Entries Tagged as 'Customer Service'


3 Commercial Insurance Must Do’s

This may be a refresher for some but for others these few to-dos will help land new clients and keep the ones you have.  Right now in our industry businesses are closing their doors, premiums are still for the most part soft, and we are starting to see rates being shopped even by our best clients.  But you knew this already.  So how can you ease the uncertainty laced in between these daily challenges?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s 3 ways to help out… 

1. Educate, Educate, Educate – Got the message here?  Start with a complete review of what the insured currently has.  Chances are the other agent missed an important detail that could save the insured money or the agent missed a risk that needs to be added to the overall insurance package.  If so, you need to be able to educate the insured on the product features and benefits and how it applies to them.  Is the risk subject to filings or inspections?  Go slow and don’t take for granted that they know insurance lingo.  Chances are they’ll appreciate you breaking down what they need and can expect from you.

2.  Go Meet Them at Their Business - If your insured is in manufacturing, then ask to take a tour.  Learn about when they started, who their clients are, and how they plan to grow in the future.  Now you may not want to set a precedent here of always meeting them at their office.  So have your next meeting at yours.  Who are their key employees?  Is family involved and if so what are their succession plans?  The more you know, the more opportunities for new business may arise.  Remember the more products they have with you the higher the chances of that isured staying with you long-term.

3.  Give Insureds Your Best – This may not mean the best price.  After all, you have to ask yourself the question, "Do you want to compete in the arena of lowest cost insurance?"  Some do and that’s fine.  However, if you’re not, then ‘your best’ is going to be in delivering the best customer service you can.  What does this mean?  This means you probe and ask discovery type questions that really uncover all the risks associated with your client’s business.  Ask open-ended questions.  Open-ended questions are those that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Rather these type of questions reveal more when asked.  For example, "How did you get into the manufacturing business?".  It shows you care about knowing your insured better and this prepares you for delivering your best to that insured. 

Simple, short, sweet, but nonetheless very valuable in locking down current clients and communicating to them you care enough to give them the best possible policy available.  Remember to stay in front of your client even when the news is not so good.  They’ll appreciate your candor and your service.  – villageChief


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Part III – 12 Telephone Tips When Contacting Customers

It’s an art form mended and shaped over time by experience only.  The art of conversation can and does build great relationships.  Mark Hunter, "The Sales Hunter", works with companies and sales people who want to find and retain better customers.  To learn more visit www.thesaleshunter.com.  I hope you’ve enjoyed Mark’s guest articles these past three weeks.  All of these articles have great take-aways to help us perform at a higher in 2009.  This last piece is a refresher we all need about tips when talking to our customers.  Enjoy!

1.  Never ask if it’s a good time to talk.  This gives the other person a perfect excuse to end the call.  I you are unsure the person has time to talk, immediately state that the call will only take 3 minutes.  When you give the person an exact time, be sure you stick to it.  After the allotted time has passed, tell the customer and ask them if they would like to continue or reschedule.  Using this practice allows you to demonstrate that you respect their time.

2.  Ask questions.  People will never hang up on themselves.

3.  Use the person’s first name at least 3 times in every phone call.  Who doesn’t like to hear their name said?

4.  When greeting people on the telephone, avoid using their last name.  It makes the call seem too formal.  Your objective should be to have a casual conversation, in the same way you would talk to a good friend. 

 5.  Use visually descriptive words to help paint a picture of what you’re saying.  A phone conversation doesn’t have to be boring and stale.

6.  When starting a new telephone conversation, always give your first and last name.  Never assume the person you’re talking to is going to recognize your voice or think you’re the only one with your first name.

7.  Watch your expressions by placing a mirror in front of you when you talk.  It’s amazing how they come through over the phone. 

 8.  Add energy to your phone calls by standing up.  People who have good posture tend to come across more enthusiastic than those who don’t.

9.  When you finish a conversation, always summarize it in the same way you would end a live meeting.  By doing so, you can prevent misinterpretation of your discussion.

10.  Always allow the other person to have the final comment or question.  Just because you’ve asked all your questions doesn’t mean the other person has asked all of theirs.

