Don’t trade technology for humanity. While technology enables businesses to provide personalized customer service at speeds like never before, we can’t lose sight of the importance of the human element. Brush Country Claims has a ‘human led, tech forward’ approach to our operations, ensuring that a member of our team is always at the end of our communication channels and ready to provide a world-class customer experience that simply cannot be replicated by technology.
As part of our series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Troy Stewart, President & Chief Operating Officer of Brush Country Claims.
Troy found his way into property adjusting through his love and background in design-build construction. With that knowledge and a customer-centric approach, he quickly rose as a top performer in the field. In 2012 Troy became the VP of Daily Claims at Brush Country Claims, developing their Quality Control Program and keeping field training guides up to date. He has been instrumental in the growth of Brush Country Claims, launching technology initiatives and new program offerings. In his free time, Troy enjoys spending time with his wife, playing sports with his kids, gym time and hunting.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
In my early twenties, I started a business installing decorative concrete for landscapes. There was something very appealing to me about working outside, interacting with customers, and providing a service that homeowners could enjoy for many years. I then went on to start a company building custom homes with a friend of mine. We did very well, until the housing crisis in 2008 and, like so many others, were forced to close. It was shortly after that I met my wife whose father was a property claims adjuster and who told me that my construction background would make me an excellent candidate for claims adjusting. I found the work to be interesting and I loved the idea that I could help people during a time of need. I quickly rose as a top performer in the field and ultimately became a partner at Brush Country Claims in 2018. As an owner of a company in a highly dynamic and often distrusted industry, I find myself in a position to change the way we conduct business to bridge a gap in the distrust and create an environment of open and frequent communication through multiple communication channels. We are actively changing the mindset of insureds and ease their burden during one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I began my first business installing decorative concrete for landscapes, I had no idea what I was doing. I purchased the necessary equipment, attending a one-day training, and signed up for my first home and garden tradeshow. My first client was landed during that tradeshow and when I arrived at his house to provide the estimate, he asked if I could install it tomorrow (in time for the graduation party they were hosting that weekend). I told him that was not a problem and I would get it taken care of. Well… it turns out that the job was to install over a dozen tight circles around the trees in his yard, which sounds simple, but a circle is actually the most complex shape to install! But I was determined to keep my promise. I went home and practiced making the perfect circle for over six hours until I nailed it. The next day, I showed up to the job exhausted, but was able to complete the job the same day and it looked fantastic! The extra work certainly paid off, as the customer was so happy that he referred me to about a dozen of his friends and family.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My parents have supported me throughout my entire career path. My father even worked alongside me when I started my first business! And of course, my father-in-law, who shined a light on a career path that was completely unknown to me. I am forever grateful to them and I would not be where I am today without their guidance and support.
In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
As business owners, the customer experience should be our guiding light. Those who do not prioritize the customer experience and providing great customer service will not survive in the long run. The ultimate measure of success is not revenues and profits but providing a customer experience that leaves the other party feeling positively about the interaction. Ultimately, a proper focus on customer satisfaction will yield the dollars that keep the business growing. The ability of a business to implement a customer experience strategy effectively and efficiently determines its success!
If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
I believe most companies try to provide a good customer experience, but the disconnect occurs when you don’t know your customer and what they need or want. Every industry is different and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Many companies attempt to gather this data before the transaction occurs, but often it is only the evaluation of the transaction itself that can paint an accurate picture of what the customer needs. At Brush Country Claims, we take every opportunity to gather feedback and improve our processes so we can consistently build a better customer experience.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
The customer experience bar is constantly being raised. While competition elevates that bar, I believe the expectations of speed of service have only increased with the pandemic. It is more important than ever to focus on the needs of the consumer and understand the way they prefer to interact with your brand, then work to ensure those areas are seamless and easy to use. These expectations cross industries: for example, the customer experience expectations for amazon are carrying over into the insurance industry. It seems impossible to compete, but by understanding and personalizing your offerings, you can have happy, satisfied customers!
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
This is interesting from our perspective as an independent adjuster firm, we serve the insurance carrier, the policyholder, and our adjusters. Keeping all happy can be difficult but is vital to the success of our organization. We have several “kudos” from individual policyholders and adjusters in the way we handle our business. However, one interaction stands out above all else and is what we strive for in this business.
