented to the insurer over X amount of years, showing the client's value to the insurer.
  • The broker can speak of the clients character and integrity - because they know them.
  • The broker can relate to an insurer all the factors surrounding the client - and the impact the loss of the client will have on the insurer.

As brokers when we present a risk to the insurer we present many factors, our greatest arguments never lie in the current years renewal rates or conditions. Our greatest and strongest arguments are always the ones based on history and in our ability to represent the client's background and the future potential for the client as a profitable and sound investment for the insurance company.

As brokers, insurers have relationships with us. They trust our perspectives, they work with us to foster strong partnerships. In my experience, when a broker goes to bat for a client, and they have a strong relationship with the insurer, you can bet on the insurer doing everything they can to accomodate.

If you, as an individual shop on price and you jump from insurer to insurer, or from a broker to agent, to direct writer, from year to year... you need to ask yourself who is going to stand behind you when you need that extra help?

You may win in the short term, but the basis of purchasing insurance is not limited to the cheapest price.

The basis is so that when you have a loss, you are compensated. You are put back in the same position that you were originally in (prior to the loss) with the least amount of inconvenience - and then- from there, when it comes time to renew your insurance again, that you may have fair rates and fair treatment.

Do you think you will have the best possible advantage when you deal with a company that has only known you for one year?

Do you think that going the route alone is better then having a broker stand behind you with all their clout?

It is a personal decision, but as  a broker, and someone who works difficult files every single day by negotiating and using my knowledge of my clients to fight for them, I would not recommend switching from insurer to insurer year to year.

Coming back to the quote, you do have to wonder if it is a one year solution when you jump from place to place. In matters of finance, doesn't it make sense to look at the long term? Invest in a relationship. Like any relationship, there may be some collaborative work to do, but stick with a good choice - a good broker- a stable insurer,  and work with them. It will be worth it in the long run.


Additional reading and comments related to this topic : Empower yourself: What does an Insurance Broker do for You? and Our Insurance Approach

Upcoming posts on this topic : The New Loyalty (What happened to loyalty discounts?)

Give me quick & easy, personalized feedback here or be part of the insurance discussion by commenting below.

Empower Yourself: Insurance Broker Best Practices - What Does a Broker Do for You?

As insurance brokers, we play the role as intermediary between you and the insurance company. Often times, we receive questions from clients asking, what the difference is between a broker and a direct writer?

Disclaimer:This information is based on how we view things at Ogilvy in my Personal Lines Department within the mandate of a broker in the Province of Quebec. However, I believe these are broker best practices, which is why we function this way, and therefore the information should serve as an excellent guideline and standard for how you can judge situations in insurance. It may empower you to ask your broker or agent or direct writer some questions about how they work, so you can understand and develop a strong relationship with a company who is the best fit for your needs.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, There are 3 ways you can buy insurance:

  • from a broker who deals with a number of companies and tries to find you the best deal; or
  • from an agent who sells insurance for just one company; or
  • directly from an insurance company, through a call centre and/or website (companies that sell insurance this way are called “direct writers”).

At Ogilvy & Ogilvy, we are brokers, we are independently owned and therefore when we work for you on your insurance policy, our mandate is to represent you.  This differs somewhat than the two other ways of purchasing insurance through agents or direct writers. In both these scenarios the product offering represents one insurer only. They do not have access to other insurance companies and can not do a comparison of quotes for you.

If you have a great deal of time on your hands, you can become your own insurance representative and call many of these agents or direct writers and try and make sense of the insurance policies and make a decision on your own. Of the same token, when you have a claim, you will also be in a similar scenario. You will be the specialist representing you, and you will deal with them directly.

Before I proceed, I will ask you this question:

Do you check the reputation of a lawyer before you ask them to represent you? How about a financial advisor? 

I suggest you entrust your needs to an expert in insurance who has access to various insurers and who can pull the information together for you to present you with proposals. In my opinion, this is a broker.

