Insurance CEO talks on the importance of facing your customers

She sees herself as “an expert in looking after people whose entire lives have been turned upside down”

Insurance CEO talks on the importance of facing your customers

Insurance News

By Ksenia Stepanova

A crucial part of an insurer’s operations is dealing with customer claims, and, in the life and health space, this requires a very specific set of listening, understanding and communication skills.

According to Katherine Gobbi (pictured), CEO of Australian insurer EMLife, leaders need to nurture these skills as they rise through the ranks, as a strong and compassionate understanding of your client’s needs will ultimately help you serve the business, even once that direct interaction stops.

“My career has been around personal injury and disability claims,” Gobbi told Insurance Business.

“I’ve always worked with people who have mostly been going along their merry way, and then, unfortunately, their entire lives change – sometimes in small ways. I’ve found that I’ve done more and more in the area of really complex disabilities and complex injuries like PTSD, trauma and illnesses. As my career progressed, I’ve become more of an expert in looking after people whose entire lives have been turned upside down and who inevitably lost their careers as a result of disability or injury.

“Our job has been about helping brighten that world, and help them get back up in a new way and enter new careers,” Gobbi explained. “Sometimes I turn around and think, ‘Gosh, what would my career have been like if I had chosen to do something a little bit easier?’ It seems like it’s my luck in life to help people who need it most, and sometimes I think people are a bit scared of doing that. The biggest change I’ve seen in my career is moving from a customer trying to keep up with the insurer, to us actually helping to drive and motivate them.”

Gobbi says that having that provider-to-customer experience is crucial for anyone leading an insurance company, as it can help you see your operations from a perspective other than the traditional focus on profit and efficiency.

“I’m endlessly passionate that I can lead the business,” Gobbi said. “It’s different for me in the sense that it’s quite painfully empathetic, but being deeply connected to customer expectations is a good different.”

“If someone else were doing my role, perhaps they would be more focused on the insurer as the main client, the cost to the insurer and how we can make everything more efficient,” she concluded. “It would be a more ‘laidback’ offer around our options rather than what we can provide with the compassionate customer-and-human kind of focus. Throughout a lot of my career I could see that this was a better way of doing things, and I was always very confident in that.”

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