Agencies are more successful when customer service is at the forefront of their operations. Meeting and exceeding customer expectations, responding to any and all feedback, and providing the trust and expertise they need and expect are what differiniates independent agencies from their competitiors. Agencies that take the time to get to know their customers, solicit feedback, and instill the importance of putting the customer first, regardless of how the interaction occurs are the most successful. In this month’s segment of the Customer Service Experiences, learn how seeing service from your customer’s perspective can help your staff deliver great service and improve retention.
Many research studies confirm that customer service is a pivotal attribute of any insurance provider for both personal and small commercial clients. Personal lines buyers particularly are concerned with having a personal advocate who is representing the interests of the client more than the company. Small commercial lines customers are focused on quick carrier response, fair claims settlements, accurate policies, billing issues and having a knowledgeable agent.
There’s more to customer service than returning phone calls, following up on e-mail or completing annual policy checks. Customer service is every bit as much about how you do things as the daily checklist of what you do. It’s about consistent delivery of your brand values with each and every customer interaction. It’s about seeing your services from your customer’s perspective, not from your own.
Always remember: if you can deliver against client expectations, the business will come.
Step 1: Consider what’s required throughout a customer lifecycle.
Not only are individual customer needs not the same, the same customer has different needs depending where they are in the purchase cycle.
New customers need more handholding. Don’t assume because they aren’t asking questions that they aren’t curious or confused. Explain your processes, introduce your team, let them know what to expect.
Existing customers need reinforcement that they’ve made the right decision. Remind them why certain policies or services are appropriate for their account. Solicit regular updates on their business goals and take the time to uncover new concerns.
Refresh your account relationships. Don’t leave appreciation to chance. If you don’t have a regular schedule for client contact, create one. It doesn’t always have to be face-to-face (although that should occur quarterly at a minimum). Take the time to forward relevant articles, recognize important milestones or business accomplishments, ask questions, and listen. If you sense an area of concern or worry, address it promptly and provide solutions.
Step 2: Convey the benefits you provide as an independent agent.
Always look for opportunities to upsell existing accounts. This should not be a heavy-handed sales job. However, during regular review of client business, share information about new or relevant products and services. Even if the client isn’t ready for a sale right away, when you position yourself as an interested, trusted resource, they will think of you first when new opportunities do arise.
There is an intangible that independent agents bring to a relationship. Be sure you communicate these advantages clearly. In addition to your own individual brand strengths, share the strengths you likely share with most independent agents:
- Understands the worries other business owners face
- Personal interest in seeing every client succeed
- Local, accessible
- Invested in the community
- Focused on long-term client relationships, not short-term sales
- Ability to create customized coverage—not limited by corporate requirements established by headquarter offices elsewhere
Step 3: Have A Consistent Strategy
While you staff may have the skills to interact with your customers, it is also important to have an overall organizational strategy to keep your customers happy. Following are some tips to ensure that your agency is constantly providing proactive customer service at every client interaction:
Personal Touches Count: Your customers want to feel like they have access to real people. Don’t let your telephone prompts and website send them in a circle of never-ending frustration. Post photos and bios of your staff on your website, allowing customers to see that there are real people working on their behalf.
Be There For Your Clients: Ensure that your customers can reach you. Provide an after-hours answering service, and if there is a widespread claim situation such as a flood or hail storm, have the office staffed both early and late when needed. Avoid the use of PO boxes for your mail and make sure they know your physical address, This will help build trust and remind them that your agency is a real business, with real people who care about their needs.
Give Them What They Want: Make sure you are fully meeting your customers’ needs. Set up focus groups, interview customers, or run a survey to get ideas on what they really want from doing business with your agency. Consider a quick follow-up survey after each interaction.
Your Agency In The Community: Consider some non-traditional ways to create more touch points with your current and potential customers. Think about offering webinars, daily social media updates about fun things happening in your office, manning a booth at local trade shows and conventions. And don’t forget that while people come to these forums to learn about insurance from you, you can learn as much–if not more–from them.