How Insurance Agencies Can Increase Client Retention?
Do you sometimes question how insurance agencies can increase client retention? Let’s face it, renewable revenue is a great benefit of running an insurance agency. When agencies get to a certain size, retaining customers can become more difficult. The last thing any insurance agency wants is to get on the hampster wheel of selling a policy just to lose it. The challenge is that the customer has changed. Agencies need to stop thinking about what’s easiest for them and lean into a customer-centric approach to how we serve our ideal customer. In this blog, we will break down how we see insurance agencies driving retention.
In this blog, we will review the following client retention strategies agencies can use to increase client relations:
- Being Proactive Rather than Reactive
- Cross Selling the Clients so No Other Agencies Are working with them
- Moving clients to EFT or Pay in Full Strategies
- Follow up, Follow Through and Documentation
- Customer Service Skills
- Customer Service Supported By Technology
In this week’s blog we’ll discuss how insurance agencies can increase client retention. Buckle up because these strategies have been proven with thousands of clients.
Before we blow your mind, let’s give you an update on what’s happening at APP.
Where was APP last week?
Kelly: Ledoux AppX Sales Launch Eugene & Salem OR
Heath: Chabert Insurance, Baton Rouge LA
Stephen: Big I/PIA Washington Conference
Why Client Retention is More Difficult Than Ever?
When I first got into insurance, there was a running theme. You were either a sales shop or a service shop. Let me tell you they both had opinions on each other! I slowly learned that the best agencies paid attention to both – because good service leads to referrals and the right new business sales lead to higher retention. It wasn’t one or the other but clarity on both. Let me share what we’ve discovered at APP.
Here are the top reasons client retention is harder today:
- Agencies Try to Sell & Service Everyone: There is still a strong mentality in insurance that everyone is our client (unless you are totally a scumbag). I encourage agencies to get clearer on their target market so you can build your service around them. For example, if you want to ensure growing families have a scholarship program, hire interns, sponsor little league games, and things of that nature, schedules need to be adjusted. Make sure you have one late night of availability for the convenience of dual working families. If you are open to contractors, consider having one person at the agency early for emergency certs and texts, and consider quarterly check-ins so they don’t get whacked by an audit. If you want to drive value, you have to be valuable to the right clients.
- Competition Is Fierce: Direct writers spent $10 billion dollars marketing to your customer in 2021. Agencies need to start spending more on marketing but also building value in their current relationships. The local agent can be louder and closer to the community – but that has to be intentional. Simple things, like renewal review calls, can make sure that customers call you first – and not the competition.
- There Is Not Enough High-Quality Customer Service Training In Insurance: We train the team on carriers websites and coverages, but very few agencies spend time and money training their team on how to handle rate increases, cross-selling, and getting clients on other payment strategies. In many instances, the team is left on their own to handle difficult client interactions. Agencies spend lots of money on sales training but often forget to train the team on managing all of their renewable revenue.
- Tracking Your Customer Experience WAS Overly Complicated: Finally a win! In many agencies, the leadership team or manager would get involved when there was a problem. That was probably a day late and a dollar short. Instead, with new tracking systems, you can find detractors in your book by using Rocket Referrals and their NPS surveying tool. Or you can look at Donna from Aureus Analytics and then can provide you with awesome insight into your book of business. What you know in advance you can prepare for!
- Tracking Insurance Retention is Difficult: With how many people are coming into the insurance industry, you would think that tracking retention would be easier. But it’s actually pretty complicated. There are several ways to do it, but there are also several things that can screw it up. That is no reason to give up! It is important you work with the right team of people who can help you get it right – even if that means calling your management system daily!
Watch our Throwback 3-Minute Video on how to track retention:
Your retention may be lagging for many reasons, but let’s start by diving on how we can improve!
Also if you are looking for a “how-to” on stopping an insurance cancellation, we have a great process pack just for you!
Now more than ever, independent agents have access to affordable and effective technology to help them run their business profitably. Far too often, agents are enamored with the idea that new clients are the best way to generate organic growth. That is expensive, inefficient, and time-consuming.
