Customer Service Skills Your Agent Needs

Insurance agents should always be considered a trusted advisor. As such, there are many unique skill sets an agent should possess. Without these skills you run the risk of having the wrong insurance program, being uninformed regarding your risks, and be frustrated whenever you call or meet with your agent.

Here are some of the skills of a trusted advisor:

  • Has under taken additional training in the field of risk management and insurance.
  • The trusted advisor puts clients’ interests in front of their own. Selling is dead, education is thriving. A trusted advisor will always put education over sales. If we stop trying to just make a sale and truly understand the customer needs, trust is formed.
  • A trusted advisor is genuinely interested in their client’s business success. By showing this level of interest their clients were more open with them and invariably opportunities were identified through discussion.
  • A trusted advisor has a team of experts working together to meet the client’s needs. You will receive personal attention and our team will even come to you. After you describe your personal situation, you will be presented with a custom-tailored insurance solution.
  • Seek to understand. As Steven Covey so succinctly puts it in the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”.
  • Trusted advisors are genuine, real, individual people. People can sense when others are being insincere and the relationship never develops beyond the civil stage as the client mistrusts the sales person’s motives.

Insurance Myth Busters

According to recent estimates by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), roughly one in seven drivers are uninsured.  A majority of drivers only carry the state minimum limits.

The Common Myth

If an uninsured or underinsured motorist hits you, many think, no worries, they have coverage, or my insurance will pay.

Myth Busted

Your coverage is limited to the amount of coverage you have on your policy.  Therefore, if you purchase minimum limits you would have little coverage if someone hit you carrying no insurance. Adding an endorsement to your personal umbrella policy will place higher limits of coverage over and above your auto policy uninsured motorist coverage.

Why Insurance Is More Than A Policy

The example above is an excellent example of why it is important to have an agent who knows and understands insurance, and one who can communicate complex issues in “English”. This allows our customers to make intelligent choices regarding their insurance.

Your insurance policy is only as good as the agent who placed it. Your agent should be asking you questions and learning about your individual risks and provide options as to how to treat your risks. When your needs change or your situation complicates, you don’t want an automated phone tree or cold cyber-agent. You want to talk to compassionate, honest insurance experts – that’s our team

Why Selling Is Dead and Education Is Thriving

You can read articles every day on the internet about how traditional selling is dead, and that we all need to embrace the new age of selling.  Here are some of the titles of articles on selling I found during an internet search this last month.

  • “Selling is Dead, Sales Live On”
  • “Social Media is the New Producer”
  • “Is Relationship Selling Dead?”
  • “How to Sell–New Age Terms”
  • “Sell with Intensity”
  • “Always Be Closing”
  • “Tell Your Story When Selling”

Now I am sure all these articles have good information, but many are missing the point.  If I had to re-title these I would start with; “EDUCATE, DON’T SELL.”  However, that may be easier said than done.  So I thought it might be fun to identify a number of steps we use to change a mindset from selling to educating. The result, hopefully, will be a new way of thinking about insurance sales, and customers who demand more from their agents.

How the best sales people can look and act like educators

  • We explain our mission of providing insurance education, with or without a sale.
  • It is important to develop risk solutions that do not involve insurance.
  • We will utilize other professionals to help create solutions and educate our clients.
  • There is real value in looking for problems, then create solutions.
  • We volunteer our advice upfront and suggest an alternate solution that will likely serve our clients better.

Selling is educating, so the more we teach clients about the solutions, value, and benefits we offer, the more educated our customers will be.

The Problems Many Businesses Have With Their Agents

I talk to people regularly who tell me that they are not happy with their agent.  I hear statements like, “My agent does not understand my business”, “My insurance program is not matched to my business”, or “My agent always tries to sell me more insurance.”  These are common issues in the business community. I have found that the key issue with most of these concerns has less to do with the agent, and more to do with how the customer goes about selecting the agent.  What?–How can that be true?

Most agents are just trying to sell insurance and move on to the next account.  They are not bad people, but they have been trained to sell.  Our agents are different; first and foremost, we are trained to serve. 

