The tank with legs: Dealing with unusual clients

Some of your clients will be easier to help than others. This is true of practically all businesses and it is also true of your competitors.

My first job was down the sales-mines at a call centre selling health insurance to trade union members. It was a relatively small operation, but large enough to have some fairly rigid systems in place and the call centre system was fairly restrictive with only a limited number of available policies.

I had to refuse a gentleman income protection cover that he had called up and specifically requested because the system had clocked that he was 20 stone and therefore in the eyes of the computer, obese and an uninsurable health risk. Through talking to the rather exasperated customer it emerged that he was 20 stone because he was an ex-professional rugby player who had previously served in the army, could run a mile in a minute and was essentially built like a tank with legs.

By all human-logic, his health was very far from at risk, but by the cold dispassionate statistics that underlie all insurance, he was not someone we could do business with as it would have required going to specialist insurers who were better equipped to justify covering him.

As irritated as past-sales-me was with the situation, it provided a good lesson that some people, through no real fault of their own, are just harder to deal with than others. When you’re presented with your industry’s equivalent of the uninsurable tank with legs, you have a choice of two options: You can either turn them away, or you can adapt to suit them. Both options have their benefits.

Turning away customers is hard for any business owner, but has the benefit of not taking up valuable time dealing with a single awkward case when you could be focusing on your larger client-base or your business as a whole. The more time you spend on a single exceptional case, the less it becomes worth it from a financial point of view. Far from being the lazy way out, sometimes it will just make more business sense to turn someone away. If you want to retain a modicum of good will with said potential client, you can always find out what sort of clients you can’t really service in advance and research potential alternatives for them so that when one turns up and you inevitably have to turn them away, you can at least point them in the right direction.

The second option is to adapt. If you are a small business, although you may not have the resource of larger competitors, you are likely to be much more agile and be able to work around otherwise entrenched systems and standard practises to help an unusual client out. It is likely that you won’t get such a high financial return on the time you invest, but you will create a decent amount of goodwill which can be rewarded by spontaneous and genuine word-of-mouth marketing for your company. If you help someone out and go out of your way for them, most people will remember and share the experience.

Small businesses face unfavourable odds on a daily basis, from the harsh realities of trading in the current economic climate, increasing levels of competition and the more mundane random chaos that you need public liability insurance and business insurance for. It is well worth giving some thought to how you deal with customers that might not be as straight forward as your regular clientele as this is something that you can at least take control of.

This sponsored blog post was written by David Hing, Blog Editor at YOUR Insurance, an insurance broker specialising in small businesses and part of the Towergate Underwriting Group.

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