In the event of a claim, a broker is mandated to represent you and act as a liason between you and an insurance company. They are your expert.

"So why did my rates go up? What use was my broker?"

As brokers, we check all of our available markets, we compare this to the insurer you are currently placed with, then we proceed to negotiate with your insurer to get them to match or beat the competitions rates that we have found. An insurance company will adjust their rates, it is the brokers job to give feedback to the insurance company about how their adjusted rates are comparing to the industry and negotiate from there.

Once we do this, we present you with our best offer. The key here is to understand that brokers are all different. Each brokerage works with insurers of their choice. They have contracts with insurance companies and based on the number of policies they have with that insurance company, their loss ratio's (a measure of profitability) and their relationship with the underwriters at the insurance company, a broker as an individual and as part of a firm will use their expertise and knowledge to develop rapport and carry influence to negotiate.

In my opinion and experience, working in insurance for over a decade, a highly skilled and experenced broker will negotiate and fight for their client. Like with anything, the more you do something, the more experience you attain, the better you are at it.  Think of Gladwell and his ten thousand hour theory...

As a consumer, you should understand and know who the broker is  you are dealing with, and how long has the firm he or she represents been in service.

When you deal with a broker, it is worth understanding who are you dealing with.

A broker (in Quebec) is an advisor in the financial services industry, governed by a code of ethics and has a mandate to represent you.

This is why, some may have noticed, that brokers who are not independent or have significant portions of their business with one insurer are obligated by law to advise you of such. At Ogilvy, we are independent. We represent several major insurers and offer various options to insure your home, car, marine, etc.

A broker's ability to offer you competitive quotes depends on what they are looking at, and as a consumer this is what you should ask them before you spend 30 minutes of your time quoting your home (or car):

How many insurance companies will you be quoting me with and who are they?

I had a client contact us yesterday, and this happens often, they wanted to know why they got a lower price with a direct insurer - they wanted to know if we are brokers why we didnt get them the same price. I will explain this:

Brokers do not have access to direct insurers rates.

Direct writers do not share their prices with brokers. They have only one company. The have a  strategy to write new business. They will often apply new business discounts just to attain the business. It is common practice for direct writers to increase rates after the first or second year. As with any insurer -direct or through brokers. If a huge discount is placed on a policy in the first year (deviating from an insurers rates) then it may occur in the following years that if the rates dont come into line with the original book rates, that discount will be adjusted to slowly come in line with rates.

I have never worked for a direct writer, I have always been a broker. I can not speak to how they increase their rates, what rules they have in place etc.

However as a broker, I can tell you how we work: We fight for our clients.

If we see a rate increase above the norm, we check our markets to see if it makes sense. Then after becoming informed, we contact the insurance company and we tell them about what we have found. Because we have a relationship with our insurers we give them a chance to come in line with the competition. If they do not, we move you to a new insurer that will offer you comparable coverages at the better rate. As part of this process, we will have a discussion with you to make sure we have enough information to provide you with what is best.

Many clients ask: Why did you send me this renewal if it was not your best offer?

I can not speak for all brokers, but I can tell you that insurers issue the renewals at the rates they want. It is up to the broker to receive this document (at the same time as the client) and review the renewal rates and coverages. More and more insurance companies are offering direct mailing to clients. What this means is that the broker and the client receive the renewal at the same time. Therefore, I can speak for our office when I say this:

"When your eyes pop out of your head because your rates went up 30 percent - somewhere in our office, there is a broker opening up the same envelope and having the same reaction."

The difference is, we jump on it, and we start checking our markets and calling our insurance companies to try and negotiate a new rate. You are our client, not the insurance company, we are in the same boat.   

This is a shared journey.

The relationship between a broker and a client is a relationship. Brokers are humans, this being said, every broker is going to have their own way, their own abilities.

