ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

AGENCY/CLIENT AGREEMENTS - DEFINING AND MEASURING UP TO EXPECTATIONS

How do you measure up to your clients expectations of your agency? Do they even HAVE any expectations of the agency?

While most clients are not sophisticated enough to do more than compare your service and attention to that of their prior insurance provider, why haven’t you given them a document explaining what they should expect of you as their insurance counselor? Providing a Client Bill of Rights provides the reasons that they have selected you instead of your competitors to protect their assets through insurance products.

When designing a Client Bill of Rights be careful of what you say and how you say it.

Would you rather under-promise and over-deliver or over-promise and under-deliver?

Vague and all-encompassing promises sound good on paper, but if you can’t live up to your promises, the client may be disappointed by a level of service that you consider adequate. Beware of telling clients those things which you would ‘like to do’ but can’t really deliver regularly.

Do you know what your client expects of the agency?

Does your client even know what to expect from your agency?

When you gain a new client without an agreement of what that client should expect from the agency you are setting yourself up for a fall. If you do something well above reasonable expectations, the client won’t thank you – they will convert your action into a new standard and expect similar results as the norm. If you’ve casually mentioned all of the services and products that you COULD provide clients, don’t be surprised if the client wonders when he will be offered all of those services and products.

So you would be well to design a document that should explain to the client what he should expect and what your agency will deliver as the value received from the commission you earn. And the source of that document is not within the walls of your agency. The source of that document is a simple conversation with the clients asking him what he would like and, if he has no idea, providing him standards that you KNOW your agency can live up to on a daily basis.

Here are examples of some of the standards that should be addressed as a new client comes to you;

1. Claims handling – Regardless of the workflow desired by our carriers, we all know that our clients count on us as their advocates and their agents in the event of a loss. If your standard is to refer all claims calls to the carrier, please don’t let your client believe that you will be with them every step of the way on a claim. You are setting yourself and the client up for disappointment. In that case, provide him the proper telephone numbers and acknowledge that your involvement doesn’t include claims handling unless there is a problem.

However, if you are one of those agents who support clients by managing claims, tell them what you will do (Example: 1) take the first report of loss, 2) transmit it to the carrier on the same day, 3) follow up to the carrier on behalf of the client within X days, 4) follow up both with carrier and clients every Y days until the claim is properly settled, and 5) be available for any questions the client may have during the claim)

2. Personal Contact – ASK THE CLIENT how often he wants to see you during the year and establish an agreement that you will contact the client the requisite number of times every year as well as be available – on call – for any questions he may have in the interim.

3. Rotating Analysis of Client Asset Protection Needs – APM (Asset Protection Model) agents already understand this part of the agreement – You tell the client in your initial agreement that you are their agent for ALL asset protection needs, not just for the line of insurance that he has recently purchased. (If the client agrees) you will make appointments with the client on an occasional basis to analyze every risk he has that may cause physical or financial harm to him or his assets and you will determine whether his existing coverage is sufficient of if he needs changes in his insurance program. You will NOT offer him products, just recommendations, unless he decides that you could provide better protection and service than his current insurance provider.

4. Specific agency services that are focused on the client’s insurance program (i.e. loss control, engineering, comp analysis, etc)

A Client Bill of Rights may have a template or format for your agency but please don’t use it without changing and tailoring the Bill of Rights to the needs of the specific client. The Client Bill of Rights is certainly used for larger, commercial accounts. But it may also be used for centers of influence and smaller or personal lines accounts (albeit with someone other than the owner as the point of contact). You may also insert different agency contacts for different functions (give the client names and contact info and, by all means, personally introduce the contacts so the client does not feel that he is speaking to an “assistant” instead of to the agent. Tell the client that the contacts being given to him are the most qualified in the agency to handle that function.