Independent agents work hard for our clients, but much of it is behind the scenes. Clients are often unaware of our efforts.
Most customers contact us only a few times a year. When they do, they’re often stressed, confused or concerned, and expecting quick solutions.
If we don’t interact often with our clients, each contact becomes critical. One unsatisfying experience can lead to a loss of confidence. One unanswered billing question, one disappointing claim may send customers shopping. With infrequent interaction, it takes a long time to build trust and rapport with clients. Until then, it’s easy for them to undervalue our services.
In the spring of 2018, Noyes Hall and Allen set a goal to improve the bonding process with new personal lines clients and strengthen ties to existing ones. We were already enjoying a 93.5% retention ratio. But we knew that consumer expectations were higher than ever, and only increasing in the Amazon era. We’d have to improve our customer experience and communications to keep those good results.
Inspired by programs we’d seen at other companies, our team worked together to create “Moments of Truth,” a detailed plan of daily actions to help us reach our goal. We focused on three key events in the customer lifecycle: onboarding, claims and renewal. It required empathy and imagination. For each event we asked:
- What is our client feeling? What are their concerns and questions?
- What is the ideal customer experience in each event? What do we want clients to think and feel after?
- What specific action would we like our client to take after their experience?
- What measurable business result can we achieve if our client’s experience is a good one?
We broke each event into stages. We created procedures to address those questions and achieve those results. This helped us create a framework to follow. Our goal: consistently excellent customer experience from every agent on our team.
An example: onboarding
Our Moments of Truth onboarding program includes nine different customer touch points during the first eight months of a client relationship.
We imagined our clients’ thoughts and concerns in their first few days and months with us. For example, a new customer might wonder “did I spend too much?”, “do I have the proper coverage?”, “can I trust my agent?” We wanted them to see that we communicate well, that we are easy to work with and that they can trust us.
Then came the tactical part: How do we do that? We created an automated onboarding email campaign to welcome new customers. We introduce our team and the work we do for them, even when they don’t see it. We tell them about insurance they didn’t initially buy. We introduce them to our client service center so they can get information and documents when we’re not open. We point them to our blog so they can do their own research. We remind them why they chose us in the first place.
The Moments of Truth claims and renewal programs look slightly different. But each ensures that we contact every customer a certain number of times. Some contacts are automated, some not. The program is flexible. We can tailor it to what we know about an individual client’s preferences and situation.
Six months into our Moments of Truth program, we had more than 1,300 customer touches that wouldn’t have happened without it. We had a 66% open rate on all our emails. (According to Hubspot, the average email open rate in Insurance is 38%).
Now, a year into the program, our online reviews have doubled. Clients often email to thank us for the work we’re doing. They respond to our emails, asking about other insurance products we sell.
Before launching Moments of Truth, too much of our client communication was in silos. We used stand-alone texting software and MailChimp for email campaigns. Both were good, but neither integrated with our agency management system (AMS). We couldn’t see which clients had received which emails or texts.
When looking for a new AMS, we searched for one with integrated email and texting. We chose EZLynx. It allows us to create email campaigns and track all client communications. From the customer file, we can see which texts and emails we’ve sent, whether they were opened, and which ones are queued for later. We can pause the communication if it’s no longer appropriate for the client.
Independent agents must be incredibly adaptive to succeed. Working with multiple companies is our greatest business advantage. It’s also very challenging day to day. Each insurance company has its own appetite, systems and procedures. Too much of an agent’s workflow is jumping between disjointed carrier systems we don’t control. Meanwhile, our clients expect prompt, authoritative and professional service. Serving the modern insurance client requires superhuman skills, and agents do it every day. Amazing!
Agency management systems promise to make our jobs easier and improve our performance. The more integrated our client communication is with our AMS, the better. Integration simplifies client communication. It improves our efficiency and consistency. Best of all, we control it and can customize it.
A thoughtful process
We’re really pleased with the level of client engagement our Moments of Truth program has helped us achieve. I have a few pieces of advice for other agents looking to do something similar:
- Put some thought into the process.
Don’t implement a new program or software just because it seems like a cool thing to do. Really think through what you’re trying to accomplish.
Before launching our program, we mapped out what we wanted the client to do, how we wanted them to feel throughout the process, and what the business objectives were of each step. It was worth the effort and helped us maintain focus.
- It’s OK to do things incrementally.
Don’t try to launch everything you want to do at once. Instead, pick one new thing you know you’ll be able to do well consistently. Stick to it – it takes time to get traction and see results – and fine tune it as you go along.
Then, once you have that one thing down, see if you want to add more. But keep doing what’s working – don’t switch to an entirely new program every quarter.
- Dig into the features of your AMS.
A lot of agents don’t use their AMS to its full extent. Explore the capabilities of your AMS. Does it have a marketing module or data that you’re not really using? You’re paying for that. You might as well use all it has to offer.
If you’re looking for a new AMS, I’d suggest investing in one that integrates with (or replaces) other software and programs that you’re using.
Your agency doesn’t have to have all the latest technology to serve customers well. With a little intentionality and follow-through, you can create more touchpoints that enhance the customer experience and show clients you care.
Photo courtesy of Bob O’Brien, Noyes Hall & Allen