“In this market, we have to shop every one of our Renewals to keep our clients.” This is a common phrase in agencies week after week, month after month, and year after year. You can plug in the word “hard” or “soft” before the word market, and the sentence changes very little.
No matter the market condition, agencies still feel this sense of urgency to “shop till they drop,” for lack of better words. We are on a mission to change this mindset here at Agency Performance Partners.
If you’ve paid attention even just a little bit over the years, you’ve probably heard us discuss:
- A “proactive retention strategy”
- How the word “busy” is a swear word
- Building rapport and adding value.
All of these things are crucial to ending the mindset of remarketing as a starting point to every potential rate increase conversation.
You have heard the old saying, “If you win on price, you will lose on price,” right? I want to get you thinking about rate changes differently with this blog. I hope you will walk through this and get strategies to lead your team through insurance rate changes.
If your team is like most teams across the country, they immediately panic when the rate is higher than they initially anticipated, or if they see a rate increase on renewal. It’s okay. You are not alone, and you have already taken the first step in reading this blog.
When that panic sinks in, it is usually because they feel as if they are about to have to climb Kilimanjaro and go into reshop mode for the next hour or 3. I would say the first thing to do to lead your team through rate changes is to develop a strong plan.
Guess what? In the next 5-10 minutes, you’ll read our suggestions for a plan.
As you lead your team to victory here, you must have confidence in your project and stick to it. There will be some discomfort in the beginning. The plan may even sound crazy at times, but anything worth doing is worth doing, right? Am I right? (HA-HA see what I did there?)
There will be pushback and grumbling, and possible complaints. However, you will see success if you stand firm and lead the team with confidence and encouragement.
Let’s start with overcoming the panic. We routinely see agencies subscribe to three common approaches to handling insurance rate changes.
Number one, “Don’t Poke the Bear,” simply put, is where we just hold our breath and hope the client doesn’t notice the increase. The staff would rather wait and see if their client calls.
The old “Shop Till you Drop” method is the second common approach. This is most likely the approach that your agency takes. In this scenario, the staff has been given a standard rate increase percent. Renewal is just 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 meet with clients yearly to review their policies.
Today’s agent only calls with bad news or no news, such as:
- The policy is getting canceled
- The rate went up
- The agency needs/wants something
When you are proactive at renewal, you commit to calling every single one of your clients at least once per year for an annual account review or Renewal Review, whichever you want to call it. When this happens, amazing things start to happen!
People immediately start talking about ROI when we talk to people about our Retention Strategy.
Immediately they start thinking about the retention percentage instead of the new business opportunities from re-writes, upsells, cross-sells, referrals, and so much more, not to mention the value added in boosted team morale.
I mean, think about that alone, if the team is all working in the same way at the same time with the same goals and same incentives, think about the positive effects on the team. The team is now sharing wins and challenges, and stories. In a sense, they are all in the foxhole together.
I know what you are thinking, there’s no time. There is never any time; we’re all so busy. We are putting out fires daily, answering questions, taking payments, meeting with carrier representatives, and so on.
How are we going to make time for this? That’s an entirely other topic for another day. This is the perfect segue to throw a shameless plug here. At APP, we have programs to get your team to call renewal reviews.
You can check that out on our website or book some time with one of our incredible Performance Partners.
So, let’s dive into this a little deeper now. You opened this blog to learn how to lead your team through a rate increase. I want to take a minute here, and I want you to coach your team through a straightforward process.
Let’s stop and look at this like we will reverse engineer the rate increase. We can do all of this by answering a direct question: WHY? Why did the rate go up? Let’s start with that question and work our way through that with a simple process of Review and Education.
Let’s take a really simple, straightforward example here:
Suppose your client looks at his renewal and sees an increase. We start asking a few questions and find out, and if we are reminded of a claim filed during that policy term, then that would be pretty simple to explain.
Let’s take that even further and say that it was not only an at-fault claim, but it also caused him to receive a ticket, and significant physical damage to the vehicle, which caused the insurance to have to pay out. That becomes a pretty simple explanation to the rate increase, doesn’t it?
