In this competitive insurance market in India, we need to become very much comfortable with the idea that a complaint is a gift that there is no hesitation in our responses. If our attitude is inherently ingrained, as in case of saying “Thank you” – when we receive a gift, then when someone complains to us we will truly welcome it as something of value.  We will not have to think our way through this; our natural response will be as if we have received a gift.


How can we do this? First, besides setting the business/ call centers to have more reach to the urban & rural market, the insurance company must consider the language of complaint giving as gifts – but not to be seen as an aggressive / cruel mentality of the client / insured for unnecessarily reasons. Taking the language of the complaint / grievance giving as gifts, this idea needs to be further reinforced in all our conversation and training sessions about customer service.


The idea needs to be reinforced at every meeting with the customer, insurers’ internal marketing meetings in the operating offices with the core marketing team, on wall posters, and must be discussed at full length in all the conversations and training sessions about customer service, and also for the resolution of the customers’ grievance and complaints. Secondly, the insurance company’s policies, compensation systems, mission, vision, values, and managerial behaviour must be aligned to support the gift-friendly philosophy.


Finally, all Indian Insurers must learn some fundamental techniques for handling complaints / grievances effectively, in favour of the insurers. This may be done by using universally adopted the Gift Formula as discussed in details in the following part of this article.


With the increasing demands of customer, insurance sector has become competitive. The ‘one for all or all for one syndrome’ as utilized during the monopoly market of the erstwhile PSU Insurers is being given a good bye in this new millennium.  Customers are becoming increasingly aware of their expectations, and demand higher standards of services, as technology is enabling them to make comparisons quickly and accurately.


 Their perceptions and expectations are continually evolving, making it difficult for service providers to measure and manage services effectively. The trend of insurance companies shifting from a product-focused view to a customer-focused one has been developing recently as insurance products become increasingly hard to differentiate in fiercely competitive markets. Insurance companies in India are consequently directing their strategies towards increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty through improved service quality.


It is becoming desirable for insurance companies to develop a customer centric hollistic approach for future their simple survival and growth. So ‘Gift Formula’ as described here, must be resorted in too-too by all the Indian Insurers in this liberalised Indian insurance market in the current situation.  


The gift formula is a step-by-step process that, in its optimal form, is being delivered in a set order. Having said this, the reader may find occasions when it will be more appropriate to vary the sequence. The steps are as given bellow:

1.Say “Thank you”;

2.Explain why you appreciate the complaint;

3.Apologize for the mistake;

4.Promise to do something about the problem immediately;

5.Ask for the necessary information;

6.Correct the mistake – on preferred basis;

7.Check customer reaction / satisfaction;

8.Prevent future mistakes. – & that’s final.



We should not think about whether customers have a legitimate complaint or not. Instead we should just consider the complaint as a valuable information – a gift. We need to create immediate rapport with our customers and we need to meet them on their ground. There is no better way to make someone feel welcome than to say, “Thank you”.


Most people never start by thanking someone for a complaint, rather it is deeply entrenched in languages and cultures around the world to start out with an apology to verbally presented complaints. Yur thanks should be as natural and spotaneous as the gratitude you express when you receive a present.


Make sure your body language demonstrates that you appreciate the complaint and that you support your insured / client / customer in their right to complain. Eye contact, an understanding nod, and a friendly smile can work wonders. We need to remember, a smile comes through even on the telephone.


When insurance company representatives write responses to letters of complaint, they invariably start their letters with an expression of thanks, such as, “Thank you for writing to tell us about….”. If it is a logical way to begin a written response to a complaint, why shouldn’t the same work for an oral response too?


This “Thank you” is not enough to take care of the complaint, but it is the basis for the positive future of this conversation. In order for your response not to seem superficial, you have to say a bit more professionally.



“Thank you” by itself can sound empty. We need to qualify it by saying something about how hearing the complaint will allow us to better address the problem. “Thank you for telling me….” [Or] “Thank you, I’m happy as you told me so I can fix this for you (or repair the damage we have done)…” [Or]”Thank you. I’m happy as you shared this because it gives me a chance to improve our quality of service, and this is what I intend to do.”- [or] simply, “Thank you for letting me to know about the problem.”