At Ogilvy, when that rate jumps 30% we jump too. Behind the scenes, you will not see this, we understand that you will just see the item in your mail, but if you trust your broker then you should always give them a chance to have the discussion and see what is the best thing they can offer after receiving renewal conditions.

We have a lot of success at rewriting and renegotiating policies. I would estimate 70% of the time spent in our personal insurance department is spent reviewing renewals and negotiating. Again, it is a relationship based on trust.

I offer you one last insight, based on conversations we have every day:

When a client gets his renewal, and we have presented them options, and we have worked out our best rates, we do sometimes get that phone call where the client will say "I just got it for $200 less so I think I will have to leave" - we respond: "OK, let me call your insurer back. I will see what I can do..." 

The client will then say,

"If you could have gotten it for me for $200 less, WHY did I have to call you back to make you do this? You told me this was already your best rate?!"


This is the answer: We got your renewal, we checked our available markets, we negotiated the premiums. From all the information we had at the time, we did our best to match what we could see. However, we do not have the direct writers rates, nor do we have the rates of insurers we do not represent, so now that you are giving me additional information, you have helped me help you.

I as a broker would have had no other way to access this information without your help.   Therefore, I am still your broker and I am still going to work for you, and I am going to call my insurer and let them know what you found, and push them to match the competition.

As brokers, we don't always win, but in the end it is your best interests we have at heart, and as part of our mandate - working together, we will make sure you always win.

Working with a broker is a partnership. There is a distinct difference between the broker and the insurance company. So why is it beneficial to work with a broker? Because the broker is mandated to represent you and use their knowledge to advise you. When you have a claim, the broker will know who you are, they will help you. When you call, the broker will understand and remember your history.

When the insurance company does not see who you are, the broker will represent you.

Some advice to make sure you have the right representative for you:

Ask them these questions:

1. Will you be my contact whenever I call? How does your office work?

2.How many companies do you represent?

3.How do renewals work in your firm, what do you do on renewal?

4.If I call you for a change, will you quote all the insurance companies for me again, or will you just leave me where I am? (Note that rates change regularly by the insurance company - brokers are aware of trends and have the ability to do research- find out how they use their abilities).

5. Ask the broker how often they speak with their underwriters  or representatives at the insurance company. This will give you an indication of their  inclination and comfort level in negotiating. Brokers can check rates with a computer program, or they can go further and negotiate. Ask them how often they speak with their reps. Do they call the insurers themselves or do their supervisors handle it for them? The question will surprise them, but the answer will help you assess their style.

Ask them questions that concern you and your insurance situation. Get a sense of the broker's values and polcies.

This is a shared journey based on trust. Work with your broker, find out what they have available, choose a broker who fits your needs and I am confident it will be a winning combination.



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The Blogosphere: Are you in it? What are you doing there?

If you are a blogger or looking to determine how you can fit blogging into your social media/marketing mix,  The Sales Lion posted an excellent and provocative read which addresses the issues of content and blog positioning. As the day progressed, comments on the blog also added to the conversation - well worth checking out : Is Your Narrow Niche Killing You, Your Blog, and Your Happiness

The concept of writing simply on one subject  can be extremely limiting of creativity. Without creativity, it is simply impossible to write a good blog. I think it is worth taking that risk to write what you are inspired to write about. This can however create a challenge, especially if the original plan for the content of a blog had a limited structure (creativity knows no bounds).

Question: What if the topics covered in your existing blog really don't seem to fit with your new post ideas?

If you have to start a new blog to allow yourself the flexibility to feel free to write about the inspiring topics, then go for it. I guarantee that if you measure the success of your “limited” blog #1 vs.  the one where you truly express your thoughts and allow your creativity to flow– you will find it will be"creative" blog #2 – the free form blog , that is going to fly. You have to consider that your first blog, may have been a springboard into the new blog that will truly allow you to express the ideas that will add value to what you share.

