By Carl Maerz
IT’S TIME TO SHOW SUPPORT FOR YOUR CLIENTS AND COMMUNITY
Creating an inventive response in a time of crisis
It’s about 1 a.m. on a beautiful April night—admittedly, eight days after the deadline to submit this article. But I promised Rough Notes a story this month and their lovely and patient team cut me some slack. This story starts with a serger. For those of you who don’t know what a serger is (I didn’t either), it’s a type of sewing machine.
Two days ago, I tried sewing for the first time since my middle school home economics class. Back then, I thought stitching was dumb. But today, I’m approaching it from the perspective of solving a problem and helping others. All of a sudden, knowing how to back-stitch is exciting, and I’m cranking out cloth face masks—with pleats, I might add. I’m mailing these masks to strangers all around the United States to help communities control the spread of COVID-19. A week ago, I would have never imagined doing this. The pandemic has changed a lot.
[T]here are … glimmers of positivity peeking through the [COVID-I9] chaos, as many of you step up to engage with your clients and communities
At Rocket Referrals, we work with thousands of agents across the country. Like most business owners, many of you are concerned about what COVID-19 means for the future of your agency. The sentiment surrounding this crisis is a mixture of fear and uncertainty. But there are also glimmers of positivity peeking through the chaos, as many of you step up to engage with your clients and communities. It’s up to you, the agency owner, to decide how to approach this challenge.
There are two main paths you can take. The first is to hunker down, keep to yourself and wait until this all blows over and things go back to normal. To wait and see. The other path is to meet this storm head on by stepping up your game and looking for ways to actively help your clients and community—those who are relying on you more now than perhaps ever before.
Here are some ways to engage with your existing clients over the coming months to show them that you have their back—and that they should keep their business with you.
Offer proactive support
In uncertain times, we lean on experts to provide uswith guidance, help and reassurance. When it comes to insurance, that’s your forte. These are your strongest differentiators over direct providers. Yes, people also tend to be more careful with their pocketbooks when the economy is looking grim. They become more value-conscious as they try to squeeze the most out of each dollar. But this doesn’t mean people will automatically cancel their policies by switching to a direct provider that may have cheaper rates. It just means that insurance clients are more likely to give their agency a hard look—to consider whether their decision to work with you is worth the cost.
Many businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 big-time and are facing challenges and disruptions to their operations. Commercial lines insurance agencies are hard at work answering questions as their clients reach out with coverage-related questions. To get ahead of these questions, consider hosting webinars with a Q&A session around current and relevant topics that impact their business. For example, offer a webinar related to business interruption or workers compensation claims.
For webinars that include time-sensitive information, like recent legislation impacting rules surrounding policies, plan the webinar no more than a week out. We’ve found that people are more likely to register and attend when there is little time between when the webinar is scheduled and when it’s hosted. If you plan topics too far in advance, clients may feel like the information is no longer fresh or relevant to their business.
For private clients
For personal lines, consider something very similar. But instead of a webinar, hold a live Zoom meeting. Limit your presentation to 15 minutes and leave time for a Q&A.
The topics should be relevant and targeted to specific groups based on data points like policy type, demographics, etc. For example, host a live meeting about how to handle a renter’s policy if someone is forced out of their apartment due to unemployment. Another idea is to host a session targeted to future dog owners, answering questions regarding pet insurance for different dog breeds. Or answer questions about the different types of life insurance available, and recommendations of what type to pick. Forward the recording to your prospects and add value to the relationship before they’re your client.
Email is also a great way to send clients valuable information and news that is relevant to them. Rather than sending a newsletter to all your clients, which risks being ignored because it isn’t relevant to them, consider sending emails to clients individually with content that is meaningful to them based on their demographics, policies, etc. A client is more likely to read and find value in something that you’ve picked out just for them.
Invest in trust, relationships and the community
Many agents believe their clients stick with them primarily because of the excellent service they provide. This is usually not the case. Direct carriers can also provide great service with huge investments in technology and AI. But carriers don’t know their clients personally, like agents do. This is the real advantage—the relationship you can form with your clients. Although service plays a big role, research shows that it’s the personal relationship that matters most.
In the short term, people need to feel reassured that their agent has their back. If an agent is lying low and only responding to requests, clients feel lost. An email or a handwritten card will go a long way—letting clients know how to contact you and telling them that you’re actively reviewing their policies and finding ways to help.
Over the long term, consider making real investments in client relationships. At Rocket Referrals, we recommend sending handwritten birthday cards. It’s important to show the client that—as their agent—you care about them personally, that they are not just a renewal commission to you. It’s these interactions that are going to make the relationship last. This is especially true today, when people are seeking more personal and human connections in an increasingly digital and socially distant world.
People are looking for ways to reconnect with their community. The impact COVID-19 has had sheds light on how the decision to shop locally affects the livelihoods of the people around us. Supporting a local agency is more appealing than shipping off our policy premiums to a large national enterprise. This is especially true if people feel like your agency is making investments back into your community. This could include contributing to local charities, sponsoring charity events, or even hosting fun events to give people a needed distraction. For example, an agency we work with hosted a live, online magic show and invited all of their local clients and prospects to watch. It received more than 2,000 views and lots of positive interactions and exposure.
Back to my serger
A serger is a device that allows you to cut and seal pieces of fabric more quickly than a sewing machine. I bought it to help fulfill orders for the website we launched to help connect people who need free face masks with those who can make them (www.MaskHelpers.org).
At Rocket Referrals, we are part of the same larger community as you and your clients. So we looked for a way to help others during this difficult time.
We launched the site just two days ago, and we’ve already seen hundreds of masks shipped all over the United States. Who would have thought I’d be spending hours cutting fabric and shipping masks across the country? But here we are.
Now it’s your turn! Your clients and community are waiting for you to step up. Get out there and show them why they need you as their agent.
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. To contact Carl, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.