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From the Editor
"Ask an Expert" Briefs
Communications With Your Prospects And Customers: The Key To Selling More Insurance And Keeping Your Customers
The greatest benefit you have as an independent agent is that you are the 'local' professionals - you know both insurance and the area. When you communicate with your customers bring them local news, whether it's the local high school or college sports schedule, highlights and scores, upcoming events within 50 miles in the next week, or even the weather forecast (especially in farm country).
The Helper Personality: Why Service Staff Shouldn’t Sell Insurance
One of the key differences between Producers and Service Staff is the nature of their personalities. While the Producer has that sales personality, assertive but not pushy, friendly but focused, reading the signals that the prospect gives to qualify or disqualify them as a potential customer, the Service staff is a helper personality, with intrinsic drivers to serve the customer’s needs and keep them happy, but not necessarily comfortable with the potential pressure or rejection of the sales function. With an understanding of some of the personality types within the agency, why would an agency want the person with a minimal expectation of success to handle incoming sales calls?
A Cultural Shift to Service
Most companies claim to be service oriented. Everyone 'says' that their people are their greatest resource. Everyone 'claims' that their customers are king. But how often do we, as consumers, realize that the service and quality initiatives that are publicized by a company are only lip service... another marketing tool to make customers believe that they're special? So, how to we make service more than lip service? Read on...
Beating the Competition...Thrilling the Customer
We, as an industry, have gotten some pretty rotten publicity regarding service. The bad news is that much of it is well earned. Uncaring employees finding reasons why claims should be declined have justified most of the horror stories that we've heard. The good news is that this picture of expected service problems makes 'thrilling' the customers that much easier for those of us who care to change the image.
Company Service Centers
The process of service center can work. But it can only do so if the insurance company and the insurance agency form an allegiance that is extremely difficult for either of them to break. The 'bad actors' must be culled from both the company and the agency ranks. The carriers committed to marketing through insurance agencies and the agencies committed to working with a carrier would find this process quite profitable...
The term, 'Profiling' has assumed a poor connotation due to the actions of several police departments around the country. However, 'profiling' as a tool has also been given a bad 'rap.' Profiling involves identifying and studying the characteristics of individuals and groups in order to provide goods and services tailored to the buyer. Here's how....
Customer Retention Q&A
Questions, questions, questions: 'Is customer retention important? How do you know? How do we measure it? Is there any measurement that we can perform that tells us if we’re getting better or worse in customer retention? How do we make those numbers grow? How do we know if our efforts are working?'
Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Whether you know that your business needs a great deal of improvement or whether you think that you are the best in the business, the Customer Satisfaction Survey (sometimes in conjunction with focus group sessions) will give you a great deal of worthwhile information. We urge you to consider it as one of the tools that you use in analyzing the future direction of your business.
Do You Want Fries with That? The Art of Cross Selling
Have you ever escaped McDonalds without being asked of you wanted fries or a drink with your purchase? 'Would you like a hot apple pie with that?' Why do you think they do that? Perhaps they're concerned with their patrons' nutritional needs? More likely, management realized that they can make more money by helping their customers identify additional needs and then satisfying them.
Establishing Service Standards
Customer standards tell your employees and your customers what you expect of your staff, how your staff is expected to perform, and what your customers should expect from their interaction with your agency. The focus and clarification of standards can be a strong, positive statement that differentiates you from the 'normal' insurance agency. All agencies say that they provide excellent service - few are committed enough to actually write it down and give their standards to their clients.
Excellent Service...A State of Mind?
When asked, “What is your greatest strength?”, 90% of insurance agents will claim “Excellent Service” as the answer. Yet if all of the agents who claim excellent service actually provided excellent service, there would be many fewer losses of accounts with reasons like, ‘went elsewhere’, ‘lost to price’, and, the old stand-by, ‘non-pay – no reason’. Do 90% of the agents you know provide service you would term excellent?
Focus on the Future...the Customer
I've never met an agent who does not claim to concentrate on the customers' needs. However, most agents have tried to define the customers' needs without input from the customer. This process no longer works. As evidenced by the decreasing customer retention rates in many agencies, customers no longer seem to agree with their agents on the importance of the agents services...
Increase Service by Reducing Customers
Do you respond to reduced revenue by cutting expenses, usually in the form of payroll? Or, do you respond by eliminating unprofitable customers and establishing priorities for serving the balance? In another thought-provoking article, agency management guru Al Diamond uses a real-life example to illustrate the long-term damage that can result from the practice of 'downsizing.'
The 10 Commandments of Customer Service
Below is a reprint of one of Al Diamond's most popular articles. Nothing else needs to be said...just read and obey!
The Illusion of Service How to Become a Customer Friendly Agency
I recently tried a little experiment. Two agencies that I encountered expressed a great deal of pride in the degree of service provided by their staff to clients and prospects. Both of the agency owners assumed that they provided great service because of three things (see below). Neither owner had surveyed clients or tested the agency to determine the real level of service. I was called in as a consultant and here's what I found....
The Unnatural Transition from Service to Sales
Transitioning service staff to sales positions is an up-hill battle at best. There have been many more failures than successes. However, there are some situations where this transition is appropriate and possible, although it will almost certainly be unnatural to the CSR. In this article, I'll give you the 'Do's' and 'Don'ts' in moving from service to sales.
Walk the Talk
I have never met an agent who said, 'We give mediocre service to our customers.' Every agent prides himself on operating a high-quality servicing agency. There may be no basis for this beyond the comments of the employees themselves, or the laudatory comments of a few customers each year.
When an Agency's Service Standards Fail
This is a follow-up to the article, 'Establishing Customer Standards.' In this article, I'd like to explore how you can test your ability to deliver the service you believe you're providing. More importantly, how can you test your service levels to ensure that you are providing your clients with the level of service you've led THEM believe they can expect from your staff? There are at least two things you can test to gauge performance....
When Great Customer Service Is Not Enough
...all the right steps could have been taken, but failure resulted none the less because the goals given to the employee groups were not the real goals of the owners. In this example (and in many insurance agencies), the real goals are financial, not customer service. These owners are willing to accommodate any change that will improve service as long as it concurrently increases profits (or, at least doesn't cost more money).
Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc.
127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
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