Another question: What do you put in your blog? The blog is the place to have the conversation, share ideas, share the experiences. Consider the following:

  • Limited structure = Website content – brochures, definitions, facts. No personality necessary. Can be integrated into a blog if the information is useful but must be balanced with some kind of commentary and placed in appropriate categories or sections.
  • Blog = creative insight, interesting material, sharing etc. Personality is a factor. You have to invest yourself in your blog. If you simply sit with a topic then force content onto your blog, not only will you be killing your creative spirit, but your readers will feel this as well.

If you are still unclear on what to do, you have to ask yourself: Is this your "substitute website" or your discussion with the world? A "website”, masquerading as a blog isn’t going to get far in the "Blogosphere".

A blog shouldn’t replace a website. It may serve the same purpose as your website, and your clients may find it as useful - but then you might want to ask yourself, why do I have a blog and a website? What is the intent for each? Reflection often gives us the answers and further direction to accomplish what we seek to do.

The Balancing Act - Make it practical

  • If you decide to go with the flow of your mind and blog: be open to change, follow your vision, provide content that is interesting to your followers. 
  • Find a way that if you are writing for several potential audiences, you make it easy to navigate.

Warning: Failure to make your posts accessible or easy to follow, may leave you lost  -for no other reason than people not understanding what they are looking at. If they cant find the content, how can they read it?

To help balance, remember that if you have different audiences, you may want to distribute the content of your blog via different targeted methods.

For example

  • Providing direct links to the areas of your blog that are relevant
  • Providing tools such as "categories" to help lead your readers on the most direct route to what they are looking for. (...Working on this part myself, now! ) 

If your content is interesting, I believe that you will have followers who will get to know your style and what you are doing.

Give the development of your blog some time. You can't start blogging today and have it all figured out tomorrow. See what kind of feedback you are getting, and work it from there.

Creativity: Creativity is something that flows naturally, if you are a thinker, and you follow information in your world or industry, then you will likely have something to think about. If it is interesting, like a good conversation, as you think about it and use the information, you will have something to say about it or explore further: This is your blog. Doesn't need to be more complicated than that.

Engage in the community. Listen, learn, think, dream...

I have a feeling, everything falls together from engagement. 

If you just write your blog as it happens, you will see the results and know what to do. It is your creation.


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You Are On a Mission.

Do you ever wonder how your social media efforts are faring?

In a very interesting post from Social Fresh, Renee Warren highlights "10 Community Manager Tools You Might Not Know". My favorite was "Mention Map" as you will see below, it makes it visually possible to see what's happening to your reach and network as you and your friends talk on Twitter. 

What's your reach?

Let's face it, every day there are fantastic new posts on finding measures of your Social Influence. It is important to be aware of what you are accomplishing, tools like these make it seem easy,for example Klout (the Standard of Influence) or twiDAQ (where people can buy shares of you in the fantasy stock market).

You can find a way to gage your reach or your influence, but how much is all this worth if your reach doesn't meet your objective? What are you really seeing? Are you interpreting the data in the right context? Having the numbers doesnt always give us the answers, we need to understand how they relate to our goals.  Leigh Drogen discussed this in realtion to an infographic of Twitter accounts and the implications of "Friends vs. Followers" as well as other Very Interesting Twitter Statistics  based on the a recent study by Sysomos

Engaging in Social Media is crucial to staying active in our world.

It is fun, it is can truly drive us to do more, and do things better.

The challenge is to always keep your vision in mind as you flutter across the tweets and the Facebook pages and the "distractions".  When you are working on building up your followers, or checking your latest score of "influence", remember to ask yourself: Why am I here? What am I seeking to accomplish? What is this telling me? Is there value to what I am doing?

If you ask yourself these questions, and always stay on your track, then you will have a sense of what tools to use and what mix of media is right for you.

Never forget your clients, the reason you are involved in the first place. Are you reaching them? Are there any measurable results? 

We are privileged to live in a global community.

I believe that what you put into this community, you will get out of it - if you stay focused.

Play your part while you have fun doing it. Don't get lost. You are on a mission, stick to it.

