Brokers, how are you dealing with the rise in incivility from your clients?

The famous Canadian civility may be a thing of the past, and Canadian P&C brokers would probably know better, as they have been caught in the crossfire of frustrated clients and unprofitable insurers for the better part of two years during the pandemic. of COVID-19.

“The customer is always right,” Christine Porath, a management professor at Georgetown University, wrote in an August 22 online post for harvard business review. “But what if the customer is rude, angry or even hostile? How does this affect those who witness or experience it?….

“Unfortunately, front-line workers are bearing the brunt of this increase in incivility. It’s as if they’ve gone from “essential workers” to punching bags, as tired, annoyed and stressed people, customers and patients release their anxieties and frustrations. »

No known studies have been done to show the amount of abuse Canadian insurance brokers have had to endure from angry customers during COVID-19. The frustrations of not being able to get insurance at a reasonable cost in the midst of an ongoing difficult market – or of not being able to get insurance at all – have no doubt been exacerbated by the polarizing debates around COVID- 19 and vaccines.

In Canadian underwriterAccording to the 2022 National Broker Survey, brokers across Canada reported stressful times, with nearly a quarter citing this as a reason they would likely leave the profession in the next three years.

Overall, the survey found that 24% of respondents were likely or very likely to leave, compared to 61% who said they were unlikely or very unlikely to change careers. The remaining 15% were neutral.

Said an unnamed broker in the survey who indicated he was likely to leave: “The public is getting more and more difficult [and the] the industry is becoming increasingly litigious – higher risk of clients claiming errors and omissions against the broker. [The] the company will launch [the] broker under the bus.

“[There is] not enough protection for the broker against the public. Insurance is considered worse than lawyers now,” they added. “More and more I think about what it’s doing to my mental health and wondering if it’s worth it.”

What are the psychological effects of all these uncivil behaviors suffered by service workers?

Emotional exhaustion, leading to burnout and labor shortage. Canadians are witnessing this firsthand in the medical community, with hospital emergency room closures resulting from understaffing, in part due to burnout.

A South Korean study of frontline service workers during the pandemic found that being rude to customers was even more damaging than working for an abusive supervisor in a toxic workplace.

“[Policy makers and practitioners] must pay more attention to customer incivility because this stress factor is more harmful to [frontline service employees] that abusive supervision in a pandemic situation, according to the study of August 21, 2021, Impacts of customer incivility and abusive supervision on employee performance: a comparative study of the pre- and post-COVID-19 periods.

“Unlike abusive supervision, which can be monitored and remedied through leadership assessment and training, client incivility is difficult to eradicate due to client anonymity and the unequal power structure among clients. and service providers,” noted study authors Yuhyung Shin Won-Moo. Hur and Hansol Hwang. “Thus, a more realistic solution to customer incivility would be to improve [frontline service employees’] ability to adapt “.

Stress management programs can encourage relaxation and mindfulness training, the authors wrote. In addition, training programs can promote emotion regulation skills and perspective taking. Service organizations should provide managerial and peer support [workers] who are exposed to interpersonal stressors amid the pandemic.

“In addition to these training programs, workplace incivility experts suggest that service organizations should provide [frontline service employees] a little break after difficult encounters with clients… because it would allow them to recover from stress and recharge their batteries.

Photo courtesy of iStock.com/fizkes