We strive to provide agents with tips on how to help bring their agency to the next level. A lot of agents think sales and customer service are two separate aspects of running an insurance agency. However, I think great customer service IS a sales strategy.
The difference between giving an amazing customer experience and a horrible one is usually just a few little things here and there that aren’t too hard if you establish processes in your agency to follow through with them.
Here are 15 little things you can do to improve the customer experience in your agency.
1. USE YOUR CUSTOMER’S NAME
Everybody loves the sound of their own name. When you say a customer’s name as much as possible it shows you respect them as an individual and often makes people feel the need to be more respectful and friendlier to you.
Does your client have a name that’s difficult to pronounce? Good! Take the time to learn to pronounce it properly and they will appreciate your gesture even more!
2. Follow-Up Throughout the Claim
Having to file a claim is often a very stressful experience. Imagine dealing with a car accident, or something happening to your home, and now you need to file a claim. While an unfortunate event, this is your moment to shine!
Establish a procedure within your agency for following up with customers who have claims. It’s easy to think it’s the claims department’s job but that theory will hurt you.
You can come up with your own schedule but I think most agencies would benefit from reaching out to clients one-week, two-weeks, and four-weeks after a claim is filed. It’s the opposite of sales calls – the more you call, the more they appreciate it.
Just be careful not to set the wrong expectations – express care, concern, and empathy but defer specific claims questions (like how liability is determined) to the people who specialize in it.
3. Thank You Calls For All Referrals
Every single time a client recommends your agency, you should personally reach out to them and thank them for the referral. Referred business is absolutely the best type of lead and it’s important to encourage the behavior.
I know some agents who only thank the referrer when they sell the policy. That is a ridiculous idea. When you fail to make the sale and still reach out to thank the referrer it’s better because it says “I appreciate your recommendation” instead of “Thanks for helping me make more money”.
If you sign up a new client and save them a lot of money, ask if you can take a picture and put it on your social pages. I’ll bet you anything that if you saved them a bunch of money and they agree to the picture, they’ll not only like your page but they’ll make a post to all their friends about how much money they saved and how great of an experience it was.
You’ll also show all your current followers that you still have competitive rates so they don’t need to shop around at renewal time.
5. Look For Discount Opportunities
When a client calls you up to talk about something, take a few moments to tell them about any additional discounts they may be eligible for. (Ask their permission first to make sure they have time)
I know some agents that don’t like give away discounts because they think giving discounts to existing customers is a pay cut. I disagree – it can be an incredibly positive experience for a client to get a discount when they were least expecting it. Would you rather give back a few dollars of commission and keep a client for another 20 years or keep their rates as high as possible so you lose them in next year?
Also, when you become a trusted advisor by showing how you're looking out for their best interest, many clients will be more open to talking about other insurable interests.... win-win!
6. Always Establish the “Next Step”
I am a BIG proponent of the "next step". I ask my team to use this method in our office! Whether you’re helping a client through underwriting, policy issuance, a billing dispute, or a claim make sure you end every interaction by explaining what the next step is. People don’t always need their problems solved, but in almost every situation your clients want to know that things are moving forward and what their expectations should be.
You'll be surprised how patient and understanding people are but they NEED to know things are moving forward. If nothing is moving forward, then explain why but never leave your clients left hanging.
7. Wish a Happy Birthday
One of my closest agent friends spends an hour every day calling clients on their birthdays. A lot of agents think he’s crazy but he swears that he gets more positive feedback, more referrals, more cross sales, and more positive energy from those phone calls than anything else he does.
People are happy on their birthdays and recognizing that makes them feel good. There’s a decent chance you might be the only person who wishes them a happy birthday! Why not give it a try for one month?
8. Accept Responsibility
I don’t care if the billing department messed up, the underwriters lost your documentation, or the dog ate your client files... always accept the responsibility yourself. The reason is very simple:
When you blame others for what happened it makes you look powerless.
If the insurance agent has no power then it’s time to call an 800 number. On the contrary, accepting responsibility for a mistake makes clients think you are in control and will be able to help them when they need it.
