POSITION YOURSELF TO WIN WITH EVERY CUSTOMER INTERACTION
Create an action plan to retool everyone and everything within your agency or firm
By Troy Korsgaden
As brokers, agents, and advisors, our job is to deliver customer experiences that are so exceptional that our customers will never want to seek service anywhere else.
We need to provide the products that meet each customer’s individual wants and needs, while also providing them with constant attention, deeper relationships, and unrivaled experiences in every single interaction we have with them.
When was the last time you took a close look at the way your customers are treated at every touchpoint? How are they greeted on the phone, in your app, or when they stop by your office? How attentive and responsive are your team members when customers request an address or beneficiary change, add a vehicle to their policy, make a payment, or inquire about a new type of coverage? How consistent is that service across your enterprise?
If you’re not sure, start by examining these aspects of your customers’ service experience.
Make customers’ lives easier
We don’t get paid for the hours we work; we get paid for the value we de-liver. Value is subjective, and different customers will value different types of service, attention, and touches. But, in general, we deliver value when we make people’s lives easier.
Today, more than ever, people are stressed. Everyone is navigating daily uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters, international turmoil, political and racial unrest, ever-changing public health guidelines and school mandates—and the list goes on.
How are you making your customers’ lives easier? And how will they know? What does it look like for them in practical, everyday terms? Every interaction we have with a customer is an opportunity to exceed his or her expectations. It begins with getting to know your customers at a meaningful level.
Know each customer well
Because each customer has different wants and needs and a different view of what value means, it’s important to have a 360-degree view of each customer. You accomplish this by combining old-fashioned dialogue with state-of-the-art technology in the form of an effective customer relationship management (CRM) system that everyone in your enterprise uses to the fullest extent.
Think about your own customer-service experiences in everyday life—when you order something online, for example, or order a pizza to be delivered. I like jalapeños and ranch dressing with my pizza. When I call my favorite pizza place or order from the app, they know this already; my personal preferences are stored in their system, so I don’t have to mention it.
Of course, a CRM is effective only if people populate it with data and refer to it when they interact with customers. But imagine how satisfying it is to talk with someone who already knows—and cares about—what you do and don’t like, rather than someone who has no idea what your preferences are and doesn’t seem to care, either.
Customize your service model
The COVID-19 pandemic forced our industry to adapt to virtual communication and service more quickly than some in our industry would have liked. Yet, this accelerated adaptation of the way we deliver service has worked out well in many cases. Many customers prefer virtual communication.
However, other customers don’t care for it. They feel it’s impersonal. This is an important detail to know about your customers. Do they prefer the ease and convenience of 24/7 access to service via an app, or do they prefer more personal, less tech-driven touchpoints? What can you do to customize the experience for every customer?
Each carrier, broker firm, agent, and advisor who reads this article will have ideas for better understanding customers’ wants and needs and delivering value in a uniquely compelling way. Loyalty comes from creating deep, meaningful, customized connections.
We don’t get paid for the hours
we work; we get paid for the value we deliver.
Value is subjective, and different customers will value
different types of service, attention, and touches.
Gather customer data from connected devices
A September 2019 Bain & Company report titled “Insurers: How to Lead in the New Era of Connectivity” pointed out that connectivity is increasingly important to insurance customers. The survey found that worldwide, 39% of insurance customers used at least one connected device in 2019 to monitor data related to their cars, their homes, and their health. And about 72% expected to use such a device in the future. These devices provide a wealth of valuable data about individual customers’ wants and needs. There is a huge opportunity here because the insurance industry has been considered low-touch for many years.
In the study, about one-third of customers said they go an entire year without interacting with their provider even once. However, consumers who own at least one connected device interact with their carriers an average of 19 times a year—more than five times the frequency for customers who do not own any connected devices. Imagine how easy it can be to differentiate your offerings simply by adopting a high-touch approach to customer service.
Connected devices enable us to gather data that is much more personalized to each individual and more accurate in terms of risk assessment. For example, auto insurers have traditionally relied on indirect data such as a driver’s age, address, and credit-worthiness when determining premiums. But today, connected devices allow us to dig deeper. We can monitor how fast vehicles are driven and at what hours of the day or night. We get much more robust data this way, and this information leads us to more personalized solutions and more accurate predictions.
A 2021 Forrester survey noted that consumers are increasingly interested in sharing their personal data if it will gain them discounts. Adoption in auto—the most mature market—is only about 6% right now, but these connected insurance products can be a win-win for both insurers and customers.