What could be the reason the rate went up? If you can get the client thinking about it from a cause-and-effect type of scenario, then that usually helps dial down the confusion and the anger.
Why don’t we make a list here of all of the reasons their renewal has increased:
- Client activity
- Updates or Aging of property
- Carrier insurance rate increases
- Business growth
- Recent claim
Once you can educate your client on why the rate goes up, this eliminates the thought of “it’s just me” or “the carrier or agency is picking on me.” So many of your customers lump you in as “you people.” Using phrases like “you people raised my rates,” right?
You’ve heard it many times, I’m sure. Therefore, take a deep breath and simply explain the situation.
So often, the client calls upset and confused, and you are just the guy on the other end of the phone call. We have to remember that and not get defensive or immediately jump on the defensive.
A few simple phrases should help you to get through these situations and de-escalate the problem quickly:
- “I completely understand; it seems like everything is going up….”
- “I totally understand your frustration….”
- “So what you are feeling is….”
- “I’m so glad you contacted us about that; it’s important that we discuss this.”
Often, the client just needs to feel heard. The client can oftentimes feel like it is only their policy that is taking the rate increase. They can often feel as if their policy is isolated. It is essential to educate them on the market conditions and the reasons listed above that can cause rate increases, and educate them on the cause of the rise.
When you are on the phone with an upset client about their recent rate challenges, particularly their rate increase, not only do you need to show empathy, but also you need to show value.
Why are they working with you? This is your opportunity to shine and show your worth.
If you haven’t had a chance to do their review before the call, pull it up and look at it live with them on the phone. Look for ways to add value to the conversation. Let me show you several ways to show massive importance on the call without going into “reshop mode.”
- Look for discounts that may have fallen off.
- Look for new discounts that they can add on.
- Identify any opportunities for rate relief: New Roof, Updates to HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, etc.
- Look for any gaps in coverage or policies they may have declined in the past that would improve their coverage and add tremendous value if they added that coverage.
- Show value by introducing something new, Telematics, carrier-specific coverages or endorsements, etc.
- Discuss the dangers of remarketing.
Dangers of Remarketing
Let’s take a few minutes to discuss the dangers of remarketing. Not every reshop opens the door for wonder and delight. Sometimes you end up opening pandora’s box. This could be a dangerous thing in many cases.
Think about this from a logical standpoint. What if the roof is too old and warrants a declination or rate increase? What if the client has had a ticket or accident since you last wrote them?
There are so many dangers to remarketing, not to mention the dreaded downpayment conversation. Let’s educate them on that. With a new policy, they will require a downpayment, where the new one will just roll on without a downpayment. The new policy will also most likely need an inspection.
We all know what that means. The carrier could very well uncover some things that could warrant a declination, or even worse a higher rate, plus they will only have a short window of time to get it all updated and send in pictures.
The best advice I can give you is to wait to remarket until it’s your last resort, not your first option.
The other significant danger of remarketing is that we teach the client that it is all about price and not coverage or any additional value you bring to the table. We want to avoid that at all costs.
In this current marketplace, we are all facing rate increases no matter what part of the country you’re located in. I know having the rate conversation is awkward, and most of us look for an opportunity to avoid it versus looking for the opportunity of building rapport with the client.
Accountants tell their clients all the time they are paying more in taxes, and my mechanic doesn’t even blink when they tell me what it will cost to fix my car. This is an incredible opportunity for us to show our value, educate our clients and win even more respect each time we have these tough conversations.
I challenge every one of you reading this blog that the next time you receive one of those calls about a rate increase, you will not immediately turn to panic and go into reshop mode.
Instead, you will stop, take a deep breath, lead with empathy, and show value in the conversation by using education and having confidence along the way.
We get somewhat weird about the price and rate in insurance. Some of this is because most insurance agents have not built enough consistent value, and the agencies have not taken the time to train their teams. At APP, we want to fix this industry problem with our Agency Retention Program.
APP has a WOW Customer service course that is also very helpful when dealing with clients, you can find it in the school or as a separate course, go check it out!