Too often customers go about selecting their agent through bidding out their insurance and then selecting the lowest bidder.

Here is a great quote form the movie Armageddon, when the team of oil drillers are sitting in the space shuttle ready to lift off, and having second thoughts.  “You realize we’re sitting on 45,000 pounds of fuel, one nuclear warhead and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder?  Makes you feel good doesn’t it?” Rockhound played by Owen Wilson.

My contention is that the process by which clients select their agent is flawed, and there is a better way.  By only looking at the lowest price, you are missing the most important part of the process; getting the best possible combination, of coverage, risk management, customer service, and price designed for your specific business.

If buyers were to select agents on something other than price, they would be much happier.  Here is what to look for in an agent:

  • A good agent will have access to many markets, making price consistent between most agents.
  • Experience.
  • Staff experience.
  • Special training and credentials.
  • Have conversations with prospective agents.  Simply asking questions does not mean you have to work with them.  This is a chance for you to get a feel for how they work and if you feel comfortable with them.
  • A good agent needs a high emotional IQ.  This includes the ability to listen and empathize with clients on a deeper level in order to discern what they really want and need.

Keep Your Agency Healthy Through Client Service Reviews

Do you ever sit down with your team and complete a customer service review? If you don’t, let me try to convince you of its value. A customer service review is like an annual physical. It is necessary for the health of the agency, and it helps everyone better understand the client’s needs. Your review should include the producer, account manager, claims person, and any other team member that touches the client. The customer service review should only take a short time, but the information can be invaluable in making sure that the team is on the same page to deliver outstanding service to the client.

Here are some of the topics that should be included during a customer review:

  1. Review all open claims to make sure they are progressing correctly.
  2. Does the client have any service issues or concerns?
  3. What are any issues facing the client or the industry?
  4. Does the agency have any new services or solutions to offer?
  5. Have there been any personnel changes with the client?

Having this information can help build a true partnership with the client. If there are any issues or concerns, it is best to address these well before the renewal. By doing so, the client will feel they are being treated like a partner and will in turn treat you like a valued business partner, not just an insurance agent.

The Downside of Poor Customer Service

Over that past year or so, we have been suggesting ways to improve how insurance is delivered. We have stressed that price shopping can actually cost the buyer more money in the long run; and that developing relationships can lead to a better risk management program.  Now, we would like to examine the downside of poor customer service. Poor customer service can impact a business negatively in many ways. This is especially true for small businesses that rely on repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising for their success. Here is a staggering fact: in 2014, U.S. businesses lost $50 billion due to poor customer services. (source; newmeida.com)

According to the latest numbers, here is how customers will act after they have received poor service:

  • 59% of people will change agents
  • 30% will tell others not to use your firm
  • 25% will post a negative review on social media

There is nothing worse to an organization than having angry customers and dealing with lost business. Here are some of the outcomes of poor customer services:

  1. Low employee moral
  2. Employee turnover
  3. Reduced income
  4. Loss of potential customers
  5. Loss of reputation

If you do not want your business to be among those companies that have to deal with the above list, your goal must be to use every service problem as an opportunity to impress your customer. When mistakes happen, use proactive recovery as the means to create customer loyalty. Next month we will give you tools to help you recover from a customer service issue.

The Downside of Poor Customer Service

Over that past year or so, we have been suggesting ways to improve how insurance is delivered. We have stressed that price shopping can actually cost the buyer more money in the long run; and that developing relationships can lead to a better risk management program.  Now, we would like to examine the downside of poor customer service. Poor customer service can impact a business negatively in many ways. This is especially true for small businesses that rely on repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising for their success. Here is a staggering fact: in 2014, U.S. businesses lost $50 billion due to poor customer service. (source; newmeida.com)

According to the latest numbers, here is how customers will act after they have received poor service:

  • 59% of people will change agents
  • 30% will tell others not to use your firm
  • 25% will post a negative review on social media

There is nothing worse to an organization than having angry customers and dealing with lost business. Here are some of the outcomes of poor customer services:

  1. Low employee moral
  2. Employee turnover
  3. Reduced income
  4. Loss of potential customers
  5. Loss of reputation

If you do not want your business to be among those companies that have to deal with the above list, your goal must be to use every service problem as an opportunity to impress your customer. When mistakes happen, use proactive recovery as the means to create customer loyalty. Next month we will give you tools to help you recover from a customer service issue.

