One of the first questions we have to answer as a business is… who is our customer?
The term “customers” can be a grey area in the insurance agency and IMO space. We could assume that our only customer is the end-user: the insured or annuity contract owner. But that’s not the case.
We have many “customers” and for the purposes of this blog post, I want agency owners to consider producers your number one customer.
They are the ones bringing in the business. The clients they serve become a part of our production totals due primarily to THEIR efforts.
So, what is the core reason customers, or top producers, stay with an agency or IMO?
Well, it’s not just ONE thing like product access or customer service. It’s something that permeates the entire organization, rather than one department or aspect of your value proposition.
Before I share what that one thing is, I want to talk about something we can often forget.
Producers are humans! They buy or do business based on emotions, initially. Yes, they will back it up with logic, but first and foremost, they will base a decision to work with you on how they FEEL.
The chart below identifies all the reasons customers leave a company. By far, the biggest reason is that they don’t believe you care about them.
So, how do you show a customer, or in our case, a producer, that you care about them?
You give them an exceptional customer experience.
Now, before you rush to say you have a fantastic customer service team, so you’ve got that covered…
I want to point out that customer service and customer experience are not the same. In the chart, you’ll see that service is an entirely separate reason a producer might stay or leave your agency.
These two terms are easily confused. But it’s important that we clear it up if we want to devote energy to customer experience in 2020.
This article by Help Scout explains:
The key difference between customer service and customer experience is that customer experience involves the whole customer journey, including customer service. Customer service is limited to the interactions a customer has while seeking advice or assistance with a product or service.
Customer experience involves all the ways your business interacts with a customer.
In this article from superoffice.com, they cite a Digital Marketing Trends report which indicates that the most exciting business opportunity for 2020 is customer experience (CX).
The article goes on to say that, “companies who successfully implement a customer experience strategy achieve higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn, and increased revenues.”
And a survey by Bloomberg Businessweek found that “delivering a great customer experience” has become a top strategic objective. In fact, it’s become so important that in a recent Customer Management IQ survey, 75% of customer experience management executives and leaders rated customer experience a ‘5’ on a scale of 1-5 (5 being of the highest importance).
In our world, one way to practically implement a great customer experience is by scheduling calls to update other agency or IMO partners on strategic initiatives, such as new markets, a new key employee or other partner, or changes to your value proposition.
Let those you work with in on the details of the business and you’ll draw them closer and improve their experience in working with you. Namely because people don’t like to be blindsided, they like to feel they are part of the organization.
With customer experience being possibly the most important driver of increased revenue in 2020, how will you develop a comprehensive customer experience strategy?
It starts with mapping out the journey a producer would take with your business.
What are those touchpoints?
We’ve outlined them here along with how to improve the experience at each of these steps. At Partners Advantage, we’ve found that focusing on the following key areas is helpful in not only running our marketing organization, but in helping our downline agencies elevate their business as well.
The insurance producer’s journey with their upline
Agency Marketing: Marketing could be the first exposure a prospective agent has of your organization. To gain visibility with producers and create opportunities for your agency, a customer-first approach to marketing works well.
Through content marketing, you create and distribute valuable and relevant content to your target markets. By creating content that helps our target market, we’ve been able to generate more than 12,000 agent leads to help us grow our own recruiting pipeline and this can help your agency or IMO as well.
When your marketing is strictly sales pitches, that does not create a positive customer experience for your producers and would-be producers.
You can help attract and retain a stronger set of producers using this customer-focused content marketing approach.
Customer Service (including Contracting/Onboarding): At Partners Advantage, we’ve dedicated a specialized team to help ensure the contracting and onboarding process for new producers happens as seamlessly as possible.
Prior to creating this team, we’d run into issues like processing in silos because items were being worked from a queue, but now we’ve assigned individuals in contracting and licensing to handle specific accounts with backup in case they are out of office. This helps ensure everything keeps moving along. We’ve heard from the field that they appreciate having one person to work with throughout the process and we’ve done our best to implement that and develop deeper relationships with the people we work alongside.
Marketer Training: More often than we’d like to think, once a producer is contracted with a marketing organization, they may never hear much from them again. That’s NOT the experience you want your producers to have. To ensure the customer experience continues to be positive, it’s important that your marketers are well trained and can provide accurate information and become a valuable resource for your downlines.
The benefits to this are twofold. Not only does the time you invest in professional development provide your marketers what they need to help your producers, it also adds value to your agency or marketing organization.
By improving their product knowledge, their goal setting and achieving abilities and their sales skills — they become more successful at increasing production and generating more revenue for your firm too.
Making professional development opportunities available in various formats — from live webinars, classroom style in-person meetings, study groups, conference calls, white papers and videos — it’s about how each group wants to consume the information. We believe that personalizing the services offered, contributes to an exceptional “customer’” experience.
Case Design: If you demonstrate expertise in case design, your producers will continue coming back to your team to seek help. Because they’re looking for accuracy and efficiency as they plan out their cases.
Making sure you have someone who is knowledgeable about annuities, LTC, life insurance and advanced markets can make for an extremely valuable resource to your producers.
Your staff should have knowledge and enthusiasm for helping your producers because they are the ones that will help deliver the customer experience that you’re striving for.
If someone drops the ball, it can ruin the entire customer experience. Because as you might be aware, it takes seven positives to outweigh just one negative interaction.
Technology: An increasingly important aspect of the customer’s experience with your agency or IMO is the technology you use. Does it make things easier and more convenient to do business with you? Because that should be the goal; adding bells and whistles may not always be the answer.
Types of technologies that improve the producer experience —
· Uncluttered and easy-to-navigate website
· Ability to share screens in video meetings
· OnDemand webinars
These are just a few of the ways that we can leverage technology to make doing business easier and more convenient because many of us are looking for that. Producers are busy, they have many tasks on their plates and lives outside of their insurance and financial services businesses, just as you and I do. We want to honor and respect their time while also accomplishing mutual objectives.
Commission Payment: Once a producer has a contract or policy issued, one of the last touchpoints for each case they write will be commission payment. How can you make this experience better?
Well, since this is one of the more important steps in the process, in our business, we’ve devoted the most talent and resources to it. This has allowed us to pay weekly commissions and provide detailed statements including policy level information.
A weekly commission payout also allows producers to maintain steady cash flow in their business. This is critical because if we can help their business run more smoothly, they will see the value in continuing to work with us. That’s ultimately what producers, agencies, clients, and IMOs want — results. If you can deliver stellar results and help those you work with achieve the same, you will have accomplished a customer experience worth paying for.
To wrap up
We’ve covered the different points along a producer’s journey where they’ll interact with you. The experience they have at each point, will determine whether they stay with your agency or IMO.
Identifying areas where you can improve so that the entire customer journey delights your downlines is great. However, one of the most important steps you can take prior to implementing changes to your current processes and business units, is to find out what your producers want.
There are multiple ways you can gather this intel – flat out asking, conducting a survey, monitoring calls for quality, or speaking directly to your customer service area or salespeople. Once you know what the wants, needs, and expectations are — you can better position yourself as the solution to your ideal customer’s problems.
Fair warning: Those who choose to take a disjointed approach to their business only working on one area (or none of them), will likely be left behind for another agency or IMO.
To make sure every area of your business is running on all cylinders, providing an experience that producers can’t get anywhere else and making you the clear choice --
Check out the resources we have available in three main areas, including growing profitability: