Make the Time for a Lasting Legacy
What is the legacy of your agency? Is your agency a family-owned entity you wish to live on through the careers of your children and grandchildren? Is it a local staple that needs to thrive and continue to meet the needs of your hometown? Perhaps it’s a growing business you wish to develop into an empire that serves clients coast to coast. Or, perhaps it’s your nest egg you plan to bankroll your retirement.
Whether an agency is being passed down to a beloved family member or sold, present-day owners and managers should be obsessed with maintaining profitability and an upward growth trajectory.
There are countless management articles and advice columns for insurance professionals that tout the importance of differentiation through customer service, expanding your customer base through social media, and leveraging customer portals for easier client access. Many of them are providing critical advice you should put into action. These days, it’s common knowledge that agencies at all levels must prioritize and emphasize the customer experience to remain relevant and distinguish themselves from priced-based sellers, and that using the latest in technology is part of a great client experience. But how? How are agencies able to do this when there never seems to be enough time to simply put out the daily fires?
It is critical that you and your team are using what time you have as wisely as possible.
Increasing the agency’s use of technology alone is not the answer to providing the best service to clients. Leveraging technology to free up time for human contact will reap benefits in profitability and growth!
Yes, clients want the latest and greatest in innovation that saves their time– but they also want personalized service from someone they trust. If agency personnel aren’t speaking to clients and fostering those relationships, clients will ultimately leave because price is the only factor that matters if a relationship does NOT exist.
Consider this, your producers may be able to bring on more clients with improved digital services, but is your support staff able to service the increased load? Also factor in the 20-year trend that demands account managers handle larger and larger books of business in less time.
It’s time to evaluate every step of every agency processes and ask: “Is this necessary?” and “Does this add value for customers?” If the answers are ‘no,’ – stop.
When a procedure is required, but not value-added for the client, it is time to implement automation or outsourcing.
Once agency processes are streamlined, there should be more time for management to invest in strategies that improve the client experience. Conduct a client experience audit, look at your agency from the perspective of a potential customer and an existing client.
Ask yourself, “If I were a client, would I be having an exceptional client experience or merely acceptable?”
Technology, used wisely, can help agencies reach out in automated ways, create cost-effective touchpoints that accommodate client preferences, and streamline agency workflows that simplify processes. Functions like download, e-docs, and client portal systems are fantastic examples of maximizing technology to improve agency efficiency and client access. As processes are automated, we must be careful not to do away with the agent-client relationship.
With automatic renewal, direct bill, and download, it is no longer necessary for the agency to speak with the client at all, leading to impersonal service and potentially the dissolution of the agency-client relationship. Agencies who study their lost business quickly realize that they haven’t actually spoken to the customers who left in years.
Clients who pay on time, never incur claims and require low service are our ideal customers… and those are the ones we never talk to!
Expectations for employee performance must change. Spending time on duties that can be outsourced, automated, or eliminated is detrimental to the overall success of the agency and subsequently, their own success.
Implementing automated processes and outsourcing means you and your team will have more time. Spend it wisely and set the tone for staff in the agency. Become more engaged in your community; attend events. Emphasize participation in social media. Visit prospects and celebrate writing new business. And, most importantly, perform annual client reviews! Talk to your clients, make time to review their coverage and deepen your relationships, and protect you your agency from E&O Exposure.
The future of Independent Insurance agencies and your legacy isn’t dependent on what technological advance comes next, or what latest trend is employed, but on how you prioritize your time. Agency owners that focus agency resources on nutrturing client relationships, seeking out new clients to grow their business, and providing exceptional service are the ones who will create a legacy that will endure.