Actually don’t talk to any client like that, really. Using inappropriate language, trendy slang and texting abbreviations such as IMO (in my opinion) instantly mark you as unprofessional. With poor communication a top source of E&O claims, sloppy language, in verbal or written form, also becomes a potential liability.
Avoid Ageism in Your Communications
Clear communication is important with all clients and transactions, and successful Health and Life insurance agents are mindful of generational differences and preferences. Adults aged 65 years and older, for example, represent a growing chunk of the client base, and this demographic group has strong opinions about what it likes and does not like in professional relationships.
As a starting point, don’t call these clients or potential clients “elderly.” Mature adults, older adults and seniors are the preferred terms. “Senior citizen” is less popular, and elderly comes across as insulting. As Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), continue to work, volunteer and stay active, they don’t see themselves as “old” and don’t want to be thought of as old, either.
Also avoid what is known as “elderspeak,” which involves assumptions that older clients are hard-of-hearing and losing their cognitive abilities. Speaking slowly, speaking loudly, repeating statements and questions, plus over-simplifying word use and sentence structure are examples of elderspeak. So are using “we could” and “our goals” instead of instead of “you” and “your.”
When Clients Communication Are Actually Affected by Age
Yet aging does affect both hearing and vision. “A Financial Professional’s Guide to Working with Older Adults,” by The AARP and the Financial Planning Association, advises watching for signs that suggest a hearing impairment: inattentiveness; bending the head to favor one ear; lack of expression when you are speaking; inappropriate responses to your comments.
Still, no shouting. Make your voice deeper and stop between sentences. Don’t rush through the material. Use visual clues – point to important lines in written material as you speak.
Formatting Written Business Materials
Easy-to-read written materials benefit all parties, regardless of age. But if you are approaching 40 or shot past it yourself, you know “easy to read” is not what it once was. For written materials the AARP/FPA guide recommends:
- Double-spaced text
- Minimum 12-point sans serif font such as Arial or Verdana; consider 14 point
- Dark type on a light background
- Headings, subheads, charts and bullets to break up text
The Only Two Safe Assumptions
Never assume what your client knows. With older adults, however, two assumptions are safe: 1. Pushy, aggressive tactics will turn them off faster than you can blink. 2. What they value most in professional relationships is trust.
Baby Boomers make up at least 25 percent of the U.S. population. In 2014, the youngest Boomers turned 50; they’ll turn 65 in 2029. Review your communication style and practices to meet the needs of this growing demographic group and reduce your professional liability exposure at the same time. Get the AARP/FPA Guide for even more advice and guidance on crafting your written materials.