Previous post on Social Media: Social Media: What is your approach? Be true to your values.

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Social Media: What is your approach? Be true to your values.

We all strive to have a perfect day, sell the perfect product, say only the right things.  Unfortunately, despite all our greatest intentions or efforts, things do happen.   Ralph Savage , Business Journalist, PR Professional and Visiting Lecturer at UCLAN shared an article recently via LinkedIn:  Social Media: Squeaky Clean Image . He inquired if anyone had any thoughts on this issue, stating/asking: "It's probably time for companies to have a policy on dealing with customers spouting off in chatrooms/twitter/facebook and so on isn't it?"

I reflected and, having recently encountered a situation which touched on this, I wanted to share my response. 

As we become more active on social media, I think that it is important to actively analyze the potential for situations that could be damaging to our company's image. This is good business practice in any circumstance. On the same token, if we run our businesses with integrity, commit to upholding strong service values and ethics, then negative feedback or situations like this will not receive the buzz or attention feared - they may in fact turn into opportunities. Opportunities to show real situations and how they are favorably resolved - all in the public eye.

The world is not a perfect place , so how can we expect the social media stage to be? We have been dealing with responding to issues all along, now it is simply a matter of adapting to a new stage.

In my opinion, to succeed at this, the company's reputation, product & service need to be strong enough that the occasional outcry won't create a ruckus. Instead, readers will follow with interest.

Response has to be immediate and also in the public eye, so that the record is set straight.

  • If you know your company is having a service issue, address it proactively and let others know what you are trying to do about it. This way, if a situation comes up, you have already put it on the table.

I think that, as an organization, you also need to make a decision about when you can focus on social media. If you have a failing product line, or a servicing issue, then perhaps it is not the best move to put yourself out there. Build your core first. Make sure you are operating to your standards, then promote. That’s the most proactive action anyone can take. Anything else is simply bad business.

We recently had our first "angry fan" on our Facebook page. A client who had been denied a claim found us on Facebook and aired a very nasty commentary regarding our service, making reference to how unfair the insurer was and how mistreated he had been by our brokerage. Naturally, this post was not only alarming, but disheartening. We now had an angry follower, who was potentially risking our image.

In addition, a second issue became evident: We had left ourselves open to some very negative publicity on our fan page. We were not prepared because we had not foreseen that our clients would use our fan page to generate such harmful publicity.

A bit of background on the issue. This client was upset that his insurance claim requesting removal of mould and its subsequent damage had been denied.  He was now faced with full repair at his cost. Insurance is meant to cover sudden and accidental damage. Mold is certainly not sudden, and in his case would have taken months to develop. It is important to note that no insurer in any available market would have covered it.  His frustration and anger at the denial of the claim was misdirected. He hadn’t accepted our initial response or explanations and therefore he used another means to restore equity: he attacked our public image.

I think that this is a good time to reflect upon the idea that if we, as relationship managers, set up strong and clear means to handle complaints, and we handle them effectively within that structure, the client may not feel the need to find another way.

This is how we handled our situation.

Fortunately we monitor our pages regularly throughout the day and evening. We were able to see the post within about 2 hours of it appearing.

  • We reacted quickly.

We decided that, since the bad publicity had already gone out, we needed to control the situation in the public eye...not sweep it under a rug.

  • The president of our company replied to his post with a detailed explanation and addressed all items the client brought up. The reply was professional and genuine. We took responsibility for the situation, yet made it clear what the actual situation was. (This is where integrity and always operating by your values comes in to save the day).
  • We contacted the client by phone and directly addressed the situation. We also let him know that we had responded to him publicly.

We successfully managed the public relations challenge presented by this client.  We were happy with our reaction and public response, but still had to evaluate this new social media threat and come up with a plan.

We asked ourselves, how did we leave ourselves open to this? Had we not seen this post in time,  great damage could have been done.

