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It’s the perfect storm. Workloads continue to intensify taxing already time strapped independent agents. Small business owners are upping the ante, seeking more time, attention, and guidance from their agents. The end result: unhappy customers wishing for better service and frazzled agents looking for ways to keep up.
Customer service is usually seen as the hallmark of working with independent agents. But some small business owners have been left sorely disappointed. According to a recent JD Power survey, small businesses had to exert three times more effort to interact with agents than they did the previous year.
Small business insurance customers are changing. Consider how they buy insurance. In the past, customers may have been happy to review a single quote and sign up for a policy. Today’s customers want transparency. They want to see several options side by side and look to the agent to explain the pros and cons of each option. They are also more informed and aware of their risks. Customers realize that a standard business owners policy might not cover emerging risks—like flood or cyber—and they want to have in depth conversations with their agents to make sure everything is covered.
Customers are ultimately looking for agents to spend more time advising, educating, and making sure they have the best coverage. Unfortunately, many agents don’t have enough time to provide the more hands-on approach customers want. But agents can unlock more time using technology and making the right carrier partnerships.
Here are three ways agents can boost their level of service to small business customers:
Reduce the number of screens with connected technologies
Using technology can streamline processes and save agents time. In fact, this point is often discussed within the industry. It’s mostly true—a technology-enabled workflow is more efficient than a manual process. But for agents who are using multiple solutions, more technology may not sound like a good idea. The agent might be using an agency management solution, a customer relationship management solution, a quoting platform, and an online portal to communicate with customers. That agent has to jump around to four different screens to service one account. It can be very frustrating and can further complicate the customer experience.
The good news is that technology providers are understanding the need to limit screens. Many are looking at partnerships and integrations to provide a single screen experience for agents. When researching digital tools to implement at your agency, make sure to ask them about integrations. Do they have any current partners or are they exploring partnerships? Would they be willing to work with other solutions so agents can have a connected experience?
Prioritize carriers that make themselves part of the agent workflow
Great customer service can’t fall squarely on the agents’ shoulders. Small business owners want transparency about their coverage. They also want to make sure they are selecting the best carrier to meet their needs. This means that agents should be aware of carriers’ offerings and market appetites.
Partner with carriers that are making product education and finding out market appetite as easy as possible. For example, many insurers are partnering with technology solutions that were created to help streamline agents’ workflows. This enables the agent to compare coverage to other carriers or determine if they will cover a certain risk without having to go to each individual carrier portal. These technologies will pull up the best products based on the small business owner’s needs—even if the agent didn’t have it in mind.
Marketing, with a large dose of education, is the name of the game
Small business customers don’t look to agents just to buy policies. Agents are trusted advisors, keeping an eye out on their insurance needs and helping them learn more about their risks. In addition to marketing messages, create educational materials that can help inform such as FAQs about workers compensation or how to protect a business from cyberattacks. Also stay on top of current events. For example, if a particular oven was linked to fires, an agent that works with restaurants could use this as an opportunity to send an email to restaurants warning them about the situation and explaining the impact on insurance.
Agencies should also pay attention to how their customers react to the communications. Some might embrace more frequent communication, while others might be less engaged. Agencies might also see trends in different industries. One type of customer might want regular check-ins while another may be satisfied with quarterly reviews. It may be industry-dependent or the preferences may be based on the individual customer. Make sure to note each customer’s communication preferences and adjust your approach to match their needs.
Automated emailing solutions can send personalized communications to agents’ clients with a few simple clicks. Contact lists can be segmented to ensure that each client has the right communication cadence. The platforms also enable emails to be automatically generated after a specific interaction. For example, if a takeout restaurant asks about insurance for delivery drivers, an email can be automatically generated with commercial auto FAQs.
Small business customers are demanding more service from their agents. And agents need to find ways to give them the experience they want or risk losing business. With the right technologies and carrier partnerships, agencies can elevate their customer service game without adding to their workloads.