Customer Service Focus
Let's get personal
Four ways to become a great one-stop shop
By Sue Stromberg, CISR
Everyone knows that the name of the game in any business is sales and service. If you have one without the other, you will never be able to adequately grow the business. In today's world, with products at your customers' fingertips via the Internet, you must be competitive in both areas. While the primary emphasis of our agency is commercial lines, personal lines is not considered an afterthought. We pursue the sale of these lines of insurance with tenacity.
If you know your service is top notch and that you can satisfy the majority of your current customers most of the time, then how do you guarantee that the new customers you attract and add to your personal lines book will be just as satisfied? The answer lies in being selective about how you grow your book of business. Our pursuit of growth is primarily agency-driven with cross-selling, risk management, proactive selection and customer referrals. With these sales techniques tucked in your pocket, many of the other issues you have been struggling with in personal lines will be eliminated.
This is your endeavor to show your current customers that they can have one "go-to agency" for all of their personal insurance needs. One contact with you allows them to make multiple changes on their policies. If you currently insure their home, try for their auto business. If you have their home and auto, try for all their toys. And always try to sell them an umbrella policy. In your management system, keep track of these sales attempts so that you know you approached the customer (E&O protection) and also so you can chart your successes.You may need to approach some customers three or four years in a row before they decide to give your agency a chance. Once you get their business, let your service shine!
We deal with risk all the time, and we know all the horror stories; we see losses day in and day out, and we know they can happen to anyone at any time. Two factors make risk management so important in today's world. First, people are busy and don't give losses and claims a lot of thought until it's too late. And second, we live in a litigious society and lawsuits occur every day.
When your insured adds a youthful driver, discuss umbrella coverage and make sure they have adequate protection. If they've refinished their basement, check their replacement cost and sewer backup coverages. They may turn down every coverage you suggest, but you have done your job by presenting the coverage and informing them of the increased risks.
People rarely call us for a quote or walk into the agency asking for insurance. Our new customers are ones we reach out to. We have done some mass marketing, with mixed results. Our best strategy is to expand our relationships with our commercial clients and market personal lines coverages to the principals as well as other executives and employees. Many agents are afraid that if they have the personal lines business of a commercial customer, something might happen on a personal lines claim that would cause them to lose the commercial account. I can say that this has never happened to us. In fact, we have lost some commercial accounts due to market changes, and we have still kept their personal insurance.
Here is a technique that has worked well for us:
Step 1: Twice a year I ask our sales department to compile a list of our producers' commercial accounts, both clients and prospects.
Step 2: I go through the list and mark off the ones I know that we already write.
Step 3: I jot down notes next to ones that we have contacted in the past and not secured. If I previously talked to them, I make notes such as: "Brother is a State Farm agent; will not move insurance." "Has all insurance at home town bank; wants to stay there," and so on.
Step 4: Once I have earmarked the list, I ask the producers to select which ones I should market to. I send a note to each prospective client and follow up in two weeks with a phone call or an e-mail. We enjoy about a 35% hit ratio with this method. Coupled with the opportunity to sell personal insurance, it is another touch with the commercial client that keeps our agency top of mind.
We are expanding our relationships with current clients and are introducing them to a positive new experience at our agency. It is unrealistic for us to believe that the customer is as educated as we are about our product. We work hard to prove that we bring knowledge and expertise to the equation by breaking down the numbers and coverages so that it is not so intimidating for the insured.
The primary tool we use to obtain referrals was the brain child of some collaborative thinking by several fellow agents. When I mail out policies to new customers, I enclose a letter thanking them for their business, and I include a free car wash coupon. I also send a customer referral form, asking the new client for the names of five acquaintances we might be able to contact regarding their insurance.
This has worked so incredibly well for us that I am afraid to print it because everyone might try it!With some brainstorming, you can come up with plenty of good ideas.Get creative; think of a business you might be able to partner with to bring additional value to what you offer.
I wish I could say that every method I've described works 100% of the time. It doesn't. Advertising executives say that 50% of advertising dollars are wasted. If only they could identify which 50% that was! But I approach the sales side of business by casting a wide net, seeing what works and then homing in on a method, adjusting as the markets and products change.
I'll end with a baseball analogy based on the quote, "Fail often in order to succeed sooner." This is my motto: Get up to bat as often as you can, swing in a variety of ways, bat left-handed and right-handed. Perfect your swing and sooner or later, you will hit one out of the park. Now go out there and love what you do, then sell it!
Sue Stromberg works for INSPRO Insurance in Omaha, Nebraska, as a personal lines manager and bonds specialist. She also serves as a wellness coordinator. She has 10 years' experience in the industry, starting out as a CSR. For more information on the CISR program, go to: www.TheNationalAlliance.com.