Today’s insurance customers have more options than ever, and agencies are losing market share to those other options. Carriers have added technology that makes it easy for insureds to sign up directly, while insurtech startups like Lemonade are creating brand-new ways to insure consumers. And then there are your fellow agencies that are all competing with you for an ever-shrinking slice of the pie.
If you want to find and retain clients, you’ve got to show them why they should be with your agency instead of elsewhere. And using the right kind of communication with your client is the only way to make that happen. The good news is that your competitors — from huge direct insurers all the way down to small agencies — often don’t realize how important communication is. By making communication a priority, you’ve got an easy way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the marketplace. Here’s how to go about it.
Add more touch points
A touch point is something that brings a prospect or customer into contact with your business. For example, seeing an ad for your agency, looking at your website, and communicating with an agent all count as touch points.
Salespeople know that it takes as many as eight touch points to convert a prospect. But once you become the broker or agent of record, you can’t just sit back and ignore them outside of the yearly “time to renew” conversation. Adding more touch points, such as a regular e-newsletter or a card celebrating a client’s anniversary, helps you build a connection with your insured.
Touchpoints should be both significant and consistent. A “significant” touch point is one that accomplishes something for the insured (not just for the agency). And “consistent” means that either the same person at your agency makes every touch point with a particular client or that the different people who make these touch points are trained to manage them in the same, consistent way.
McKinsey refers to touch-point consistency as managing the customer journey and has found that strong consistency is highly correlated with strong revenue growth.
Touchpoints that consist of having a conversation with a client (be it by phone, email, chat, or some other means) can be particularly powerful. Direct insurers, for example, Lemonade, often try to automate the entire sign-up and customer service process. That saves them time, but by doing so they’ve removed almost all human-to-human communication. No wonder the most recent PwC Future of Customer Experience Survey found that 82% of U.S. consumers want more human interaction. Periodically speaking with your insured can help you stand out from such competitors.
Note that a touch point has to be something that the client values, at least in a small way. Calling up the client every month just to say hi and ask how they’re doing doesn’t count.
Having plenty of meaningful touch points is a great way to boost customer experience, but too many non-meaningful touch points can be a serious problem. Any communication that doesn’t add value means you’re wasting the insured’s time, and in these busy days, no one has any time to waste.
For example, consider how the typical insurance renewal process works when the agency uses email to share documents. Such a process usually involves dozens of emails flying back and forth and numerous phone calls to resolve questions and get missing information. If instead of email, the agency uses a digital platform for insurance paperwork, it will no longer need dozens of touch points to get through the renewal process — and insureds will much appreciate all the time and energy they can save.
E-signatures are another useful streamlining tool. They save insureds the tedious process of having to print out, sign, scan and fax/email forms back — and they can provide other benefits as well, as you’ll see further down.
The fact that these tools smooth the renewal process is a particularly important detail since that’s a time when insureds are most likely to be shopping around with your competitors. If your process is far simpler and less messy than your competitors, it’s a potent argument in your favor.
Make communication pleasant and easy
Insurance is one of those products that operate “in the background.” Insureds don’t think about their insurance except when they need to file a claim or when they need to pay for it. Since insureds rarely get anything from their insurance, they don’t want to be put to a lot of trouble over buying or maintaining it.
For that reason, it’s particularly important for insurance agents to make any client communication as pleasant as possible. For example, the more organized and easy-to-complete your paperwork is, the quicker and easier it will be for insureds to get and renew their policies. Using a digital solution to store everything in a single submission packet and keep it all in the same format means fewer headaches for insureds, and less need for agents to initiate dozens of phone calls and emails just to get all the forms filled out properly.
It’s also important to frame any communications you do have as positively as you can. Remember, your insured don’t care about what you need; they want to know what they’re getting out of it. If you call an insured to get a bit of information for their insurance application, you can do two things on the call that will add value to the customer:
- Show what’s in it for them. You might explain why the bit of information you’re collecting will matter to the customer, perhaps by reducing their next insurance premium by X percent.