There is a gold mine within your current clients. All you need are the right resources to help uncover it. Clients who have adopted using the data that comes from their technology stack have a 2% increase in retention year over year versus those who don’t. Every point gained in retention is a point gained in organic growth. Furthermore, our agencies have sold an additional policy to 10% of their client base. Think about that! More customers stay with you, buy more from you, and you make more money. Using the data available to you shows which clients to spend your time on. This will help you save time and make money. And by the way, using that data to know what your “best” clients look like will help you know which new prospects to go after.
VP of Sales – North America
Being Proactive Not Reactive at Renewal
Renewal is an opportunity for insurance agents to re-earn their commissions. However, too many agencies sit on their renewals and don’t proactively reach out. At APP this is the equivalent of breaking one of the 10 Commandments – thou shall not be reactive. If you think back, insurance agents met with clients every year to review their policies. Today’s agent only calls with bad news – I’m getting canceled, my rate went up or the agent wants something.
When you are proactive at renewal and call everyone once per year for an annual renewal review, really good things start to happen!
- Reduce Remarketing (who wants to deal with crazy inspections if you don’t have to!)
- Increase Cross-Selling (more business from current clients – that’s a win!)
- Reduced E&O Issues (finding things before the claim, yes please!)
- Cover improvements (clients see the value in you and not just the price)
- Boosted team morale (getting yelled at about rate is no one’s version of fun)
The bottom line is getting proactive at renewal is not a new strategy in fact its vintage. Now, getting your team on track and geared up to make renewal calls is somewhat more complicated. In most agencies, the team is always backlogged and behind, leaving the agencies feeling reactive. Here is the dirty little secret – getting proactive actually saves you time in the long run because it reduces remarketing and scrambling. You do not have to do it alone. At APP we have a 6-month program to get your team making renewal review calls.
The best way for an agency to increase client retention is to truly listen to customers and ask for feedback regularly. When you survey your clients, you will learn how they feel about you. Occasionally, you will get negative feedback, and that’s a good thing. Because when you know how someone feels—you can address the issue quickly and get the relationship back on track. At Rocket Referrals, we help agents automate this process. Not only do we survey our clients’ customers regularly, but we also alert the agent when there’s a concern so they can resolve it right away.
Cross-Selling Insurance At Renewal
If cross-selling is an issue in your agency, think of it as cheating. Do you want your customer cheating on you with another agent… because that’s what’s happening.
Monoline customers are taking the highest rate increases. For many agencies, they have not quite yet figured out the magic of cross selling. Agencies have 3 major cross selling opportunities:
- Cross Selling At the Point of Sale: At APP, we recommend that you never sell a monoline policy. We mean never. Not even for the little nana who only has a home. It’s a package or nothing. Let’s face it, we all say we are going to cross-sell at a later time, but do we? The best time to gather all the policies is when they are shopping. Not 3 years later after the third rate increase….
- Cross Selling At Renewal: Renewal comes and goes, and yet it’s such an opportunity! If you even just target your monolines renewals, you would see new business and a boost in retention. Cross-selling is a win-win – you boost retention and get new business revenue. All you need to do is run a list and get some scripts going (which are included in our Agency Retention Program.
- Using Inbound Service Calls As Cross Selling Opportunity: When we share our receptionist job description, aka Director of First Impressions, people always ask us to not mention other projects. I always reply that they can mention the product and pass it to a licensed agent. Imagine if before your front desk professional passed a call, they looked to see if there was an opportunity and there was a warm transfer to your licensed team. Sounds great to me!
When you cross-sell, you keep the competition at bay! But can we please also talk about cross selling between departments? Why is this such a taboo? What is riskier? Having other agents working with your client or trusting your in-house team? I know you don’t want a $50,000 account to be jeopardized by a $2000 auto policy. But really how often does that happen when you really think about the right clients for your agency – I bet not that often.
