In my last column, we discussed agents’ critical task of delivering the best possible customer experience to differentiate themselves from competitors. To do that, agents need to closely examine every task they perform for policyholders and prospects and find ways to do them faster.
At the recent annual conference of the Insurance Marketing & Communications Association, I and other speakers agreed that marketing staff must take the lead in customer experience efforts, both at companies and in agencies. Agencies must elevate the marketing communications function and give those tasked with the responsibility enough time and budget to be effective.
John Bell, vice president of Enterprise Digital Marketing for Travelers, introduced the concept of expanded relevance.
“Customers buy confidence but then we sell them a loss-recovery contract,” Bell said. “To stay relevant, we need to offer services that wrap-around and support the coverage itself. We also live in the age of the connected consumer. That means we must make it as easy and personalized as possible for customers to learn from us and interact with us.”
Following up, Bell cited two startling statistics. Some 57% of customers stopped buying from a business because a competitor provided a better customer experience. Another 80% are more likely to do business if offered a personalized experience.
Bell said the company provides content for their agents that goes beyond basic coverage issues, such as buying and selling a home, moving and renting, and the rise of the connected home and opioid abuse. The content takes many forms, including videos and written materials that offer practical advice and resources that add value.
“Agents and insurers can’t be talking to customers just about coverage issues,” he added. “And it’s also critical that we use every available communication channel so customers can find this content wherever they are.”
Mike Stahl, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of HealthMarkets, one of the largest independent health insurance agencies in the United States, reiterated the need for agencies to reach out to consumers through many different communications channels, to pay closer attention to analytics and to use the advantages of scale as much possible.
“In today’s market, there is strength in numbers, so being a part of a network or aggregator is an increasingly important tool.” he said.
Stahl added that agents need to be scalable to maintain and grow market share. Agents must be careful with limited resources and can struggle when they don’t anticipate what they need for the future and what opportunities they can grab if they take too much of a here-and-now approach.
It bears repeating that the speed with which an agent can resolve an issue with a policyholder or prospect is more important than efficiency, professionalism and knowledge. This means that delivering the best possible customer experience must start with fast response times and convenience. Agents cannot live in a vacuum and compare themselves only to peers. Insurance consumers certainly do.
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