Carrier Management - 6/18/17
By: Katherine Frattarola
When the founders of PURE Group set out to create a new insurance company in 2006, the challenge was a large one. Insurance was, and continues to be, a mature market with well-entrenched leaders. Large companies that have been in business for more than 75 years dominate the field, and competition for customers is fierce.
To be successful, we knew that PURE had to differentiate itself by carving out a distinct niche and tone and by engaging meaningfully with our policyholders. To do this, we established PURE as a member-owned insurance exchange that inherently aligns our interests with those of our members, who fall specifically in the high-net-worth category. This mission could not be realized without the support of a team of customer-obsessed, emotionally intelligent employees at every level.
Creating an exceptional member experience is an integral part of PURE’s long-term growth strategy, and our unique structure allows our management team to focus on this principle rather than just delivering shareholder returns. Emotional intelligence, or “EQ,” therefore plays an important role in our company culture from the very beginning, starting with the hiring process.
While there is no single type of person who fits the PURE mold, all of our employees must display EQ. To ensure that they do, all potential employees are put through an EQ assessment. No matter how smart or talented they otherwise are, candidates with sharp elbows are unlikely to make the cut, because a growing number of such hires would eventually reshape our company into a group of people who don’t care for one another.
We provide ongoing training that builds self-awareness, self-restraint, empathy and relationship skills. Through a collaboration with TalentSmart, a leading provider of emotional intelligence training, we created purEQ, a program through which we screen potential hires for natural empathetic tendencies and formalize lessons on the interpersonal skills that PURE has always valued. Employees complete evaluations that assess their skills, then spend a day in training, using role-playing scenarios to practice responding to different emotional states. At the end of the training, each employee commits to a self-development program and forms an accountability and self-development project with a colleague. The pair then meets monthly to discuss their progress, giving one another continued support and feedback.
We also acknowledge and address the particular challenge of emotional empathy and resiliency, which is so important in a business like insurance. In 2014, we conducted a study of the issue of human resiliency in which we spoke to a sampling of our members who had lost their homes to a fire or suffered other devastating losses. We conducted in-depth interviews to better understand the emotional impact of large losses and to develop strategies to create a better member experience. With our findings, we set in motion programs to prepare our claims adjusters to better understand the impact that traumatic events can have on our membership. We met with experts on trauma and resiliency to develop specific strategies that could apply to our business.
We also regularly celebrate member success stories, holding a monthly town hall with all of our employees in which senior leaders recount recent experiences. Conveying these human stories further illustrates the effects of loss on a family’s life and well-being, establishing them as real people with complex lives, rather than just the subject of an insurance claim. When one member, for example, had a house fire at Christmas, an empathetic PURE member advocate went above and beyond to coordinate local accommodation, arrange Christmas dinner and send over a fully decorated tree. We firmly believe that meeting the emotional needs of our members as well as the practical ones results in the best possible outcomes.
Drawing on the collective EQ and empathy of our employees and culture, we also implement member-focused incentives by measuring Net Promoter Score (NPS), a metric that gauges member retention and loyalty utilizing a two-tiered, closed-loop system that follows up with detractors and then feeds responses back into a continuous improvement process. All member-facing employees also have NPS considered as part of their individual performance evaluations, and at the company level, NPS is one of four metrics that determines the size of the end-of-year profit-sharing pool that applies to all employees, including executives.
This core focus on our member needs and their satisfaction is driven by our culture of empathy and EQ. PURE exists to make our membership smarter, safer and more resilient in the face of the unexpected so that they can pursue their passions with greater confidence. Without empathy and purEQ training, achieving that mission wouldn’t be possible.
Who Are Member Advocates?
According to information on PURE’s website, member advocates assist with the headaches and hassles of having a claim, essentially taking the bureaucracy out of the claims process.
They also help with any pre-loss mitigation identified during an appraisal. An advocate might help the member find an arborist to remove trees that might lead to losses or to get antique furniture appraised to schedule coverage.
PURE’s 2015 Annual Report describes an advocate’s two members who lost their home to wildfire. The couple evacuated with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They received a care package from the insurer—with an iPad (to stay connected to PURE and to family members), duffle bags, toiletries, tissues, chocolates, lip gloss and other incidentals, followed by a call from the PURE advocate. The advocate asked the members their size in clothes and favorite brands so she could order new clothes for them.
In short, a member advocate is “somebody there to hold your hand through the claim,” one advocate states on a video on PURE’s website.