Why mastering professional writing skills is essential for the insurance sector

By Fiona Ashe, consultant and trainer in business writing, film-making, content creation and digital marketing.

“Billions of dollars in lost productivity every year can be traced to employees who are not capable of writing clearly and concisely with a focused message for their intended audience.” –Joann Killeen, President, Killeen Furtney Group writing in the Los Angeles Business Journal

How often have you read an email or document and asked yourself “What does this say?” or “Am I supposed to do something with this information?” Lack of clarity, unfocused writing, too much jargon and confused messages are all writing sins that cost your business money and will likely prove detrimental to your company’s reputation.

Even as the insurance industry is increasingly digitised, every job still requires writing skills, and many jobs incorporate writing in their daily activities. Whether dealing with personal or corporate clients, or sending internal communications; professional writing skills for the insurance sector are essential to win lucrative contracts, optimise productivity, resolve disputes, improve customer service and secure valuable PR.

“FedEx saved $400,000 per year by rewriting operations manuals to make it 80% less time-consuming for users to find the information they were looking for.” –Joseph Kimble, author of ‘Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please’

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How bad business writing can hurt your company

What if one of your employees used an unprofessional tone when communicating with an important corporate client or delivered feedback using language that deepened an in-company dispute instead of resolving it?

One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to grasp that tone of voice doesn’t carry in written communications because the body language clues are not there. You have to write your message in a totally different way than if you were speaking to someone face-to-face.

A survey of business people by Josh Bernoff, author of six business books, found they rated the overall effectiveness of what they read at just 5.4 out of 10, while 81% reported that poorly written material wastes their time. Bernoff subsequently wrote an article for The Daily Beast, in which he observed that bad writing is costing American businesses close to $400 billion every year.

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Knowing your audience

Effective business writing starts with knowing your audience and ensuring you communicate how you will meet their needs. Due to the nature of insurance, if a client doesn’t make a claim, they won’t know how good your product is. Instead, they will assess your company on tangible services — most of which depend on the written communication skills of your sales team, client managers and customer services representatives.

In this era where phone calls have been largely replaced with customer service through email, Facebook messenger and chat apps, the skills of your team at writing concisely, choosing appropriate language, selecting the right tone and having an excellent command of grammar are paramount. Oh, and they need to remember to be personable…in writing!

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Who would benefit from upskilling?

The insurance industry involves a lot of paperwork: contracts, policies, reports, minutes of meetings, letters, emails, memos, presentations and marketing materials. The writing style that works for one won’t necessarily work in another. Therefore, staff across all divisions would benefit from upskilling — from new hires to seasoned professionals whose writing skills could use some polish.

Elevating your graduate programme

As the most recent school-leavers, Millennials & Gen Z should be in a good position to remember grammar learned there. However, they’ve grown up in a social media world in which smartphone communication is second nature to them — but it is a world dominated by fractions of sentences, text speak, lack of grammar and emojis. So, if you want to avoid text speak slipping into your professional communications, invest in training these cohorts.

Your sales team

Persuasive writing is the key to generating sales, but it can be tricky to find that balance between a formal and semi-formal tone as well as walking the fine line between being persuasive and being overly self-promotional. Sales teams need to understand what motivates potential clients to choose between one insurance company and another; the ones who can write benefit-oriented copy are the ones who will close deals.

Customer care

There’s no doubt that customer care is pivotal to the insurance industry. Insurance documents can be very complicated for customers to understand, which raises two main issues: (a) the documents need to be well written in the first place and (b) the customer care representatives need to be able to explain them, alleviate customers’ concerns, adhere to requests for change and address customer complaints.

This last point can be challenging. Dealing with a dissatisfied customer not only requires a lot of patience, but also an understanding of how to diffuse a conflict using suitable language and an appropriate tone.

But, above and beyond any other element of their job, a customer care representative needs to be able to communicate empathetically. A client could be under immense stress due to a stolen car, a leaking roof, a domestic fire or a loved one dying. Therefore, the language and tone your employee chooses carries a heavy weight of responsibility.

“Effective writing is not a gift that you’re born with. It’s a skill that you cultivate.” –Bryan Garner, author of ‘The Harvard Business Review Guide to Better Business Writing’.

The opportunity for insurance industry professionals to bolster their writing skills has never been easier, thanks to Irish Times Training’s expertise in providing tailor-made courses, designed to address each organisation’s specific needs. Click here for more information on our tailor-made approach or contact us on (01) 472 7101 today.

About the author

Fiona is an award-winning filmmaker, content creator and digital marketer. She has a 25-year track record as a film/television director/producer, writer, editor, PR specialist and marketing consultant. She also has a 12-year track record as a broadcast journalist — covering both television and radio.

Fiona delivers a range of business writing and digital media training courses on behalf of Irish Times Training, to clients to private organisations as well as many government departments and state-run organisations.

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