Boost your Cross-Selling at Renewal with our Agency Retention Program in our Agency School:
Insurance Payments & Retention
The way clients pay is actually directly correlated to their retention. You want to get almost all (if not all) of your clients on EFT/ACH or Pay in Full. Just like cross-selling, you need to attack this on new business, rewrites, call-in payments, and renewal. Clients with payment issues have:
- Higher rate increases
- Late payment fees
- Higher insurance credit scores
- Cause more work for the agency
If you take a call-in payment monthly for a client it’s 10 minutes a transaction (you may argue the logistics but try it – it’s’ 10 minutes). That is 120 minutes per year or 2 hours per year just in payments. Now, let me ask you: your really good clients, how much time do you spend with them that year?
Your goal is to get out of the payment game! You can take those 2 hours per year and reinvest them in proactive renewal reviews.
Our best strategy is to let the client know they are paying too much for their insurance. Yes! That is direct and blunt. Most carriers charge a fee or provide a discount for paying in full or EFT, so let’s make sure every single person knows this is an option and we are more than happy to take care of changing up their payment strategy!
Follow Up Follow Through & Documentation
Have you ever had a customer service experience where you did not feel heard? Maybe you were talked over, or even worse, the customer service rep made a commitment but didn’t follow through. This destroys trust between you and the client. A simple follow-up and follow through strategy is critical to drive retention (and keep your google stars high.
At APP we teach the service team about the following strategies that will help insurance agencies increase retention:
- First Call Resolution: When you take care of everything a customer needs on one phone call with no loose ends, you win! The client has it off their to-do list, there is little chance for a dropped ball. It’s more efficient for client and agency team members.
- On the Call Documentation: In our Agency Efficiency program, we actually have team members break up with notebooks. Notebooks are where customer service requests go to die. How would writing it in a notepad to type it into the system be efficient? It’s not. Instead, we train customer service team members to document while on the call, that way everything is in your system real-time.
- By When: Everything in an insurance agency needs a “by when.” This is by when the client, team member, or agency owner expects to get a response. When all parties are clear as to what is expected and what is next there is less customer experience friction.
- Follow Up: At APP we believe in tiering your clients but we also believe that no client should be babysat. For this reason, we have a 3 follow-up rule.
- Follow #1 on the By When Date
- Follow up #2 two to three days later
- Follow up #3 two to three days after that clearly letting the client know professionally this will be the final attempt
- Bottom line you cannot care more about the client’s insurance than they do
We prefer agencies to do real-time documentation, so if any team member won the lottery at lunch, no service mishaps happen. Unfortunately, too many agencies run off of notebooks, people’s memory, and spotty agency management system documentation. For this reason, your agency needs a strategy and a plan that everyone follows.
Customer Service Skills
Have you ever been to a restaurant with mediocre service? Then you go back and get a whole different waitperson and your opinion of the restaurant is much different. It’s the same with customer service. On paper, Chick-fil-a should not be as successful as they are. They sell chicken sandwiches and are closed the moment you want one. The difference is the quality of experience, I swear it makes the chicken taste better!
Customer service skills are not born into someone. They need to be trained and developed. Yes, in insurance agencies there is almost no customer service training. There is, however, a great deal of customer service critique. Your front link team needs to be trained on:
- Phone greeting and transferring
- How to build rapport
- How to explain insurance to a nana (that’s our way of saying don’t use insurance terms)
- What to do with an upset customer
- How to control the call
- How to handle rate
- When and how to make recommendations
- Cross-selling, coverage improvements, and asking for referrals
- How to prioritize their time
These are all skills that come with training; they will not come with hope.
In October 2022, APP is launching customer service training for insurance agencies, so be sure to check it out. Imagine if you walked onto your service floor and heard everyone with a great tone of voice, customers smiling and laughing and your team encouraging coverage increases – how cool would that be?
Customer Service Supported By Technology
The best customer service representatives embrace technology. They love using their headsets and being able to complete first call resolution. Agencies with increasing client retention have a service team that is supported by technology. In carrier call centers they all have the right technology to support efficiencies – and using the technology is not optional. It’s required. It is absolutely necessary for agency owners to invest in getting their teams the right technology. It is also 100% necessary for the team to embrace using the technology. The best service teams are empowered with time saving systems that support a great experience.
Agencies with increasing retention have a focus on processes, training, and technology, all combined to create a customer experience. If you are curious about how insurance agencies can increase client retention follow our blog for more tips.
Want to boost your retention? Let us help! Connect with us.