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I recently went on a company trip that our agency had qualified for, a European cruise. From the second I walked on that boat, the staff of 450 addressed me as Mr. Paradiso. During our 8 day stay on the boat there were several things that surprised me about their customer service.

First, they smiled and addressed me every single time that they walked by.

Second, they always asked me about my day, and they did it in a way that showed that they really cared!

Third, they regularly asked if there was anything that they could do to make my day better.

As I added all of these things together, it made me ask the question, “Do they really want and value me as a client?” The answer was most definitely “yes.”  They wanted to make sure that they were the only cruise company that I would consider traveling with.  And because of these three things, they succeeded!

I then compared them with the known “gold standard” of the Ritz Carlton.  This made me ask myself “Is my agency providing the same customer service that I received on this trip?” I knew this company wanted my business and valued me as a client.  They said it repeatedly and, more importantly, they showed it to me every time that they saw me.

As I contemplated this blog post I thought about the insurance industry, an industry that is also heavily focused on customer service. Do my clients see me, through the quality of my work and responsiveness to their needs, as the “gold standard” in my industry? How do I evaluate myself and my team on this?

To answer the question I asked myself 4 questions:

  1. Responsiveness – How quickly do I get back to clients and prospects when they call or send an email? Do we set the expectation of when and how we will get back to them? I have a friend who told her clients she would always return a message within two business days.  I often think about that and ask myself if I would be happy with that time frame. I don’t have that standard.  I make it a practice of returning all calls and emails within the business day they are delivered but no longer than 24 hours. Clients in the past have told me they are surprised by the quickness of my response and are not accustomed to someone getting back to them so quickly;
  2. Service – When we are prospecting a new client, I tell them that our service differentiates us and I tell them all about the Paradiso Promise. I am therefore constantly challenged, with each of our clients and/or prospects, to ensure that we deliver on the Paradiso Promises we make. We continually look at our service model to ensure the right people are in the right positions and that they are providing the service we expect to get when we do business with someone. It’s not enough to say that we are good at servicing our clients, we have to prove it.
  3. Do We Educate? – I believe strongly one of the most important aspects of servicing our clients and our prospects is to continually be the best. This “sharpening of the saw” can only happen by being on the cutting edge. Am I staying up on the most current technology trends and ideas in my industry, such as our agency’s App? Am I maximizing training for myself to become a better leader for my agency?  Am I spending the time, energy and money in bettering my teammates? Is this knowledge bringing value to the agency and to our clients?  They are our shareholders and they are the ones who pay us.
  4. Quality – What am I doing to provide quality? Am I the best in the business at what I do? If not, how can I improve? Who is the “gold standard” in the insurance industry and how do I compare? I personally say the “gold standard” is set by Claudia McClain. If you look at her approach to her community you will see how she backs up what she believes in.  How can I be the “gold standard” and ensure that my clients see me as such?

As you look at each of these areas, how do you and your agency stack up? Are you the “gold standard” to your clients and if not why? Are you a leader in your agency and your community? If not, what is your action plan to be so?

If you aren’t the “gold standard” I would highly encourage you to start on your action plan today, don’t wait any longer. This action plan can begin with a customer engagement survey “How do my clients feel about my service?” I would then follow this up with a deep dive into the customer responses.  Do I have a CRM tool (email marketing system) that allows me to push out lots of emails and also tell me important data about my client? If I do have a system such as this, am I using the data in a meaningful way? Am I touching base with them more than just once a year? Independent agents need to touch clients at least 8 times a year or else the one touch they are getting is a bill that’s being branded with the insurance carrier. Your future income depends of your actions.

If you don’t take the time to ask these questions and make these touches I can pretty much guarantee that Geico and Progressive are. Don’t lose the business to The Lizard and Flo.