It was a Saturday, late in the afternoon, I will never forget it as it was during hunting season, and I was building a new blind. My phone rang and it was an executive of one of our carrier partners, they had just received a high-profile loss in a rather rural area. The loss was high profile for several reasons; celebrity status insured, high value property, possible under-insured on top of a highly emotional loss due to fire of a multi-generational farm. Everything was built by the hands of the generations before the current owners, so emotions were very strong. We handled the claim quickly, empathetically, and accurately. Leaving all parties extremely happy with the outcome. We provided exceptional service to the policyholder here, but that is not the “wow” I am referencing. The “wow” lies in a post-claim conversation with my client where he told me, “You know Troy, I received notification this high-profile loss and 30 seconds later I had you on the phone. I never eve thought about it, just dialed your number.” That is a “wow” impression that we have created the demonstrates “next level trust” and partnership. That is what we all strive for, to be the solution for consumers without it even being a thought.
Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
Absolutely, the ripple effect is in the fact further raised the bar of the trust our client has in us by handling a delicate situation in a way that provided a positive experience for all parties. We are THE go-to company for those “complicated” situations and our clients know that Brush Country Claims will do the right thing, handle with the service the customer deserves all while maintaining strict control of speed of service.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your customer! As a firm that handles property insurance claims nationwide, we understand that every geographic region has different expectations and communication preferences for the claims process. To consistently provide a high level of customer service, we must tailor the experience to each individual using our technology and analytics.
- Communicate clearly and often. Communication is almost non-existent in claims handling, so to create transparency and trust within the claims process, Brush Country Claims built an Insured Portal that allows for ongoing communication with instant updates that are available to the policyholder 24/7.
- Measure your performance. Be it a change in process, an enhanced offering or a new product you have to be able to measure the success s of the “new.” Maybe its overall sales, maybe its higher engagement or shorter sales cycles. For us when we rolled out our communication portal for insureds, we updated our surveys to capture feedback on ease of use, but we also tracked engagement of application, # of interactions, frequency, etc. Over time we can track trends or make modifications by region based on preferences of the consumer.
- Negative feedback provides opportunity. As much as you try, you can’t get it right every time. But just because you miss the mark does not mean you have to miss the opportunity! At Brush Country Claims, when we receive a negative review from a policyholder it is immediately elevated to the manager who was responsible for the claim so they can reach out to the policyholder directly. We assume ownership for the poor experience, try to rectify if possible, and always turn the feedback into an opportunity to improve our customer experience.
- Don’t trade technology for humanity. While technology enables businesses to provide personalized customer service at speeds like never before, we can’t lose sight of the importance of the human element. Brush Country Claims has a ‘human led, tech forward’ approach to our operations, ensuring that a member of our team is always at the end of our communication channels and ready to provide a world-class customer experience that simply cannot be replicated by technology.
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
This is a little different in our industry than in most, in that our direct client, the insurance carrier’s satisfaction is driven by the interactions we have with THEIR clients, the insured or policyholder. We deliver outstanding service to their clients, we win! We hold ourselves accountable by actively engaging policyholders in feedback and surveys of our performance. We began doing this about a year ago and the insights gained are tremendous. One thing we do is we seek their approval to share their feedback in our marketing efforts via newsletters, SM, website testimonials, etc. You must actively solicit that feedback on their experience as close to the interaction as possible and more importantly, it must be EASY. People are so busy, and we only have a few moments that they may dedicate to providing feedback, so long-drawn-out surveys is a no go.
To summarize, you must solicit or request they share their positive experience, and it must be easy for them to direct people to you!
Amazon is going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Absolutely, Amazon and others will continue to impact us and user expectations. This is all the more reason to place focus on Customer experience, its important to understand the difference between customer experience and customer service, customer service is just one small piece to the customer experience and is typically the “human interaction” that occurs the experience is the entire purchase journey. How easy is it to access your company? Does your brand offer social value or part of social movements or something consumers can get behind that would differentiate your brand? What is the ease of purchase, speed of purchase and how quickly can I get my things? All these touch points through the purchase journey impact the overall feeling the consumer feels at the end of a transaction. Those who meet and exceed expectations will be the winners even over “cheap” product offerings, because people will pay more for a better experience.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Outside of business, I have always had a passion for fitness/wellbeing. I enjoy being active and have experienced times and periods in my life, as many have, where this has taken backburner to other priorities. A couple years ago I found my way back to fitness and realize the positive impact that is has in so many areas of my life, my family, my business, my mindset and obviously my overall health. Coming off the pandemic so many of us have fallen back in wellbeing both physically and mentally and this has a detrimental negative impact on our lives both personally and professionally. Not to mention that nearly a third of the US population is obese, so many people could lead a much happier life if they could find the mind shift to focus on self. I mentioned my finding my way back to fitness a couple years ago, I did this through a program called “StrongerU” this program is amazing with an incredible and supportive social media community. I have seen so many peoples of all ages regain their lives with a newfound sense of being and self-respect. This is powerful thing, and I believe my movement would consist of corporate and social focus on healthy habits through nutrition, exercise, and meditation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!