Episode 063 — The Digital Broker Podcast

Customer Touchpoints That Your Agency Might Be Overlooking


In this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds and Milan Malkani talk about customer touchpoints, specifically the ones that are often overlooked by insurance agencies. By listening to this episode, you will learn:

  • How to cross-sell and upsell more successfully by leveraging the right email marketing platforms and strategies
  • How to visualize customer touchpoints with the help of a funnel
  • How the payment process is a gateway to more customer touchpoints, not the conclusion of them

Ryan Deeds isn’t short on insightful friends. Milan Malkani is the co-founder of ePayPolicy, which helps agencies collect credit card and ACH payments without running afoul of compliance issues or eating into commissions. But this is not exclusively a conversation about payments, because Milan is knowledgeable about insurance agency operations more generally. Every year, he and his team have to survey several agencies across a multitude of criteria to select the winner of the company’s InsurTech Award. Over the course of these evaluations, plus others, significant customer touchpoints have stood out, not so much because most agencies are taking advantage of them, but because so many agencies aren’t.

You might not expect email marketing to be among them, but it is. Many people have a cavalier attitude toward email, or they’re jaded about it because of the amount of junk we all receive. Milan urges us not to forget about the power of email done right. Agencies can use email to connect with customers in so many ways; in particular, email is a great way to upsell and cross-sell because of their targeting capabilities. Practically any agency can leverage affordable email marketing platforms to segment and target customers by location, profession, revenue bracket, previous purchases, etc. So why does Milan keep running into agencies that don’t do so?

At best, those agencies are relying on their agency management systems to do some elementary email marketing. But to get the maximum return on any campaign, you need the right strategy, the proper tools, and a process. Take a look at your customer email database: what are the segments you would break it down into if you had to help your team market more specifically? Everybody prefers targeted content; generic, one-size-fits-all emails go right over their heads and into their spam folders. You’ll need a platform to assist you with the segmenting and targeting, e.g., MailChimp or ConstantContact, and some quality content to feed the emails that you actually send. By now, staffing begins to matter: do you already have the talent on hand, or do you need to outsource? (It is not as hard as you think—we get you started on outsourcing here.)

Though an important one, email is just one customer touchpoint. Keeping track of all the others can be tough, which is another thing Milan has noticed: agencies struggle to put touchpoints in context. A funnel is useful here. As a visual aid, it is basically a hierarchy of customer touchpoints. Try to imagine it as an upside-down pyramid: at the top are all the people in the world who might buy your product but are not aware of your agency, let alone of what you can do for them. The funnel shrinks the farther down you go to represent those leads who become prospects through the course of customer touchpoints. The goal of most agencies is to get a lead to a producer as soon or as smoothly as possible, because who’s better at selling your product than your producers?

The most operationally impressive agencies Milan has seen are the ones where producers spend all or most of their time dealing directly with leads without having to go out and generate them on their own because a process is doing that for them. We have talked in the past about what that process might look like and how to fund it. If the process works and the people driving it are serious, producers won’t mind exchanging a few commission points in the short term for a voluminous stream of leads in the long term.

Payments are at the bottom of the funnel, which does not mean that the payment process is unimportant or that no other touchpoints come after it. Milan urges agencies to get serious about payments, and not just because he runs ePayPolicy. The pain of payments among insurance agencies is self-evident when you compare it to the payment process in any other industry. Ask somebody how they acquired a product you are admiring and they will talk to you about researching the product, evaluating their options, and making a decision to buy. That is the shopping experience, not the payment experience. Nobody actually recalls paying for the product, because it’s so easy to do, they’ve forgotten about it.

Try to forget the process of paying for anything at an insurance agency. You go through the same exciting shopping experience, only to be told to write a check at the end of it, prompting you to think about the last time you used your checkbook and where you’ve left it. Many agencies deliberately keep their payment process in this state, afraid of the compliance issues associated with accepting more modern, electronic means of payment—unaware of how easy it has become to accept those payments with the help of partners like ePayPolicy, who assume all compliance responsibilities and do not charge fees out of the agency’s commission (another big concern). If you continue to handicap your own payment process, you are also missing out on another crucial touchpoint. Nothing is as big a guarantor of a person’s likelihood of buying from you than having already bought from you, which is why, as soon as you are finished paying for something online, you are often shown what else the vendor is selling. But to take control of that touchpoint, you have to modernize your payment process.

These are not the only touchpoints that matter, but they are among the most basic ones. Perhaps you were expecting the most neglected touchpoints to be the most technologically challenging ones, like AI, chatbots, etc., but the basics are what we take for granted most often. Writing off email marketing comes naturally when you dismiss email as outdated or easy to master, but it is neither. Sometimes, the best way to bring your agency to the next level is to revisit and empower your basics. Don’t get fancy until you get simple.

Do other touchpoints come to mind that you think we’ve left out? Do you need additional help in implementing your email marketing strategy? Do you have any more questions for Milan? Come find him and Ryan in the Digital Broker LinkedIn group, where you can submit questions and comments to a growing community of insurance agents, brokers, and specialists. Join here.

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