I admit it: I’m human. Far from perfect. But I do pride myself on being a good person to the extent it’s part of my professional identity as Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor. At this point in my career I’ve met with thousands of Medicare beneficiaries. My experiences have run the gamut from meeting some of the best, most genuine people around to having people rudely chase me off after having driven many miles to see them.
Throughout the years I’ve had a few interactions that really got me angry. Very few times did I ever show that to the person I was trying to help. But one time, in particular, I really screwed up and boiled over. The good news is I learned from doing that to not let it bother me where it messes up my day and it gives any potential client a negative experience with me.
The story begins at a Panera Bread. One of my favorite clients, Arlene*, had referred her brother Sean* and her sister in law, Pam*, to me. I met Sean and Pam at the restaurant and we sat down for our meeting. We talked like old friends for about half-an-hour and got to know each other. However, Sean, hadn’t activated his Medicare Part B yet, so I volunteered to do that there since I knew how to do it and save him the time and aggravation of having to deal with Social Security directly (which I could do back then). Since I had my tablet, we went online and I walked through signing him up and it took about 45 minutes to do that.
Having accomplished that painful, time-consuming task we got to talking about Medicare options and what they were. Pam had several health problems already and was looking at some upcoming surgeries potentially, so I recommended a Medigap plan, which they both signed up for (Sean wanted the same thing as his wife). All told we were at Panera for 2 ½ hours on a Friday night but we got it all handled and, in my view, had a pretty decent time doing so. We had a good rapport and never a lull in the conversation. I’ve had at least a dozen appointments like this where a couple and me just had a grand time and it didn’t feel like customer-salesperson. It felt like doing business with a friend and this was just how this had gone. It was about as pleasant as dealing with health insurance could be.
Fast forward about two weeks later and I get a call from Sean saying he had decided to go with a different Medicare Supplement company and to cancel out the applications we had submitted for he and Pam. I was so stunned I was dumbfounded and immediately outraged. What?! The competing Medicare Supplement company had lower rates by a dollar or two, but being a veteran of the industry, I knew they were infamous for coming out with what agents call ‘teaser, low-ball’ rates and then within two or 3 years having the rates double in some cases. I’d been burned by this company as an agent numerous times and avoided using them like the plague.
Telling Sean why I hadn’t presented this company to him, he didn’t seem affected by my reasoning. I told him what he needed to do was call this other agent back and tell him what he told me, he didn’t want that insurance! And if he really wanted it, despite their reputation, I could sell it to him if he really was hung up on saving a few bucks for the short term. He proceeded to say “but I promised him we’d take it already”. This sent me over-the-edge as I blurted “You promised me too! And I actually did you a huge service, helping you sign up for Part B of Medicare! This guy doesn’t care anything about you! If he did, he wouldn’t have sold you that terrible company!” I must’ve short-circuited poor Sean who thought I’d be an easier guy to say no to who abruptly got off the phone after I’d given him a piece-of-my-mind.
And usually I’d handle a situation like this with far more grace, but I felt taken advantage of and felt like our good time together was all for naught. At this point this had never happened to me where someone I had a great appointment with ended up not using my services.
Now, instead of being a pleasant memory and potentially years of being a good relationship, it was a source of pain. I’d gone out-of-my-way to see them late on a Friday night and taken time away from me and my family to help them. For what? To have some two-bit, hustler of an agent undo it to save a few bucks?! And why even talk to anybody else after we’d met? Didn’t this guy get I was trying to do my absolute best for him and his wife, and make his sister, Arlene, feel good about referring them to me? Still, despite that, I was way wrong in going off like I did.
First of all, it doesn’t align with my values of trying to help each and every person like they’re family and friends. Second, if I’d have handled it better Arlene would’ve probably told him what an idiot he was for not taking my advice and making her look bad even. Now I was just some jerk who cried like a baby when I didn’t get his way. I helped justify his decision to not use me as an agent with my misbehavior and closed the door on him coming back later and saying he should’ve used me all along (which has happened a number of times) because the other agent didn’t do right by them.
Secondly, I knew what my intentions were and I could’ve explained them calmly and maybe gotten him to see that too. By involving my ego and sense-of-righteousness to angrily defend myself, I put him in a position of feeling berated and insulted. I knew better than to let something so petty disrupt my mindset. What’s the big deal? If he doesn’t become my client is it going to affect my bottom line? Not really.
The truth is my ego was wounded and I handled it poorly. It felt personal and I made it personal in a negative way. Even if I was technically or morally in-the-right given what had previously transpired, I was better than that. Nobody deserves to be gone-off-on in such a manner and I learned that lesson.
The moral of the story is in-the-long-run I resolved to be a kinder, gentler agent who wanted to help people for the right reasons from then on. We all make mistakes. It’s our job to learn the lessons from them and use it going forward. After all, why deal with a jerk, when you can deal with a Nice Guy?!
*-names changed to protect their true identity