I have always liked helping people.
That's one of the main reasons I've enjoyed working for the past 12 years in American Family’s claims area, where we help customers at times when they need it most.
It also has been a big motivating factor in my 14 years of service in the U.S. Army. I've been deployed in Iraq, which was a very dangerous and trying experience, to say the least. I’ve also served in Kuwait. Whether abroad or in the states, I've always made sure I did a good job taking care of my fellow soldiers.
In short, I like the fact that people rely on me, and that I can be there for them.
So, it has meant a lot to me that American Family has been there for me, too, especially in connection with my military service. The company and my colleagues have been very supportive when I’ve gone on military leave, and have welcomed me with open arms when I returned.
But one of the biggest honors came recently, when the company invited me and Alex Barajas, a senior research analyst at American Family (who appears to the left of me in the accompanying picture), to attend the U.S. Army All-American Bowl game, sponsored by American Family. For me, the experience was amazing and eye-opening. We were among thousands of military personnel who watched the nation’s elite high school football players compete in an exciting east-west matchup. American Family also recognized our service in many different ways throughout a warm and welcoming weekend that culminated with on-field recognition during a very moving pre-game ceremony.
Additionally, American Family Executive Vice President Peter Gunder presented a special award to an outstanding defensive player, and another award honoring a family for strongly supporting one of its family members who is a top musician in a high school marching band.
During the past several years, I have had more than a couple people thank me for my service and wish me the best. I smiled and thanked them for their kind words because I didn’t really know how to handle it. I have come to see that what I have done through my service is not just unique and rare, but appreciated and honored.
I am grateful for this incredible opportunity and experience, and proud to work for a company that protects dreams of customers, high school students and other community members, and people like me.
Editors Note: For a closer look at American Family’s support of John Neppl, Alex Barajas and other employees who serve in the military, watch this video from our YouTube channel.
American Family is a past recipient of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers for their support of their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
Those who know me would think Spanish is my first language. I carry a slight accent and sometimes pause to find the right word in English.
I can assure you that’s not the case.
I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where English was the only language. My mother has always been fluent in both Spanish and English, but Spanish wasn’t needed, and we quickly became an English-speaking household.
That only lasted about six years. Then, we moved to Denver, where many people speak both Spanish and English. It was difficult because I hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish in my life!
I got away with it for about four years until one day my mom said, “It is really too bad that being Hispanic you don’t know how to speak your language. From now on, solo Espanol” - only Spanish.
Growing up around family, friends, neighbors, school mates and even teachers, who spoke Spanish all day, every day, made learning the language very easy. However, speaking the language isn’t enough. You need to be the language.
The Latino culture is very different to what I was used to seeing in Minnesota. We would get together four or five times a week for no particular reason. We are loud, close and do everything together. We always had visitors who would come over for a cup of coffee and end up staying for hours. All they really wanted was to talk, catch up on things, or to hear the latest chisme - gossip.
This brings me to the topic of talking to American Family’s Hispanic customers. The call is rarely simple.
When asked, “How may I help you?” Their response will start with what road they were on when the accident happened, but will quickly move to why they were on that road, where they were going, who they were going to see, and why they were going to see that person.
This is why most Spanish-speaking calls take an average of two to three minutes longer than English-speaking calls. We come across so many different accents, dialects, rates of speech, and countries that it really puts your listening skills to the test. Every call is a different story and can even be taken out of context if you are not paying close attention.
So when bilingual claims care center employees are asked, “What’s the main difference in claims called in by Hispanic customers?” we say the key to providing excellent customer service is to tratar los como familia - just treat them like family.
If we're able to do that, then the rest is just … another language.