Although it would be overkill to say aloud, the complete thought that needs to run through our mind is: “Thank you for telling me about this situation.” –it is the set trend in our current market. You can’t believe how many customers just walk away without saying anything even though they are dissatisfied, and probably your company has to loss their business from its book of business account.


Not only that, they say nasty and damaging things about us to others without giving us the opportunity to address their grievances and resolve the problem. We definitely want to look into those aspects because we value our customers’ business. We’re trying to keep every customer, as we can for the long haul so that we can develop our business and get better at serving all our customers. That’s why we are really need to appreciate our taking the time and trouble to come up to our customers and say something like- “Thank you.”


If we can keep this attitude clearly in our mind, then the shortened version of our communication, like- “Thank you for telling me about this,” will definitely communicate clearly to our customers about our adopting the philosophy of “Gift Formula”.



It is important to apologize to customers, but it should not be the first step. You create a more powerful rapport with customers by saying, “Thank you. I appreciate your telling me about this.” Then the apology comes: “May I apologize? I’m really sorry this happened.”


Too many people begin the exchange by apologizing, frequently before customers have had a chance to explain any of the details. Service providers don’t even know what they are apologizing for yet. The apology is important, but it has no punch when it begins the conversation. Interestingly, although many people begin their responses to a complaint with an apology, surveys reveal that about half of service providers do not apologize at all at any point in the exchange.


Very few insurance companies but many customer service books/ethics advise their service employees to apologize first. If this is our company’s required approach, then do as our company says. We need to believe, however, that beginning with a “Thank you” underscores and reinforces to both the speaker and the listener that a complaint is a gift. It is more logical in its approach and encourages additional customer feedback.


The author has noticed that hearing “Thank you” invariably makes us feel that the person saying it, is definitely going to do something for us. “I’m sorry” leaves us a feeling that perhaps nothing is going to be done and that is why the person is simply apologizing.


Here, you may try an experiment. Ask someone to thank you after you express a complaint. Notice your psychological response. In one of the recent seminar on “Complaint Is a Gift” in U.S.A., a participant used the hotel restrooms during the middle of the day. After “THE DISCUSSION” had already covered the Gift Formula, the restrooms were not particularly clean, and the participant told a hotel employee who happened to be walking by. “Thank you- for letting me known”, the staff person responded with a big smile on his face. “I’ll take care of it immediately”.


The participant walked back into the seminar room and told others what had just happened with him. “Wow”, he said, “It felt so good to be thanked for my bad news. Normally, I feel as if I should apologize when I complain about something.” Incidentally, when we apologize, we need to use “I” as much as possible, instead of “we” in most of the situations we face individually. ”We’re sorry” does not sound sincere. The other people you are apologizing for don’t even know what is happening, and customers realize/concern that.


Customer service representatives have asked us why they should say they are sorry when the customer is clearly at fault. “If I apologize, then aren’t, in fact, taking responsibility for something that may have been arising out of the customers’ own doing?” Think about it this way. If you know someone who has experienced a death in the family, a natural, courteous expression is to say, “I’m so sorry”.


You are taking responsibility for the death by expressing your sorrow. You are saying you are sorry that this has happened. It has nothing to do with blame or fault. In the same way, when we tell a customer we are sorry about something that happened, it doesn’t matter who did what to whom, or who caused something to happen. We simply wish it had not happened. Then the customer will be bound to appreciate our sincere concern.



Once you have apologized, do not ask for anything else right away. Do not start to interview the customer. Service recovery has two aspects : psychological and tangible. The psychological dimension helps everyone feel better about the situation that has created his/her/their dissatisfaction(s). On the other hand, the tangible dimension is doing something to fix the situation. Tangible responses are steps that will cost money or time.


Steps involved during the phase one to four (out of the eight steps of the Gift Formula) are part of the psychological response; they cost  nothing but are easy & absolutely important. It is also easy for companies to encash &/or discount their significance.


