By Carl Maerz
COMMERCIAL LINES CLIENTS NEED SOME LOVE, TOO
For the most part, better engagement with business customers calls for a good amount of personal and relevant communication
Insurance agencies should be communicating with their commercial lines clients, just like with personal lines ones. Business owners are people, too. There is an important relationship between an insurance agent and a business that should be nurtured and cared for.
I often hear that agents are reluctant to reach out to commercial lines clients outside of claims or renewal. The impression is that business-to-business (B2B) relationships shouldn’t (or can’t) include the same personal touch as business-to-consumer (B2C) ones. But behind every entity there is a person, a decision maker, who needs to feel appreciated. After all, businesses don’t run themselves (not yet, anyway).
Businesses are reluctant to purchase more insurance if they are unhappy with … their insurance agency. Loyal clients, on the other hand, are more open to expanding the relationship … .
Accomplishing the goal of engaging well with business customers mostly comes down to sending more personal and relevant communication. The result is an average 2% to 3% bump in client retention and a 2% to 3% bump in new sales.
A twofer. Here’s how it works.
There are two things commercial lines agencies can do that will make a big impact on client retention. The first is to implement the Net Promoter Score (NPS) system to proactively uncover and resolve client issues before they leave. This will also generate client feedback the agency can use to improve the client experience. The second is to keep in front of clients with personal communication throughout the year—to strengthen the agent-client relationship.
A large blind spot for many agencies is the result of not regularly scanning for detractors (unhappy clients). Oftentimes, if a client experiences a problem with their agency, they will only speak up if directly asked to do so. The NPS acts as a safety valve, where clients can express their grief to the agent before sharing it with others. When agents uncover detractors and resolve their issues, they more than double their chances of retaining them at renewal (from 55% to 87%). This is especially important with commercial lines agencies due to the higher revenue per account and acquisition costs.
For the average agency, including those selling commercial lines policies, 11% of their clients are detractors and at risk of shopping around. By using the NPS, agencies will uncover about half of these unhappy clients. By resolving their issues, an agency stands to increase its overall client retention by 1% to 2% in the first year alone.
When implemented effectively, the NPS will encourage clients to leave feedback, in addition to their score. This results in written comments from one out of every three commercial lines clients. Much of this feedback will be in the form of written testimonials for the agency to share on its website to be seen by prospects. Some of the feedback will be negative and neutral, helping the agency make changes to prevent future issues.
People and businesses not only expect their insurance agent to be proficient, they also need to feel like the agent genuinely cares about them and their success. That’s why communication shouldn’t be purely transactional—it also needs to show appreciation and be thoughtful. This goes a long way toward making clients feel more connected with the agency, so they’ll want to continue doing business with it.
Insurance is not something most businesses can go without. If they are struggling financially—say, because the economy slows—they cannot quit their insurance altogether to cut back on expenses. But this doesn’t make insurance agencies recession-proof. Ultimately, businesses (and people for that matter) do have a choice of whom to buy insurance from.
Each year at renewal, insurance agencies work with their clients to reevaluate risk and make any adjustments in premium. This is the riskiest time for a business to shop around for a lower price. If they are doing well financially, then cutting back on insurance premiums won’t be at the forefront of their priorities. If, however, the business has slowed, they will be looking to cut back on expenses. This is when upset or even lukewarm clients are at the highest risk of leaving the agency for something cheaper. In order to limit turnover, commercial agencies should have a strong record of providing value beyond just price or access to insurance.
Strengthening client relationships can happen by communicating personally with the owner or primary contact for each account. A great way to accomplish this is by sending highly personal handwritten cards to welcome clients, wish them a happy birthday or thank them for a referral or their loyalty. At Rocket Referrals, our data shows that when commercial lines agencies implement more meaningful communication their NPS goes up by an average of six points each year—which results in a 1% boost to overall client retention.
Improved client communication also increases top-line growth for commercial lines agencies. This happens primarily by turning more clients into promoters who are willing to refer the agency. This will naturally lead to more opportunities for positive recommendations. NPS surveys and handwritten cards create conversations with clients that can be used as opportunities for cross-sales.
By sending communication that inspires clients to refer, commercial lines agencies can collect referrals in their most relevant forms today—Google reviews, testimonials, social shares and word-of-mouth. Google reviews help commercial lines agents become discovered and chosen by prospects searching for commercial insurance online. Testimonials provide social proof on an agency’s website and reinforce the unique value the agency brings. Social shares provide the agency with credibility on its social pages, e.g. Facebook. Word-of-mouth referrals happen when promoters are inspired with our personal and targeted communication to refer other business owners. When totaling new business as a result of these benefits alone, commercial agencies boost new client sales by an average of 2% to 3% each year.
Businesses are reluctant to purchase more insurance if they are unhappy with or even unsure of their insurance agency. Loyal clients, on the other hand, are more open to expanding the relationship with the agency and buying more coverage. As a result, cross-sale campaigns are much more effective when a business owner feels positive toward his or her agency. At Rocket Referrals we see this happen regularly with commercial lines agencies. They will send handwritten cards before implementing a cross-sale campaign, and afterward their clients are much more receptive to subsequent emails promoting new products.
The bottom line is, if you’re reading this, you are likely a business owner yourself. Running an agency, you deal with vendors on a regular basis, and likely expect the same service and attention you do in your personal life (if not more). Keep in mind that your commercial clients expect the same as you do. They need some love, too.
Carl Maerz is the co-founder of Rocket Referrals, an automated communication strategy that helps agencies improve their referrals, retention, reviews and relationships. He aims to help local agencies leverage their advantages over direct carriers by replacing common industrial myths with relevant and practical advice. Contact Carl at email@example.com.