By Carl Maerz
THE RIGHT MESSAGE AT THE RIGHT TIME
How often should you reach out to your clients?
What is the ideal number of customer touches per year? This is the age-old question often pondered by agents as they seek to keep their clients happy. The answer is that there isn’t any magic number. The premise of the question is a myth. Each client is different and may require more or less communication to stay happy. Luckily, determining the right number of touches for each client is pretty simple and includes both proactive and reactive touchpoints.
Proactive communication focuses on maintaining positive relationships with clients over the long term by filling gaps between claims and renewals. This communication can be planned each year and is generally consistent among all kinds of clients. The goal is to enhance relationships and to provide year-long value to your client base.
With careful planning, you can make sure you’re keeping in front of your clients in a meaningful way.
Study why clients become unhappy with their agent and you’ll find that 75% of the time it’s related to poor communication. If contact is infrequent or impersonal, the client feels forgotten and is likely to leave when a cheaper policy crosses his or her path. Not just any communication will keep clients feeling positive toward their agent. It’s important that proactive touchpoints serve a real purpose and are perceived as valuable by the client. Here is what we recommend at Rocket Referrals for both personal and commercial lines clients:
Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey—Two times per year. NPS surveys measure the loyalty of your client base over time. When your NPS goes up, your agency has more promoters who refer friends and family, provide testimonials, and leave positive online reviews. Conversely, if your NPS decreases your retention suffers and referrals slow. NPS surveys also measure the loyalty of individual clients so you can measure overall trends and also pinpoint specific clients who need additional attention. Client loyalty can change quickly, so the best practice is to send a NPS survey to each client twice a year.
Handwritten cards—Once or twice per year. People don’t expect to receive a handwritten card from their insurance agent—which is one reason why they’re so impactful. Mailing a personally handwritten card is a great way to show clients that your agency cares about them and their relationship with you. Agencies that send handwritten cards to their clients increase their overall retention twice as quickly as those that stick to emails and phone calls alone. Here are the different kinds of handwritten cards we recommend sending to clients throughout the year:
Birthday card—For many clients, this simple gesture makes a big impact on the relationship. Most clients will appreciate the fact that you made the effort to send them a personal card (emails or typed postcards don’t cut it).
Follow-up (anniversary) card—You may choose to send a handwritten card near the anniversary of a policy renewal (usually in lieu of a birthday card). This serves as a reminder of the service you provide and also shows appreciation for the client’s business.
Holiday card—Most people hear from hundreds (if not thousands) of businesses during the holidays. Most of these are promotions. Some are generic emails. By sending your clients handwritten cards, you’ll really stand out from the crowd.
Loyalty card—Mailed to promoters that have been with the agency for several years. The purpose is to provide a client (one that is willing or likely to refer the agency) with an unexpected positive experience they can share with friends and family.
Welcome card—For new clients when they sign up with the agency. This handwritten card reinforces the personal relationship from the outset. Some agencies send a welcome packet with a note and branded items.
Thank you card—Mailed to every client who refers someone to your agency. Clients who refer once will often refer again and again, so long as they feel appreciated. Including a gift card is optional and should always be positioned as a surprise thank you rather than a reward or payment.
Check-in email—Two to four per year. Emails come across as annoying if they are irrelevant and provide little value to the client. Keep your messages short and sweet. It’s best to use plain text without a bunch of images and clickable buttons. People are busy and want you to get to the point. That being said, emails can be an effective way to keep your agency in front of clients throughout the year.
No, not newsletters. People often ignore those. Try instead sending curated articles to specific segments of a client base—content that feels like it was handpicked for them. For example, send young families an article that explains the best time to buy life insurance. This kind of email keeps your agency top of mind, provides extra value to the client, and reinforces the belief that the agency is actively looking out for them.
Renewal communication—One email or phone call as renewal approaches (in addition to policy review information). If you are communicating proactively with your clients throughout the year, a pending renewal doesn’t need to be a big deal. Connect with the client before the policy renews and offer to schedule time to discuss any changes. If you’ve been communicating consistently with your clients, they’ll often just let the policy renew without getting hung up on price adjustments.
Sometimes you’ll need to communicate with clients in response to an event or concern. These are touchpoints you can plan for but not schedule ahead of time:
Detractor phone call—If a client responds to your NPS survey as a detractor, call within 48 hours and address his or her issue. Making this call (instead of letting the problem go unresolved) more than doubles your chances of retaining the client at renewal.
Online review/testimonial requests—Send these to clients who are likely to write your agency a positive review. This feedback will help others discover your agency and choose it over online competitors. The overall impact of reviews and testimonials depends on when and how you request them. Rather than collecting a bunch all at once, spread them out and maximize their relevance over time. Having a high number of reviews will catch a prospect’s attention, but it’s the accompanying feedback that ultimately matters most.
Cross-selling campaigns—No more than one or two touches per client per year. Targeted emails can introduce your clients to new products that complement their existing policies. This kind of communication should be tailored to each client by offering products relevant to them.
Many of these touchpoints can be automated, but sometimes you need to pick up the phone and make a call. With careful planning, you can make sure you’re keeping in front of your clients in a meaningful way.
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 writers by replacing common industrial myths with relevant and practical advice. Contact Carl at firstname.lastname@example.org.