A few years ago a Reputed Accounting Firm of the Global Market conducted a client survey and received a surprise. The customers said that, although technical expertise in auditing or consulting was important, it was not the most important thing they considered when choosing this particular accounting firm.


They expected the expertise; the empathy and personal concern shown to them are what made them stay with that Reputed Accounting Firm. This step is perhaps the easiest to say. “I promise you I’ll do my best to fix this situation as soon as possible.” Hearing it makes customers relax because they know you are going to do something . Then, of course, you have to do something.


When we first start to use these step –by-step procedures, we may feel clumsy. Our language may not be smooth, and it will probably take us a little time to get all our words out. But with practice, our phrasing becomes easy, sincere, and appropriate. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I appreciate that you let me know about this problem because now I can fix it, and I apologize for the inconvenience you’ve had.


It must have been frustrating to open the policy document to find Fire Policy for your shop when you intended to pay for the Shopkeepers’ Package Policy on a comprehensive mode. I’ll get this settled as soon as possible.” Here the product knowledge, command over your language, your “Captain cool image –like respected Mr. M.S.Dhoni,” also is one of the other requirements for that purpose.


Now you need something from the customer.



The correct approach should be “In order for me to give you fast service, could you please give me some information ?” but we should not say, “I need some information, otherwise I can’t help you”. You are the one asking for help from the customers. They are the ones who have brought you the gift.


Ask only for what is necessary. You need to know in advance before they contact you, what information you will need to help them. This needs to be part of your company’s complaint-handling system. Make certain you ask for another information, or you will have to call back for more.  Sometimes in this step you will learn what is really bothering your customers.


They may tell you one thing, believing they have accurately presented the problem, but by asking a few questions you may discover their real problem is a bit different. Preparing a chech-list/ Standard Questionnair Format to face this kind of approach may help us. We nned to ask what it will take to meet their needs or to satisfy them.


Or we may ask them whether they will be satisfied if you do the specific thing for them that is related/relevant to their specific problems. Sometimes they only want to let you know something happened, they don’t necessarily want anything from you.



Do what you said to your customer to be done by you & you would do. A sense of urgency will be greatly appreciated by the customer. Rapid responses indicate that you are serious about service recovery. A sense of urgency lets you get back in balance with the customer. The Gift Formula will not be adequate if you do not fix problems to the customer’s satisfaction.



Follow up. Call your customers back to find out what happened. Ask them directly if they are satisfied  with what you did for them. If you do this, your customer will likely come to you & buy from you again. If appropriate, tell them what you are doing to prevent this form happening in the future so that they feel good about having helped you with their complaints. Thank them again for their complaints. You are know in partnership. You might say that this will take too much time. 


Actually all it takes is a (usually) very brief telephone call. But it is a telephone call the customer will remember for a long time. You may even reach the person’s voice mail system or answering machine, in which case you can record your ssage. You do not necessarily need to speak to them in person.


Recently a famous & politically acclaimed lady bought a new car, an expensive import. Soon after she drove her new car home, she discovered that the trunk did not close smoothly and tended to bounce open. On two occasions, she found erself driving with the trunk open. When she took the car in for the initial 1,000-mile service, she told here car dealer about the trunk problem. The dealer agreed to look at it, but nothing was said when she picked her car up at the end of the day. She found they fixed the truck so well that it would not spring open when the latch was pushed. She will have to take it back to be adjusted again.


Imagine if this dealership had called her a few days after the car was serviced and asked if everything was okay. This would have shown personalized treatment about a typical problem. The car cost enough to warrant this kind of treatment. If the dealer had called to check the customer’s satisfaction, she could have told them about what is continuing, but now different trunk problem.


Each time she opens her trunk, she will be reminded of shoddy service that was provided for a luxury car. It will make her wonder if work on the engine was done in the same way or if the car company’s advertising is just so many words to get the customer to buy.


