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Customer advisor: From underdog to top dog

Gianluca Lombardi is a customer advisor in Baden and positively brimming with self-motivation. For him, joining the "Junior Sales Programme" to train as a customer advisor was the springboard into his career. In this interview he reveals what he particularly liked about his training.

4 April 2019, text: Michaela Schaub, photo: Martina Jäggin

A young man with glasses sits at a table, has a trophy in front of him and smiles into the camera.
Gianluca Lombardi's tip for new customer advisors: set yourself interim goals.

What made you want to train as a customer advisor?

Well for one thing, I could never sit still at secondary school. I was always one of the chatty ones, so every now and then I would get thrown out of lessons. During my apprenticeship I realized that people liked me talking and that I could actually make them happy. That motivated me, and I could see it motivated my boss too, so then I knew for certain that I wanted to work with the sales force! When I sold my first policy in my first year as an apprentice, that confirmed my decision.

Secondly my parents were teachers so I come from a socially-minded family, we enjoyed helping other people. For the last ten years before he died, my father was completely disabled and lived in a care home. It was only because they were insured with Helvetia that my parents were able to cope financially, so that's why I applied for an apprenticeship with Helvetia, to give something back. After my apprenticeship I trained for two years as a customer advisor on the "Junior Sales Programme". Just a year after that I was ready to join the sales force, and I have been working successfully in this role for three years now.

What was the best part of the "Junior Sales Programme" for you?

There were quite a few highlights during my training. When National Suisse merged with Helvetia I was responsible for "accident/health insurance" in our general agency. I acquired a lot of valuable knowledge about the business and was able to develop professionally. When I started out with the sales force my manager had faith in me and allowed me to meet with clients on my own, just helping me out in advance with how to structure customer meetings and what tools I needed. Meeting customers on your own requires quite a lot of courage, but I think it's important for everyone to have their own way of doing things and not just try to replicate what others do. It's a bit like fitness training in that the more you train and the harder you exercise the more you can see the difference in your body. Having regular working hours from 8 a.m. to 12 noon is another highlight for me.

What was your biggest challenge?

My greatest personal challenge was one I set myself: I wanted to prove myself to the  "old guard" of the customer advisors. Some of the employees at the general agency had worked there for years, were highly experienced and had all sorts of awards, and that was exactly what I needed to motivate me and spur me on. I wanted to be at the forefront with them as a young "newbie" and from the very start I thought "I want to prove myself to you." In my first year as a customer advisor I was already in the top 10, in my second year I was the second most successful, and in 2018 I was the top customer advisor, and it's my goal to be top again next year. Even though I'm still only 25, I can definitely hold my own with my colleagues. The effort has paid off, although on average I work 12-13 hours a day. I also speak at the monthly events for new customer advisors, "Helvetia & me", giving advice on the subjects of "Hard work" and "Developing your own tools for customer meetings". The main tip I give in my presentations is to set yourself interim goals.

Is there anything in particular that you have learned?

I often insure companies or bars in the Baden area, and sometimes the owners might give me and my friends a drink on the house if we go there in our free time. I truly believe that when it comes to recommendations and to life in general you should give freely without expecting anything in return, and life will reward you by the bucketload.

What advice can you give to colleagues who are currently training to be customer advisors?

You learn more from a NO than you do from a YES. And self-reflection in your work is very important. What I mean by that is that after every meeting I have with a customer I ask myself honestly: what did I do well and what can I improve? I also want to be happy with my work and if I make mistakes to acknowledge them and learn from them. And finally: start each new day with a positive attitude.

Why would you recommend the "Junior Sales Programme"?

The "Junior Sales Programme" gives you a significant advantage over lateral entrants to the industry. Helvetia will give you a comprehensive and step-by-step introduction to the insurance industry which is second to none, and you'll also have extra time to build up your own network. Good business relationships evolve over several years and require regular attention. I have always spoken freely about my work to my friends and family. People are interested in it and I can really engage them, and then months later I'll get an enquiry and am able to sell another policy. So I do kind of passive active advertising.  


Junior Sales Programme

Have you completed a commercial apprenticeship or trained as a Young Insurance Professional and are you interested in a career in the sales force? If so, apply for the Junior Sales Programme.

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