11.  Avoid negotiating over the phone.  Use it as a means of introducing, following-up on, or confirming information.  It’s impossible to truly read body language over the phone so you lose a major negotiating tool.  A phone call, however, can be an excellent way to introduce a new idea you would like to receive some feedback on.  Many times, it will allow criticism to be gained in a less threatening manner than if it were to occur in a traditional sales call.

12.  Never use a speaker phone with a customer, even if they say it is permissible.  Speaker phones add to the perception that the conversation is not important enough to capture 100% of your attention.  (The only exceptionj is when thre is a gouip involved.)

Please become a villager by going to www.iiavillage.com.  Click on the "Become a Villager" link on the right.  All new articles will be sent to either your email or your MyYahoo or iGoogle homepage.  Of course it’s free!   -villageChief

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A New Year – A New First Impression

2009 is here and there’s not one agency in the world that doesn’t want to add a couple more ‘A’ clients to the books.  2008 is behind us, thank goodness, which sets our sights on a new, promising year.  I’ve marked down a few new goals and a couple new process improvements.  However, I want to hone in on one area that often gets overlooked. First impressions are often a second thought.  How much thought and planning have you put into delivering a great experience for that new client or market representative waiting in the lobby?  Heck, if there’s a chair and a receptionist waiting for the visitor, then that’s good enough right?  As Tim Allen’s wife would say on Tool Time, "I don’t think so Tim."

 1.  Don’t you just love that feeling of walking into the lobby of a nice hotel and then receiving a polite greeting offered by one of the hosts?  l do too and you can recreate this in your office too.  You don’t need marble floors or a daily flower arrangement but you do need a couple of things to enhance this experience.  A.  Make sure your receptionist or greeter stands up, smiles, and politely asks the reason for your arrival.  B.  Offer that visitor a refreshment: bottled water, coffee if it’s before 11am, or a soft drink.  C.  Ask the visitor if they need directions to the restrooms.  D.  If the visitor arrives after lunch, offer a welcoming snack like fresh baked cookies or other bite-size goodies.  I don’t care where you are, the smell of cookies has an immediate warming effect on even the toughest client.

2.  I like to be expected when I arrive at a new prospect’s office or a current client’s office.  It’s definitely a "peace of mind" moment when I arrive to discover they are cheerfully expecting me.  One way an agency does this with success is by placing a tasteful board on an easel in the lobby with my name and company on it.  It’s a great way to welcome me and show that they are eager to meet.  Another agency takes it a step further by having a "Director of First Impressions" position to greet those that come and go during the day.  The role functions as a receptionist would; however, they make more efforts to create a warm-inviting atmosphere right off the bat.  As a visitor, this impression is huge in regards to the perception of care for the agency and perceived class.

Just like that first client meeting being important to represent yourself in the best possible light so is your welcome room and/or lobby.  So make it a hit by focusing a little more resources to it.  You’ll not only impress the visitors but you’ll raise the bar for others.   -villageChief

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Can Loyalty Have Its Privileges?

I was having lunch last week with an old friend who’s a financial consultant with Wachovia Securities.  No I didn’t have to drive him home after his two-martini lunch.  Actually we didn’t talk about the depressing stock market at all.  Instead we caught up as old friends do.  At the end of lunch he insisted on paying.  And he did so with his American Express card.  I looked at his card and noticed that he’d been a member since 1981.  Wow, I couldn’t recall anything I’d been a member for that long.  I asked him about his experience with their customer service and other options offered to members.  He was extremely positive about his overall experience and had nothing but good things to say.  Obviously his longevity played a factor into his loyalty with American Express which was part of the reason for sharing his experience.

It hit me.  Would this work on an agency level?  Neither have I heard of the idea nor had I ever entertained the thought of this concept on the retail agent level.  So hey let’s take a closer look. The ABC Insurance Agency Card may look something like this:

 1.  Different status levels of clients would mean different levels of service and focus from the agent.  We all know we should have our clients ranked A, B, and C.  So what if each level defined certain awards to these clients?

2.  Client status could be upgraded by the number of cross-selling.  For example a client who buys an auto policy starts off as a bronze client.  If they add a life insurance policy or home policy, their status is upgraded to say silver.  They know it and you do too.  Statistics have shown the more policies an insured holds from his/her agency the lower the probability he/she will leave.  I guess you could look at it like hostages.  The more you hold the less likely they are to negotiate leaving… but I digress.

