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  • July 2020
  • 5 minutes

COVID-19 Brief: The urgent need for empathy in insurance today

Empathy word blocks
In Brief
Empathy, understanding, and proactive assistance are vital during challenging times, especially when human touchpoints in established processes are limited. Stephen Goldstein of RGAX, RGA’s transformation engine, explains how insurance professionals honing these skills can make a big difference.

COVID-19 has disrupted modern life, from the day-to-day interactions of our personal lives to the established practices of entire industries. As the world battles the coronavirus, people’s mental health, physical health, and financial health are all at stake, and insurers play an important role in the response and recovery.

When shared challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic arise, it’s crucial to look beyond ourselves and increase our empathy toward others – and this certainly applies to all parties in the insurance policy life cycle. Empathy makes people feel heard, helps resolve challenges, and improves customer satisfaction. People buy insurance for peace of mind, and there are steps insurers can take to help further ease customers’ minds during this difficult time. It starts with being a good listener, especially during the claims process. Claims analysts can foster empathy by engaging the claimant in real conversation, showing genuine interest, and responding appropriately. During a crisis or anxious state, asking simple but caring questions to gain a deeper understanding of the insureds’ unique experience can go a long way toward producing positive outcomes for all parties:

  • Are you safe?
  • Do you need me to contact anyone on your behalf?
  • Is there anything else you wish to share with me?

The recently released e-book, “Using Empathy to Build Trust and Improve Claim Outcomes,” published by SALT Associates, an RGAX company, provides useful guidance on how to use empathy in the claims management process and offers strategies for claimant interviews and trust building.

From an underwriting perspective, it’s important to always bear in mind that we ultimately serve people, not policies. This has become particularly important during the COVID-19 crisis. Stay-at-home orders and physical distancing have had a major impact on traditional practices and led underwriters to rely more heavily on digital channels and alternative evidence resources versus face-to-face interactions and fluid testing. While digital solutions have enabled underwriters to carry on with their work in new ways, it can be easy to forget that beyond the data points seen on the screen, there are people, all going through something difficult that’s not necessarily reflected in raw data. When possible, underwriters should try to dig deeper in borderline cases and look for further evidence.  

But empathy goes both ways. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that U.S. insurers lose $80 billion annually to fraud, across all lines of business. The digital shift provides more opportunity for applicants to withhold information on applications, and therefore insurers may have to take up more risk. And more risk means increased costs for the policyholder and others. So how do insurers foster empathy in applicants and policyholders? One word: education.  Transparency from the insurer’s point of view and educating people on the true costs of fraud are essential. When people learn that the real victims of insurance fraud are in fact other people, they may be less likely to commit fraud – empathy at work. 


Empathy, understanding, and proactive assistance are vital during challenging times, especially when human touchpoints in established processes are limited. Insurance professionals honing these skills can make a big difference both for insurance companies looking to navigate the current industry environment and for people seeking financial security in uncertain times.

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