ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

The "Seven Habits" Applied to Insurance Agencies

As most agents know by now, Agency Consulting Group, Inc. is in the fore-front of the conversion of insurance agencies from price-driven to relationship-driven. We have our Asset Protection Program that teaches agencies and producers how to build relationships based on the protection of ALL client assets, not just on the sale of insurance products. We have relationships with providers of value-added services and products that can truly differentiate your agency from all of your competitors who still sell price and quote for a living. But relationships are not just built while trying to convert prospects into clients. If they don’t continue and strengthen after the prospect becomes a client, that relationship is “thin” and will tear and disappear as soon as the first challenge arises for that client in the insurance program.

The “depth” of a relationship must be built after the assumption of the client’s insurance program by your agency. And one way of enhancing the relationship after the prospect has been converted to a client is to implement the ‘Keep-In-Touch’ Program.

Every client has a different definition of their own need of you as their insurance counselor. Needy clients may want you involved in business or personal decisions that may affect their insurance or asset risk factors. Meetings with these clients will be frequent and programmed. Other clients still think of you as “an insurance salesperson” even though you have stressed their total asset protection as your reason for being at their service. They may only want to see you when THEY perceive a problem or issue. However, neither of these types of characters really knows what they need yet. They have lived their lives with insurance agents who have acted like car salespeople, just interested in the close. Now that you have introduced them to a new way of approaching insurance (as a part of the Total Cost of Risk), they were beguiled enough to use your services. Don’t assume that they have become educated overnight and can now determine how best to use you as their insurance advisor.

Your first step once converting a customer is to go over your agency’s Customer Bill of Rights, defining what every client of your agency should expect from you and your staff. This should address regular meetings or communications covering both current insurance products and continued risk assessment (part of the Asset Protection Program). The frequency of those meeting or communications is the flexible part of the Bill of Rights that must be determined between the key contact from the agency and with client.

The Customer Bill of Rights (CBOR) defines the on-going relationship between agency and client much like the agency’s Strategic and Tactical Plan defines the daily, weekly, monthly and annual work effort and progress for your agency. This is a key education device for the customer since most will never before have understood what their insurance advisor SHOULD BE doing for them. They will use the CBOR as a measuring device for your future actions and for those of any other agent who seeks to replace you in the future.

If you tell every customer that (s)he can expect you to review every phase of risk to any personal or business asset on an annual or bi-annual basis with review of current risk management devices (insurance or other) and definition of Total Cost of Risk (what does the client risk including insurance costs and beyond if something should happen to that asset) and presentation of alternatives that the client may choose to accept or not, how will another agent stack up when he calls the insured and offers to quote him a lower cost on his business insurance. Frankly, if you actually do what you say in the CBOR, the client will probably not even accept the agent’s visit!

But the CBOR is not only an educational tool for the client (what should (s)he expect from your relationship) – it is also your guideline to activities that you must provide to assure that you are maintaining a proper relationship. If you say you’re going to analyze another portion of the client’s asset risks every quarter – you must follow through and do exactly that. Yes, this is difficult. But the difference between pure price-driven producers and relationship managers is that follow-through with after-the-conversion relationship-building activities. Not only will you do the right job for your clients, but you will also find yourself providing ever-growing numbers of products and services (that pay you commissions or fees) in response to genuine needs that the clients have to protect their assets.

The practicality of agency life is that a Producer, whose charge is the creation of new relationships can not also be the only conduit for relationship maintenance with clients who have been given the CBOR and know full well what the agency proposes to do for them to keep the client/agency relationship strong. It is time for Account Executives to actually do what their name implies. It is time for Account Managers to become full service Account Executives. It is time for Customer Service Representatives to be trained into account management activities that permit them to help manage customer relationships for the agency. If you expect the producer to control all aspects of Asset Protection or agency relationships with the clients, then you will use up all of the producers’ time managing the budding and current relationships that they establish. They will have ever less time available to do what we have hired them to do, build NEW RELATIONSHIPS.

The Keep-In-Touch Program uses the CBOR as the managing guideline for activities for each customer. The template is the same. But the frequency of contact and the services and products provided on a regular basis is tailored to each customer separately. The team will consist of the producer and account manager (at a minimum), but can grow into multiple contacts with the agency for different aspects of risk management and assessment.

The agency may even schedule outside entities to assist the client in disciplines for which it has insufficient internal talent to properly provide those services. The key is the need of the client, not the existing facilities of the agency. When I have had agencies balk at the use of outside entities to help provide the right level of risk management for a client, I have asked why the agency wants to provide Asset Protection Services for which it is not qualified. I would rather refer a client elsewhere than to provide substandard service because I am not expert in the service he needs and not willing to sponsor those services with other, outside professionals.

The Keep-In-Touch Program is, in effect, a monitored schedule of events for each client. It is managed by the owners and managers of the agency to assure that each Program is properly implemented by the Relationship Team. Where the K-I-T Program is designed and implemented, controllable retention is well over 95%, and reaches 100% in many agencies. Consider implementing a K-I-T Program for your agency. Call us 800-779-2430 if you wish more information or assistance.