  • We reviewed the settings available on our Facebook pages and made some changes controlling how users could interact with our page.
  • We closed off the ability to create new topics on the wall (disabling broadcast to all our followers in their news feeds). However, we maintained the ability for fans to comment on all posts. We took more control of our page and its capabilities (advice: know your social media tools) -  something that we should have done from the onset.  

This experience had taken us by surprise; however, it gave us a great learning experience and opportunity. We now have strategies in place to manage our social media and we make sure to be proactive in controlling how our various efforts are managed and promoted.

We are a third generation family run business. Although we have grown over the past 85 years to a point that we do not/can not run like a small "mom and pop" shop, we maintain those values in what we do every day.

We live by referral. Having lived through this situation, I believe it was the fact that we maintain our values and always strive to do our best for our clients that saved us.

By handling situations immediately and in a straightforward, honest way, I think we can all sleep better because we believe in the way we do business and in our products & services. When service issues come up, we can have faith that the disaster will not spread like fire because we will step up and do some quality crisis control.

  • We need to implement Social Media Policies within our firms, keeping in mind they must be tailored to our products and services.
  • We need to know the tools we are using and make sure that they meet the objective of what we are trying to achieve.
  • We need to have integrity. Provide good service and support to our clients every day. Recognize that this is the core of our business. 

The world will always have complainers, you can't control the world. You can take control of your world and how you approach situations and respond as an organization.

Ask yourself: What is our approach going to be? Align it with your values.

If we focus on this, maintain service levels, and product integrity, then social media will support continued success and what we do in a very positive way - every time.

Be true to your values, and this is what you will be known for.

Insurance your way. Standing apart from the crowd.

Recently at Ogilvy we were re-evaulating our strategy for social media and our web site. One of the biggest trends we are seeing now with insurance companies is that they offer quotes online. Given this, it made sense two years ago for us to jump on board and offer online quoting. After running this program for two years, we realized something: we had many quotes coming through, but the profile of client we were attracting simply wasn't our target. We did not want to do mass sales, we wanted relationships.

Some organizations build their business on mass sales. This is particularly true of the insurance companies that sell directly to their clients. They have one product line and their representatives only sell one insurer. They have a cookie cutter mold and so its easy to have an online form. If you fit in the mold, you get your quote. If not, it keeps you walking.

As brokers, we work very differently. In general we take the client's information and must understand what they are trying to achieve with their insurance before we start plugging numbers. We arent selling numbers and prices, we are selling service and strategy. We don't believe that all clients will fit in a box, as brokers, this is what we build our careers on. How can we attain something tailored to your needs. How can we be your advocate?

So, when it came time to assess if we were going to continue with online quoting, we took a drastic decision to go another way. We took our online quotes off our site, and replaced it with what we felt was true to the values of our company, our employees and our clients:

"Ogilvy & Ogilvy: 85 years of personal service

In today’s competitive marketplace more and more organizations are leaning towards full service enhancements by offering online quotes. You won’t find an online quote here, let us explain why.

We offer our clients a full array of technologically enhanced support and resources such as our comprehensive website, Ogilvy Insurance Facebook pages, online blog and updates via twitter. We pride ourselves on offering you a personalized service. When computer systems are entrusted to offer quotes, all of the specialized work and expertise a broker has to offer are stripped. We have found that our online quotes offer a base rate, but lack the results of negotiation, and accommodation that we as brokers have to offer. We will not sacrifice quality on your quote which is why you won’t find an online quick quote here. As brokers, we take into account your personal situation and your personal needs, then we use our knowledge and expertise to negotiate the best rates and present you with a plan and options to suit your budget and lifestyle. Our relationship with you is what drives our quotes, so give us a call, we would love to speak to you and understand what your needs are. Let’s work together to find the best insurance solution, we would be pleased to have the opportunity to serve *you*."

This is our mission, and it deviates from what everyone else is doing, but I feel good about it because this is where we are different. Standing apart from the crowd.