Wherever you are in the lifecycle of your agency, it’s worth your time to do periodic agency evaluations. Each time you engage in the process, it can be helpful to narrow your focus and think about a different topic—things like the usefulness of your website or how you train new staff or the flow of your sales process.
You’ll find that you have little control over some things. For instance, you can’t set insurance rates, though you can still evaluate how you are communicating topics like price increases. But there is one topic that you have complete control over—customer service.
When’s the last time you really thought about your customer service? How well are you caring for your prospects and customers? Offering great customer service can be crucial to your success because customers not only stick with you longer, they also tell others about you. This kind of word-of-mouth advertising is priceless; it’s free and very effective because consumers trust recommendations from those they know more than any other form of advertising. (See our previous article for more on this topic.)
When you’re ready to evaluate your customer service, here are some of the components you can analyze:
Take a look at your written communications; at a minimum, they should be clear, friendly and error-free. Tape your end of the conversation when making a few phone calls to customers and listen to them later. Are you really listening to your customers and allowing them enough time to speak? Are your explanations cogent? Is your tone of voice warm, calm, and understanding?
Make it an expectation of your staff members that they will be audited and critiqued on their communication from time to time. Build a culture where this sort of regular evaluation is welcomed as an opportunity to improve and set the example by evaluating yourself, too.
Timeliness and Follow-Up
Timeliness is another important component of great service. Return calls promptly. Get answers quickly. And if you say you’re going to do something, do it—without having to be prompted. In a professional insurance office, there should be no excuses when it comes to looking after your customer’s needs as soon as possible.
Another way to send the message that you are looking after your clients is by being thorough. Let your insurance expertise shine through by suggesting additional coverages or coverage amounts that you think would benefit a client. This shouldn’t be a hard sell and not every customer will be interested, but you’re the insurance expert, and they may not even know about (or understand) certain coverages. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “It seems like having a nice car is important to you. Did you know that you can add new car replacement to your policy for a relatively low cost? Would you be interested in hearing more about that?”
The Fun Factor
Buying insurance, increasing coverage, and filing claims are not fun activities for most people, but they also don’t have to be miserable. Have you ever participated in a group clean-up of any type? Tromping through thick foliage next to a river to pick up trash is a lot more fun when you go into with a good attitude and are doing it with other volunteers. In the same way, you can improve your clients’ experience with a cheery attitude and light demeanor. Look for opportunities to insert a wry comment or funny story. Put a smile on your face before you pick up the phone—it will come through in your voice.
How you make your customers feel can be even more important to them than the cost of their insurance. When they know you’ve got their back, they’ll be more inclined to keep their business with you and your agency, and you’ll get more referrals, too.
Once you’ve taken a look at these aspects of your customer service and any others that are important to you, look for deficiencies and figure out how you can correct them. Appraise your staff for their skills and devise a plan to give support or training to those who need to up their game. If you recognize deficiencies in yourself, share what they are and how you plan to improve them with a trusted advisor who can help hold you accountable for improvement.
The Regional Directors at Hometown Quotes are all successful former insurance agents, and they’ve spoken to a lot of great agents and agency owners over the years. Give us a call at 800.820.2981 to get ideas and strategies that have helped other agencies improve their customer service and increase sales.