We often think that there’s a huge difference between bad and good customer service; that a business goal is to provide good service and avoid bad service. Whereas this premise is largely true, insurance brokers must strive to deliver great service that outshines the fairly good service from the competition.
Across all industries, client expectations have soared to the extent that ‘acceptable’ service is no longer enough. Here are a number of tips that will help you provide great service and improve your customers’ experiences.
1. First Impressions
This is an old principle of human interaction, but there are still a considerable number of insurance brokers who will take a casual approach to first meetings. The rationale is that they can step up the quality of service later on if the customer isn’t satisfied with ‘average’. This rarely works.
Clients will remember your first meetings and this will set the tone for the relationship. If they were impressed, they’ll keep coming for more. If they weren’t, they’ll likely decline to purchase the policy. Many prospects and clients won’t even voice their displeasure, but will quietly move to the competition, which makes good impressions all the more important.
2. Develop Rapport
Is rapport spontaneous or nurtured? Many of us will probably go with the former, but rapport is, in fact, something that is often developed over time. You can create rapport by showing clients that you care about them and by taking appropriate actions.
It comes down to the simple stuff. Maintaining eye contact, smiling at them, using their name regularly during a conversation and demonstrating an interest in their disappointments and triumphs. You don’t want to try too hard though and there are instances when rapport will remain an elusive goal no matter how much effort you put in.
Also, you have to maintain a healthy balance between your enthusiasm for connecting with them and respect for their personal space. Some clients actually prefer a formal no-frills relationship and keeping interaction at the bare minimum.
3. Be Proactive
Some clients are expressive and will not hesitate to speak out or call when they are discontented with the quality of service. The customers that should keep you awake at night are those who won’t be keen on providing feedback but simply move their business elsewhere. Staying proactive means catching any negative sentiment before it spirals out of control.
Create a list of all your clients, then develop a calling schedule. Let customers know you haven’t forgotten them and are keen on continuously delivering a high-quality experience. Prioritize calls based on not just who you haven’t talked to for the longest time, but also who gives you the most revenue. After all, a broker’s income is directly proportional to the sales they make and the clients that remain (See How much do insurance brokers make?).
4. Keep Time
This one may seem so basic that it isn’t even worth mentioning. Yet, punctuality isn’t taken as seriously as it ought to be. Showing up late for a client appointment is a sign of a lack of discipline, poor planning and disrespect. Irrespective of where you are coming from, there’s no excuse for lateness.
If you’ll be going to a place you’ve never been before or taking a new route, do some research a couple of days before. You could even ask the client for tips. Many will be more than happy to advise you on the roads and what alternatives you have. Depending on how far away the meeting place is, plan to be there at least 30 minutes early.
Sometimes, a physical meeting may be unnecessary. A phone call just might suffice. Explore virtual meeting options where a physical meeting is hard to realize.
5. Take Responsibility
Blaming everyone else,\ but yourself, whenever something goes wrong, is a convenient cop-out, but could decimate your reputation among prospects and clients. Deflecting responsibility gives customers the impression that they’re probably dealing with someone who’s either incompetent, ignorant or too junior to resolve their problems.
Take charge of the entire customer service experience even when the issue doesn’t fall within your domain of responsibilities. If your client calls complaining about unsatisfactory service, they shouldn’t have to call anyone else. Commit to pursuing the matter to its logical conclusion while providing regular updates along the way.
You know what they say: always under-promise, but over-deliver. There’s no shortage of insurance brokers who’ll promise clients the world. Only a small section will deliver a memorable experience. Commit to doing what you know you can easily accomplish within a given timeframe, then go out of your way to deliver much more.
If you tell the customer they’ll get a response within 24 hours, work towards doing that in just two hours. That being said, continually perfect your craft by assessing your strengths and limits. If you realize you can complete a given task within a maximum of eight hours, there’s no need to give a target of 24 hours.
7. Outline a Clear Sequence of Steps
Whether you are taking a customer through underwriting, a claim or policy issuance, develop a clear, logical and well-thought-out plan. Usually, operational policy and procedure documents should set out the process. You may, however, need to make some changes depending on each client’s specific circumstance.
End every client meeting with a conversation on the next steps and an agreement on expectations. Customers are rational and will usually not expect their problems to be resolved instantly. They do, however, want to know what actions will be taken and how soon they can expect a status update or final resolution.
Many brokers see customer service and sales as two distinct aspects of managing clients and running a business. In reality, effective customer service must be built into your overarching sales strategy. Great customer service actually drives sales. If you do a great job, your clients will be your most vocal ambassadors and will not hesitate to recommend your services to their friends and family.