Win the day!

Keep Your Agency Healthy Through a Client Service Review

Do you ever sit down with your team and complete a client service review? If you don’t, let me try to convince you of its value. A client service review is like an annual physical. It is necessary for the health of the agency, and it helps everyone better understand the client’s needs. Your review should include the producer, account manager, claims person, and any other team member that touches the client. The client service review should only take a short time, but the information can be invaluable in making sure that the team is on the same page to deliver outstanding service to the client.

Here are some of the topics that should be included during a client review:

  1. Review all open claims to make sure they are progressing correctly.
  2. Does the client have any service issues or concerns?
  3. What are any issues facing the client or the industry?
  4. Does the agency have any new services or solutions to offer?
  5. Have there been any personnel changes with the client?

Having this information can help build a true partnership with the client. If there are any issues or concerns, it is best to address these well before the renewal. By doing so, the client will feel they are being treated like a partner and will in turn treat you like a valued business partner, not just an insurance agent.

Can Selling And Customer Service Coexist?

Traditional insurance “selling” has not always gone hand in hand with good customer service. Traditional insurance selling often consists of a sales person trying to convince a buyer of the benefits of the product he/she is selling. Conversely, good customer service involves determining the customer’s needs and concerns first, and then determining how to best provide solutions. The difference is in the mindset of the sales professional. You can actually provide good customer service while “selling” if you view selling as offering a value added service to your customer. This starts with how the sales professional views the process.

If you are looking for something different in the insurance buying process, evaluate your next insurance meeting using these standards.

  • Does your agent ask questions to determine your needs and concerns?
  • How fast does the agent offer insurance products as the only solution, if it in the first 15 minutes you have a traditional insurance sales person.
  • Do you feel your agent knows and understands your business and industry?
  • Has your agent ever offered a non-insurance solution such as a contractual risk transfer?

We would encourage you to establish a set of standards by which you evaluate your insurance provider. Do they value relationships, do your values line up together and do they value the relationship? If you can answer these, you are on your way to developing a trusted partner.

Cyber Laws Are Changing As Fast As The Internet

Cyber Security Information Sharing Act

At the end of November, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act. This legislation gives private companies legal immunity for sharing data with the Federal Government. This was passed over the protests of many lawmakers and consumer advocates. “In theory, the information shared would be limited to ‘threat indicators’ — data such as technical information about the type of malware used or the ways that attackers covered their tracks while sneaking through systems.” Andrea Peterson — The Washington Post

One of the purposes of this legislation is to help U.S. companies react more quickly to cyberattacks on their computer systems. If a company gets hit with a specific type of hack, the federal government would receive an alert and immediately distribute warnings to other companies.

While cyber laws provide some immunity to businesses, it only applies to information sharing with the Federal Government. Businesses still need Cyber Liability Insurance as part of their risk management program. What we do not know, is what will the Federal Government do with information? It will be impossible to know until the law is fully implemented later in 2016.

Cyber Prevention Tips

  • Provide Training to all employees. Helping your employees understand how cyber breaches occur, will go a long way in prevention.
  • Keep your operating system, browser, anti-virus, and other critical software up to date.
  • Activate your firewall. Firewalls are the first line of cyber defense; they block connections to unknown or bogus sites and will keep out some types of viruses and hackers.
  • Secure all passwords and do not share them with anyone.
  • Use only secure wireless networks.
  • Develop a secure way to allow laptops off the premises. Never keep client information on laptops if used off site.
  • When an employee leaves the company or is terminated, turn off the access to their computer. If there is personal information on their computer, have your IT person manage the process.
  • Be aware of pushing scams. This involves a hacker using an email or website to install malicious software onto your computer. These web entities are designed to look like a normal email or website, which is how hackers convince their victims to hand over personal information.
  • Never open an email from someone you don’t recognize, even if it identifies you by name.