Focus on omnichannel marketing
Success in a customer-controlled marketplace hinges on how well you reach customers where they are. That’s why omnichannel engagement is becoming the norm. Many customers want to engage with you less by phone or in person and more on digital channels like chat, email, social media, and messaging. Omnichannel customer engagement connects all the key digital channels.
Omnichannel marketing puts the customer at the center and focuses on how all the channels work together to create a cohesive experience. It’s about eliminating marketing silos and focusing on the full consumer experience.
Here’s an example of how omnichannel marketing works: A prospective customer visits your website and reads about a product.
- Later that day, while visiting Facebook, she sees a retargeted ad about that product and a promotional offer.
- She clicks the ad and is taken to a landing page.
- She enters her email address into the contact form on the landing page.
- Soon she receives a white paper via email that details key features of the product.
- She clicks on a call to action for an upgraded version of the product.
- She visits a landing page for the new product and receives a new promotional offer.
- Your team can see every interaction she has had with your company so far and can continue the process in person if the customer decides to visit your office.
- Once she completes her purchase, the second promo offer she received is automatically applied.
- All future marketing will focus on continuing the relationship with the customer, personalized according to her journey.
Do (your customers) prefer the
ease and convenience of 24/7
access to service via an app, or do they prefer
more personal, less tech-driven touchpoints?
What can you do to customize the experience
for every customer?
When you use an omnichannel sales approach, you provide customers with an integrated shopping experience that’s consistent, whether they’re using a mobile device, a desktop computer, or a call or visit to your office. Every touchpoint is captured electronically so your team knows what steps each customer has taken to get to you.
It’s important to streamline all your communications so prospects and customers receive the same experience and message across different channels and devices as they interact with you.
Partner with non-insurance services
The Bain & Company study also revealed that customers are increasingly demonstrating an interest in ecosystems that partner their insurers with non-insurance services that relate to their property and casualty needs. They view these ecosystems as partnerships that can enable them to achieve a higher quality of life.
In fact, 62% of the people surveyed said that offering non-insurance products that add value and are an extension of core insurance products is the most important factor they consider when choosing an insurance provider.
A 2021 PwC study stresses the valuable role that an ecosystem plays in the future of insurance. Participating in an interconnected system of offerings from a variety of participating providers—not just those in insurance—allows customers to fulfill multiple needs through an integrated user experience.
Insurtech, an ecosystem that brings together adjacent industries to provide improved service and greater value to insurers and their customers, has evolved in the past few years. Those insurance companies that leave their siloed business models behind are finding that they can meet customers’ needs more robustly by partnering with other industries. These can include businesses in agriculture, health, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, wealth management, and transportation.
We have to be prepared to offer our customers every product and service they desire, even when it’s not in our product wheelhouse. This means knowing when we can take a service or coverage outside of our firm and whom to take it to. The connection and the process need to be seamless. Customers must never feel that they have left your ecosystem. And it requires a network of vetted providers—an attractive and practical ecosystem of multiple firms working together to meet customers’ needs.
Take a hard look at your business as it is today. Ask yourself, “Where am I now? How did I get here?” Take a stoic approach when looking at your business. What have you done right, and what could have been done better? Are you poised for the future? In what areas could you improve? What areas do you thrive in? When is the last time you retooled any of your procedures or workflows? Many professionals show up every day without a real plan. Their schedules are dictated by the brushfires that flare up during the day. They don’t have a defined and purposeful schedule to guide them.
Don’t let that be you! Start today setting up your firm for success. Create an action plan to retool everyone and everything within your agency or firm.
The ecosystem you create needs to seamlessly blend an excellent customer experience, a wide array of options, and expertise partners you can refer your customers to when they need products and services you don’t currently offer. Learning to ride this wave takes creativity and tenacity, but the rewards are priceless. You differentiate your team and find new ways to exceed customers’ expectations and earn their loyalty.
The agencies, carriers, firms, and agents that survive will be those that find, adapt to, and embrace the opportunities to optimize every single customer interaction.
Troy Korsgaden is an international insurance carrier consultant and industry main-platform speaker. He is the author of six books and two workbooks. His most recent book, published in 2020, is titled Inflection Point: Redefining Your Role in The Insurance & Financial Services Industry when the Existing Model No Longer Works. Korsgaden consults with most major companies in the insurance and financial services industry in some capacity, working with large carriers, both in property and casualty and in financial services. He also serves as a subject-matter expert in the area of technology and how it applies in the backroom for carriers as well as their distribution. He is considered an expert in distribution strategy, in both personal distribution and other methods. He also provides consulting services to corporate leaders, their brokers and agents on topics including customer service, change management, and transformational work. He advises leaders at all levels of organizations on global marketing strategies.