Develop Online Renewal Questionnaires for Homeowners Insureds

April 21, 2008

During the latter decades of the 20th Century, small insurance offices frequently telephoned their homeowners insureds to say hello and to ask about changes in their lives and property. Today’s larger agencies don’t have the time or staff to make thousands of phone calls. And many are unwilling to invest the time that’s required to output and mail printed renewal questionnaires. As a contemporary alternative, this column suggests using a small section of your agency’s Web site to initiate reviews with homeowners insureds.

Automatic Pilot

Many offices permit their rank and file homeowners policies to renew with only a simple adjustment for inflation. With direct bill and this automatic increase, agents can stay in business without doing anything additional for their homeowning clients, except to answer the phone when they call. Some send out form letters, reminding insureds to carefully check their renewal for mistakes and to contact the office if they desire any changes. But this minimalist approach is not always in the best interests of the client, carrier or agency. Insureds may not be aware that certain changes may require coverage modifications. Plus, if agents renew homeowners policies on automatic pilot, they’ll miss out on myriad upsell, cross-sell and loyalty-building opportunities, in addition to risking errors and omissions problems.

The Middle Ground

Take advantage of the Web and you no longer have to choose between making endless phone calls and running on automatic. It allows you to establish a balance between full service and self-service. All you need is a Web questionnaire that poses the same basic questions as a printed questionnaire or telephone interview. Essentially, you’ll be outsourcing this annual event to every client with online access. Today’s insureds are used to filling out Web forms. In fact, some of them may have originally come to you by completing an Internet-based quote form. Furthermore, more and more doctors now conduct online medical calls as a viable alternative to certain office visits. So comparatively, it’s not exactly a radical step to offer online insurance reviews. And people are becoming increasingly comfortable with providing basic personal information over the Internet, as long as acceptable security is in place. Besides, you won’t exactly be collecting personal medical histories or credit card numbers.

Collect E-mail Addresses

Prepare for the online review process by gathering the e-mail addresses of your clientele. If you haven’t yet actively sought them out from everyone, use this concept as motivation. Require producers and CSRs to collect addresses from every insured they are in contact with. Also send postcards to policyholders asking them for their e-mail address. It might read something like this:

Front of the card [in whimsical oversized text]: We are sending you this postcard because we don’t know your address!

Back of the card: Help! We need your e-mail address for our records and to inform you of important information and ideas regarding your insurance account. Please notify us of your e-mail address immediately by visiting [URL of address collection form]. Your e-address will be kept confidential. Thank you!

Online Renewal Questionnaire

Build a secure Web form that incorporates crucial questions that deal with such renewal basics as improvements, upgrades, valuable items, business and outside activities, discount eligibility, security information, etc. Also include a section where insureds can optionally request information on additional endorsements and policies, including flood, earthquake and life. Set up the form so that when it’s completed, it ends up in the inbox of a central departmental recipient. That person makes sure that each completed survey is archived and a copy is forwarded to the insured’s CSR for follow-up. Or, set up your site to have this distribution performed automatically.

Regardless, this entire concept cannot work if insureds fail to participate in the process. So get them involved by e-mailing each homeowner a link to the online form 90 days before their X-date. Send several follow-ups to non-participants encouraging them to act. Finally, the CSR contacts the completer to discuss any needed changes or coverages.

The Fture

Online renewal questionnaires won’t instantly replace the need for paper-based mail back forms, but they are the future. Test out the approach with some of your younger homeowners clients to establish a procedure that works well in your office. Then when everyone is prepared, introduce the idea to every homeowner insured with a permission-granted e-mail address. Consider developing auto and other policy review forms as well. These self-created online tools are a cost-effective way to reevaluate a client’s needs and to explore their upsell and cross-sell opportunities. They are also a strong new business sales point that you can tout to differentiate your agency’s client service from competing offices that simply fly on automatic pilot.

Topics Homeowners

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Insurance Journal West April 21, 2008
April 21, 2008
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