Welcome to the second blog covering the second half of the top ten obstacles faced when creating a successful outbound annual review program (you can read the first half here). Many agencies have tried to implement this type of program and have been derailed by these obstacles. Our AppX Retention training program focuses on making these programs successful by improving relationships to drive retention and education to drive new sales.
Here are the second 5 top obstacles I have seen insurance agencies overcome to run a successful outbound annual review program.
Believing Clients Don’t Care
The beginning of our training on implementing this program includes helping account managers move beyond this fear. When we first come onsite, almost every account manager (except those who have made calls similar to these in the past) feels like we are just going to be bothering the clients. They think we are going to be disruptive and annoying. “Our clients are too busy and are just going to be annoyed by us calling” is a common concern I hear as we launch the program.
Upon completion of the training, most account managers have completely changed their perspective. Most of our clients are actually pleasantly surprised and grateful for the call. When we step back and think about it, asking for 10 minutes of their time once a year to review their account really is not asking for too much, and it is not surprising we get such a positive response.
A lot of this comes back to the idea that to drive a really strong customer experience you must be proactive. Customer service can be driven by answering the phone and being there when the client needs you, but to provide a truly superior customer experience, we must reach out. We can do this through automation and electronic methods, but many people still react well to a phone call. Even those who say they prefer email react well to the call. We cannot allow the clients to dictate the client experience because they can’t really state what they want as well as we can build it for them.
Desire to Not “Wake the Sleeping Dog (or Bear)”
While I think there are a lot more fear and comfort zone concerns at the heart of making these calls, the biggest reason I hear for not making these calls is not wanting to set off a thought process on potentially remarketing an account.
We need to train our staff on how to handle a rate increase without immediately jumping into remarketing the account. Very often the client does not ask us to remarket the account directly, but instead may inquire about whether or not they have the best price. Many account managers will jump into remarketing as the solution, when in fact, it should be the last tool in our tool chest.
We need to review the entire account with them. Determine why the rate increase occurred. Typically there was some activity (claim or endorsement) that happened mid-term to cause the increase. We also want to show them options to decrease their premium (deductibles, discounts, unnecessary coverages) that do not affect their important coverage levels but also don’t require we move them. Finally, we want to talk to them about the drawbacks of moving their account (potentially higher down payment, loss of certain perks like deductible dollars or other renewal endorsements, or kicking off an inspection).
Instead of worrying about our clients asking us to remarket their account, we should be worried about them calling someone else to remarket it!
Being Viewed As “Salesy”
The vast majority of account managers I talk with share a common view, which is “I am not a salesperson.” There are two ways to think about not only these calls, but the role of an account manager in general to combat this thought process.
- “Yes you are.” In fact, we are all in sales. Whether we are selling a new business or a renewal, or are just selling the idea of following a certain process or interest in a coverage, the only way most businesses are able to survive and thrive is by everyone recognizing we all get paid because the client pays their bill. Without the clients, we don’t have jobs.
- “It’s not sales.” In fact, “selling” is really just good service. When we sell an additional line of business, an increase in coverage, an additional endorsement, etc., the client is almost always the one that benefits the most. Of course there is a benefit to the carrier and agency, but the value of the protection (and potentially savings when account rounding) that the client receives dwarfs the benefits to the carrier and agency. For example, when we sell a $200 umbrella policy, the carrier makes very little additional money, as most of that is taken up in expenses. The agency may receive $35 or $40 which, again, is going to mostly be spent in the cost of driving the policy.
Lack of True Belief
While it is very easy to read a blog or sit in a conference room and theorize on the value of this type of proactive call, many account managers will question the value when they get back to their desk. We survey all of our participants on their thoughts before and after the implementation of this program. Almost 90% of the account managers had at least one negative thought associated with the program before we got started.
We tend to reset back to our defaults, and in this case, it is very easy to recall the times we tried and failed or had a negative experience with a customer. Very often we will have 9 great calls and then 1 bad one, and focus more on the bad one than recognize it was the exception.
The good news is the positivity we get coming out of the training. Less than 3% of the account managers that have gone through our training program answer “Yes” to our survey question, “If you had the choice, would you want to revert back to your previous renewal process?” We just have to go from theory and execute well enough during implementation to make it reality. We need to create a belief deep enough to inspire action.
On any article regarding obstacles on why something is or is not working, “change” should always be on the list. The vast majority of the time, the process or system being implemented is not the problem; it’s figuring out how to move from what we are currently doing to where we want to be.
This is proven time and again when you have a new employee come on board after the change has occurred. When you run their training, you don’t hear any of the complaints or concerns of the staff that had to go through the change. The key for existing staff is to eliminate the common thought process that they have their regular job plus these calls to make and get them to view the calls as part of their job. No one separates out taking inbound calls or answering emails from their regular job. These calls need to be viewed the same.
There are the second five obstacles to be overcome, and I’ve seen agencies overcome them to implement a Ridiculously Amazing Annual Review program. This program is one of the most dramatic programs you can implement to improve both retention as well as generate new sales. If you’d like to discuss this further, Contact Me today to learn more about how we drive results through our AppX Retention program.