You might say that this kind of attention to customers would involve too much of the company’s resources. Think of how much time it takes to make a telephone call. If there is a chance to affect the relationship so the customer feels or she is in partnership with the dealer, that is time (and money) well spent. It may consider a situation that she would also become very likely buy her next car from the same dealer and would also become a good-will ambassador for the car maker and the dealership.


Based on how she was treated with her simple trunk problem, she is no longer committed to that particular dealer. Sometimes a single telephone call is a lot cheaper and less involved than expensive television or print-media advertising for Indian insurers.




Make the complaint known throughout the organization so that this kind of problem may be prevented in the future. We need to fix the system without rushing to blame staff. The basic concept to be resorted is to ‘punish your processes, not your people.’ Staff members will be more likely to communicate (or rather pass along) the complaints to the management if they know this is the company’s approach to complaints.


In order for the complaint to become truly a gift for the organization, the root causes of that complaint must be identified. While speaking on ‘Customer Satisfaction’ a very senior executive of a reputed concern, in Cupertino, California, said, “We can say we’re listening, but it’s not until we take action that things are rally start happening.” Such reputed concerns in the Global Market, Hewlett-Packard (HP) logs its customer complaints as a means to audit trends and then uses this information to drive its quality program for the last two decades, in order to continue their endeavour to reach, remain near & dear to their customers.



If any company has a slow turnaround time for any critical process like, for invoice approval resulting in both internal and external complaints, these systems need to be redesigned so that customer service can improve. Marely apologizing for slow times to customers or treatening staff to make them work faster may create more problems. Michel Hutton, an airline consultant, said, “Airlines have taught their staff to say sorry in five different ways, but they have not asked themselves what they have to do so that they never have to say sorry again.” Most players of Indian Insurance industry, with a few exceptions, react to complaints as they occur, rather than use them as a free source of information to improve quality of the service.


Complaints are not fully utilized if they sit in a complaint-handling centre; they must be used as a feedback mechanism to help the insurer improve itself. Whenever a Customer approaches to you – These ten commandants as stated below is to be observed as the basic ground rule:















The postures and language of the body of the customer speak a lot about his /her attitude, mental status and character. We use gestures in communication in order to convey a message and express ourselves. Body language is a powerful ressive technique in non-verbal communication. Some of the important & different types of gestures we normally use for communication with people present around us. There are different gestures that give out different signs of what a person is feeling. We  are  now to discuss about a few body language tips that will help you know a bit more on signs of attraction.


If someone touches their elbow against you, it is a fire sign under the gestures and it indicates the feeling of affinity. The person loves you and likes to have your attention, if his or her elbow brushes off against yours. When you observe the feet, see the direction in which their foot is pointing. The foot will always be pointing towards person, the concerned person finds most attractive.


Even the direction of the knee points towards the most attractive person they find in the room. If the person wants some intimacy with the person, they will form a closed positioning. This means that the person faces the most attractive person that he finds directly and if you are faced by the opposite sex at a ‘0’ angle, try stepping into the intimate zone carefully. Many times one body language gesture may indicate two things at the same time for two different people. If a woman gives a tight-lipped smile and looks up sideways, it means she likes someone.


This gesture awakens the parental feeling in men meaning that he would like to take care of the woman who gave him that look. Positive body language like dilated pupils indicates interest and attraction. But the same body language and gesture may also prove that the person maybe on alcohol, drugs, etc. A man tilting his head and smiling indicates a flirting body language gesture and asking favour of you. But the same gesture may also mean that the person is trying to convince you that he is honest. There are many such body language and gestures that mean many things. Just remember a few of the gestures that may prove helpful to you in your daily life. If you observe steady eyes, it means a positive body language gesture which means a calm and confident self.


An angry feeling is indicated by staring eyes; while anxiety and deceit can be understood through shifty eyes. People who cross their arms, close themselves to social influence. They tend to be slightly reserved and maybe uncomfortable with their weight. When someone rests his arms behind his or her own neck, it means they are open for a discussion and waiting to give their opinion. A boy with his hands in his pockets indicates that he is relaxed and attracted towards you. Understanding various body languages is definitely fascinating. The more you study human behavior and gestures, the better you understand yourself, individual persons & your customers at large. You can also improve your communication skills by learning body language and using the movements and signs correctly in different situations.