People can usually tell it wasn’t your fault anyway but will appreciate that you take ownership. Making their problem your problem shows your clients that you're in their corner and will help them get to a satisfactory resolution.
9. Keep the Kids Entertained
Your office is a professional environment and you don’t need a playpen in the corner full of grimy toys but it helps to have some activities to entertain any kids that come in with Mom or Dad. Coloring books and crayons are cheap and work well for a wide range of ages.
While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few other amenities that can help with kids like a spare diaper, a juice box, or just a few minutes to acknowledge their presence before getting down to business.
10. If You Must Put Someone On Hold, Ask Them
“Insurance agency, please hold…” CLICK.
Every time this happens when I call an agency, I shutter. Not because I mind being on hold, but because instead of it being me on the line, it could potentially be someone who was about to insure their home, multiple cars, and life policies.... until you put them on hold.
Have your customers ever heard that? I hope not, but I know I’ve heard it a lot when calling agencies! I understand that things get crazy, but it doesn’t generally set the tone for a positive conversation when you start by telling the caller what to do.
Although it’s still probably less than ideal, a change to something like, “Insurance Agency, can you please hold?” wait for the answer and reply “thank you I really appreciate it.” will help make things a bit less tense.
While we’re at it, don’t tell someone you’re going to put them on hold “for a minute” unless it’s really going to be a 60 seconds or less. People can take that quite literally and setting the wrong expectations will lead to a worse customer experience. I've even been put on hold before and was told it would be 5 minutes, and I sat there for 5 minutes. What happened when they came back on the line? I ultimately closed the sale!
11. Give Great Introductions To Co-Workers
When you’re handing the phone over to one of your co-workers because they specialize in a certain situation do you say, “Here’s Jen – she does all the claims”?
Why not try something like this instead: “Although I want to help you with this, I’d like you to speak with our claims specialist, Jen. She used to work as a claim adjuster and has over 10 years experience helping our customers get through the claim process. If anyone on earth can get you through this as painlessly as possible, it’s Jen.”
Not only is that customer going to feel more comfortable and taken care of, you’ll also make your co-worker’s job easier because you made Jen the trusted advisor! It takes a few more seconds, however could save your co-worker a ton of time.
12. Thank You Notes
We all know a handwritten note can go a long way in today’s society. The reason it’s so valuable is also the reason we don’t do it – because it’s a pain in the butt!
Make it easy on yourself by making a bunch of pre-stamped envelopes with the return address already written on them.
Send one hand-written thank you note every day and over time you’ll make a big impression on your clients, prospects, and business contacts.
13. Ask For Improvement Recommendations
Ask your clients if there’s anything you could be doing to improve their relationship with you. You’d be surprised what you find out – you’ll probably get better ideas than this article!
The added bonus is that by asking this question you’re giving the customer the idea that they have some say in the way they are treated and you also let them know that their experience is important to you.
You don’t have to listen to everything they say, but by asking the question they’ll think you care.
14. Act on Improvement Recommendations
I have found that when a customer points out an opportunity or idea for improving your business, they’re usually on to something. Customer suggestions aren’t always 100% doable, but they almost always identify a problem that should be addressed more effectively.
Next time a customer makes a suggestion that seems impossible don’t just dismiss it. Think about another way you could to solve (or ease) the problem they’ve identified and place that change into action.
And don’t forget to follow up with them explaining the change you’ve made. They will feel heard and appreciate that you took steps to make their experience better!
15. #1 Customer Service Tip: It Comes From the Top
I have worked with hundreds of insurance agencies and there is ultimately one thing that will make or break your agency’s ability to provide great customer service:
Excellent customer service comes from the top.
It doesn’t matter who the employees are, if the person running the agency is not 100% committed to the customers then no one will be. I have seen it time and time again…
Fortunately the opposite is also true – A leader who puts the customers first will have employees who deliver the same promise. While the customer may not always be right, each interaction is an opportunity to provide excellent customer service.
If you’re the head of your agency, how are you going to demonstrate to your team that the customers come first? We'd love to hear about your customer success stories!