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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).
If something is HIGH QUALITY AND CHEAP it will inevitably take longer to accomplish. And if something can be delivered FAST AND CHEAP, it will likely not be the quality you desire. Since you can only have two of the three options, which would you chose?
Agents owe their clients a certain level of service, but what is that level? What should be the agent’s role? What standards of care are reasonable to properly assure an insurance client that he is properly protected? Agents are responsible for the safety of their clients' assets. While it may not be their very lives that are imperiled, if the agent doesn’t do his job, their client’s future and financial security could be ruined.
Most agents pursue prospects with a passion as long as the prospect appears to be positive and amenable to working with the agency. However, most agents also forget about the client after the policies have been issued and checked and the premium is paid. The next time they think about the client is when the renewal is on the horizon IF changes are needed in the coverage.
Service centers make a lot of sense from a financial standpoint except it will take as many as five years for your clients to stop calling YOU and start calling the carrier service center. You will refer them to the Service Center and they will wonder why they need an agent if they are going to talk to the insurance company whenever they have a question. Do they work well for your future?
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?
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...
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.
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....
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?'
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.
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.
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.
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?
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...
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.'
Below is a reprint of one of Al Diamond's most popular articles. Nothing else needs to be said...just read and obey!
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....
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.
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.
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....
...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).
​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556

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