When the customer is approaching – the way he/ she walks, sits and talks are indicative of his / her mood. He / she may jump, run and frolic around to express his / her happiness. While walking slowly, or by drooping the head indicates a gloomy mood. He /she fidget in nervousness, stretches the body to relax and sit idle when lazy. Body movements are accompanied by facial expressions which further distinctly reflect his / her mood. When he / she move his / her legs constantly while sitting, it shows that you are restless.


Impatience reflects when you sway, kick or bounce your leg in the air. Keeping your legs crossed while conversing is a sign of etiquette while sitting with slightly open and stretched legs depicts that you are in a relaxed mood. Standing with feet crossed could be an expression of coyness and unstable posture. You will understand these subtle gestures if you carefully observe your own body movements and also of people present around you. When you move your legs constantly while sitting, it shows that you are restless. Impatience reflects when you sway, kick or bounce your leg in the air. Keeping your legs crossed while conversing is a sign of etiquette while sitting with slightly open and stretched legs depicts that you are in a relaxed mood.


Standing with feet crossed could be an expression of coyness and unstable posture. You will understand these subtle gestures if you carefully observe your own body movements and also of people present around you. Hand gestures are also emblematic of religious beliefs. The gestures of Buddha are well-recognized throughout the world as ‘mudras’. Indian classical dance forms give utmost importance to hand gestures as they are used extensively for self-expression and making the dance exquisitely graceful. Touch is factor essential for making a non-verbal communication effective. When your boss pats on your back in order to appreciate you, don’t you feel more confident and successful – more than his words, it’s the patting that makes you feel better.


Now let us recollect the memories of our childhood days, when your teacher is taking a class and you are not at all paying attention to him/her. All of a sudden he/she asks you a question. You don’t know the answer; look blankly here and there to get some clue. Finally you speak up; fumbling and scratching your forehead. These two actions are reflexes that pop up while speaking with uncertainty and lack of proper knowledge and confidence you have resorted to that. Adjusting the tie, playing with buttons, looking at self again and again are reflexes that can either be a natural response or a medium to seek attention


 Biting lips and nails, and moving legs are very common expressions of anxiety and tension. Now you are fully grown up – perhaps at the verge of retirement – if you are selected as officer-in-charge of any operating offices / as the business center head the first step you need to take to know, understand and get the confidence of your customer / proposed client, you definitely need to focus your attention to increase you power of observation, under the body languages and his gesture & posture for finding the specific need of the person and to deal with the person in a such a way that their first impression is absolutely being built in your favour. It simply indicates a long trust to be built up for your thriving venture of insurance marketing, market capturing to achieve the desired satisfaction & delight of his / her customer.


The INSURANCE market has expanded into the online, mobile, and retail / social worlds. But the key to success hasn’t changed since the days of traditional, brick-and-mortar business. It’s still about service – we must be able to deliver quality service that meets customer expectations. IT / Web commerce applications helped us to achieve success, allowing us to market, interact, and transact across multiple channels in a predictable, consistent, and personalized manner. 

Today –

1. The future is insurance business becoming basically based on on-line insurance business; 

2. Thriving mantra (as appeared) in this de-tariff regime of non-life market is about price; 

3. Good claims experience builds loyalty;

4. Customers really respond to cross-selling; 

5. Insurers can’t influence on customer retention – must resort to customer satisfaction understanding the customer behaviour. 


With the liberalization and internationalization in insurance, service quality has become an important means of differentiation and path to achieve business success. Such differentiation based on service quality can be a key source of competitiveness for insurance companies and hence have implication for leadership in such organizations. With the increasing demands of customer, insurance sector has become competitive. The one for all or all for one syndrome is being given a go- by. Customers are becoming increasingly aware of their expectations, and demand higher standards of services, as technology is enabling them to make comparisons quickly and accurately.