- Make a personal connection. You might congratulate them on a recent event such as a new job, you may offer to answer any questions they might have about their insurance, or you may simply thank them for being a loyal customer.
The more value you add to each touch point and the better you are at eliminating negative ones, the happier your customers will be.
Offer multiple channels
There are plenty of communication options these days, and the more of these options you support, the more value you’re adding for your insureds. Here’s what Salesforce has uncovered about customer use of different communication channels:
This doesn’t mean that you need to offer every single one of these options, but it does mean that it’s important for agencies to expand beyond the traditional phone and snail mail communication channels.
For example, some clients strongly prefer phone conversations to email ones, while others prefer the reverse. Ask each client early on which communication method they prefer, then put that information into the insured’s record and honor it whenever possible. If you must email an insured who prefers phone contact, call them first and tell them you have a document you need to send it via email.
Two of the above channels require special consideration for insurance agencies:
- Text messaging can be a fantastic way to communicate with insureds, but can also raise the specters of E&O and privacy issues. Fortunately, a number of modern agency management systems include built-in texting support that automatically tracks all texts sent through the system.
- Online portals allow insureds to easily complete forms and get answers, but it’s important that they’re secure enough to protect highly sensitive customer data. Indio is one example of such a portal; because it’s designed specifically for insurance agencies, it’s easy to implement and it meets all industry requirements.
Communicating with your insureds via their favorite channel accomplishes two things. First, it means insureds are more comfortable communicating with you, which makes them that much more satisfied with your agency. Second, if they find it easy to communicate with you, they’re more likely to tell you if they’re unhappy about something in time for you to fix it rather than dumping you for a competitor.
Monitor Account Status
Insureds want insurance, but they won’t necessarily work at getting it. That can be quite a problem at renewal time when it’s necessary for the insured to fill out forms and answer questions in a timely manner so that agents can have the new policy in place by the time the old one expires. Faced with a pile of paperwork to fill out, insureds may drag their feet for some time unless the agent is aware of the delay and keeps nudging them along.
On the other hand, calling up or emailing insureds repeatedly to see if they’ve finished their paperwork won’t endear an agency to its customers. Agents must find a way to keep track of what insureds are doing without harassing them.
Here’s where a digital insurance platform can really help. Look to implement a system that lets you track which forms an insured has completed, giving you full visibility into their activities. Having this visibility to see if insureds have started their applications, how far along they are, if they’ve uploaded necessary documents (such as business revenues, property leases, etc.), and whether their forms are complete, gives agents two powerful advantages:
- Targeted reminders. Agents need only contact an insured when her progress is clearly putting her behind the curve. What’s more, agents can directly address what must be done when they do reach out. For example, if an agent sees that all the applications and forms have been filled out but they just haven’t been signed yet, they can shoot the insured a quick email, phone call, or text message reminding them that they still need to sign and send over their forms.
- Less busywork. Because agents are spending less time manually monitoring insureds activity, they have more time to perform revenue-generating activities like finding new clients and upselling to existing ones.
If your agency has not yet adopted e-signatures, you’re hurting both your insureds and your agents. Your insureds are cursed to spend extra time printing out, signing, scanning, and emailing back documents. If they don’t own a scanner they may also have to pay to have someone scan the documents for them. And the harder it is for insureds to complete their paperwork, the harder agents have to work to get those applications back.
An e-signature solution is also something that insureds have come to expect from professionals. If you don’t offer this solution, your client will likely wonder why you’re using an outdated approach.
Finally, e-signatures provide an extra layer of security and can be extremely helpful should an E&O concern arise. Digital signature technology seals a document once it’s been signed, and any tampering after that point will trigger an alert. It also logs information about who signed the document and when.
Communication creates customer loyalty
Good communication doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Technology, tools, and automation can make it easy to keep your insureds feeling happy and connected. With these tools, a few minutes a month per client is all it takes to win their loyalty.