3.  Brand the membership in a club and offer a card.  The club name would hopefully dovetail into the agency’s branding objectives and the card would have the year the insured joined.  The status on the card could mean that the insured is included in the monthly agency drawing for a reward.  And the higher the status the more times they are entered.  Also, the agency card could offer discounts to dry-cleaners, oil change services, restaurants, and other community businesses.  A few of these businesses could even be clients wanting the referrals!

4.  While carrying this card, you’re assuring your client that you are always with them.  If Joe client gets into a fender-bender, he can pull out his card and immediately reach you.  It’s free advertising to your agency when your insured tells others about their membership.  Free positive testimony to your agency is always welcomed!

5.  One of the hardest things about the insurance business is that an agent is selling an intangible.  With your agency membership card you’ve just made an intangible item tangible.  Your agency card would provide the agency main number, agent name, status level, and maybe even a picture.

Pie in the sky, maybe.  So here’s the tough part about the above idea.  How does an agency manage a program like this?  What are the costs associated with a venture like this?  Will the value exceed the costs?  Do you start off offering the card to only the A clients or launch the card to A and B clients?  All valid questions that have to be answered before taking the first step.

It never hurts to think out loud or even write out loud as I’ve done.  But merit is due to a client’s loyalty.  It counts!  And clients like to share with others their own successes and memberships.  I did this to my friend at lunch when I told him I was part of the Randalls Remarkable card program and that I receive a 1/2 continental airline point for every dollar spent.  It’s not American Express but I still feel included.   -villageChief

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5 Quick Tips of the Day on Customer Service

Let’s review some old habits that may have a little dust on them or may need a little oil.  These are 5 tips I like to call the Fab Five for Customer Service.

1. Know Thy Customer – I mean really engage, reach-out and get to know your customer on a personal level.  Know what they like to do in their spare time.  Learn about their family.  What’s important to them?  If you walk into a clients office and there are more than 5 pictures of family, then ask about them.  Learn about their business.  Afterall, you’re learning how to cover risks for them and if they are in the beekeeper business, well you should know something about bees.  Also, be smart in what not to do.  If you see Alabama University items in their office, don’t send them anything with LSU colors or logos on it.  Sounds self explanatory but this was the case as told to me by an agent who has a company rep. that repeats this faux pas. 

2.  Do What You Say You’re Going To Do – If your voicemail at your office says, "please leave a message and I’ll return your call as soon as possible.", then do it!  You want others to return yours right?  I know it’s tough to return a call from a rep. or new company wanting to prospect you.  But returning their call says a lot about you and your agency’s reputation.

3.  Documentation – Recently I had a client have surgery on a knee that was troubling her for many years.  She mentioned that she would be out of the office for a week and a half.  While her kids loved that she was home recovering from surgery, she was doing as much as she could from the computer.  Knowing this, I sent her a short get well card and a gift certificate to Blockbuster.  I envisioned her resting that knee with the family in front of the tv.  She loved it!  I was pleased that she and her family enjoyed the gift but it was my notes in my client database that saved me.  Listen to your clients and always take notes and time/date stamp them.  They’ll reward you later!

4.  Keep a Positive Attitude – We all have those days where if a problem could arise it will.  And it does affect our attitude.  If we let it negatively affect us, others will know it.  Even over the phone you can tell if the other person is upbeat and happy or not-so-cheery.  The tone of our voice says it all.  Enthusiasm is contagious so pass it along!

5.  Display a Welcoming Environment – Whether it’s a new client or a client that’s been with your agency for years, it’s imperative to show off how fun and excited your office is.  If you love what you do, then let others know about it.  In regards to customer service, in Texas there are several agencies that have a Director of First Impressions.  Their repsonsibilities include: Expecting guests for the day by displaying a sign with the guests name and company, welcoming visitors, offering the guests a drink, letting the agent or CSR know that you’ve arrived, and greeting everyone with a smile.  This is a great way to make a huge impression on that client or prospect so don’t waste that opportunity to WOW them!      village chief

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