Their perceptions and expectations are continually evolving, making it difficult for service providers to measure and manage services effectively. The trend of insurance companies shifting from a product-focused view to a customer-focused one has been developing recently as insurance products become increasingly hard to differentiate in fiercely competitive markets. 

Insurance companies in India are consequently directing their strategies towards increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty through improved service quality. It is becoming desirable for insurance companies to develop a customer centric approach for future survival and growth. The awareness has already dawned that prompt, efficient and speedy service alone will tempt the existing customers to continue and induce new customers to try the services of the company.


Faced with the unprecedented challenges of troubled financial markets, changing regulatory oversight and economic uncertainty, there is a risk that some insurers may not be listening and responding to the most important voice of all — that of their customers. For any insurer hoping to navigate through this difficult time, understanding how customer behaviors and attitudes are changing is critical. Previous assumptions and received wisdom about customers may no longer be reliable, and those insurers who are able to respond best to what customers want now are most likely to succeed. Customers want products, and the purchasing process, to be simple and transparent so that they can understand what they are buying.


They want to build long-term relationships with insurance providers based on trust, and to have confidence that the products they are buying are right for them and meet their needs. 



We need to consider the situations on that we may practice the Gift Formula. As per the prracticed theory of the Gift Formula focus particularly on certain steps one through four until we (at least the people positioned in the front office of all the operating offices of the insurers) become fluent in the language of the Gift Formula, it would be best to practice with another person so you can experience being on the receiving end of this language as well. Hearing someone thank you for a complaint may be the best way for anyone of us to understand how powerful the Gift Formula is. Practice these examples (or use others relevant to your particular organization) as many times as it is necessary until we feel comfortable with this approach and the words come easily.


If you start teaching & preaching this Gift Formula to your staff or subordinates without explaining the philosophy behind it, the formula will make no sense. Then you need to go vividly through the “Eight Step Gift Formula”, and finally give your peer groups or the subordinates an opportunity to practice the formula with each other using the practice examples below:

On the phone: “The insurance policy I have taken it yet to be delivered.”


In person: “I called your telephone operator and she gave me the wrong instructions on how to get your office. I’ve been drivining for half an hour around the Bandra-Kurla Area.”

On the phone: “I just got my policy copy and found my name / address in wrongly mentioned therein. You are so callass / careless even printing the policy copy.”

In person: “I have already paid for my Mediclaim Policy two months back but when I may expect the TPA Id Card from your so reputed TPA – May I really expect any cashless benefit in future in case of my exingency?” 


In person: “ I’ve been waiting in this counter for 10 minutes – you need more person at the counters / the check-out stands.”

On the phone: “I’m really mad. This is the third time I’ve been put on hold and made to wait for more than 10 minutes. I want to talk your General Manager.”


In person: “Your premium rate is too high. I don’t see why I should pay so much when I know others have a better deal.”

On the phone: “I just got the second bill from your company. I knowI already paid this.”

In person: “ I have forgotten to tell you there’s something to be changed in the Policy Schedule of the Fire Policy we just received from your office.”

On the phone: “Just now I have seen the blust of Ammonia Storage Tank in our office and a fire has taken place here.”

In person: “There’s someone smoking in the non-smoking section. You need to do something about that.”

On the phone: “ Your company told me that someone from your office would be sending my claim proceeds, since I have dispatched the Discharge Vourcher duly signed for full & final settlement of my Money Policy last month.”

Once you, the practitioner of the “Eight Step Gift Formula” feel comfortable with these examples, you also need to take some real life examples of the type of complaints you hear in your own business spheres, and practice the Gift Formula until you feel absolutely comfortable with its use. The author here is only giving the initiation of thinking about practicing the  Gift Formula – the rest depends up on the mission, vission & objectives of the Grievance Resolution Policy as adopted by the individual insurers in this Indian Market and the keen interest of individuals working in Indian Insurance Sector.

References: Various resource materials as collected from web-sites / contemporary articles as read from time to time.

Author-Anabil Bhattacharya