The million dollar question is this: does your independent agency have customers, or clients?
Wait a second before you answer that… This may be a question you have not thought about, so let’s dive into the differences between customers and clients. The local grocery store called Big Y has customers with the local market, just like its competitors such as Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and other large box retail stores. Well, do direct insurance writers have customers or clients? If you answered customers you are correct. With all this being said, does your agency have customers? I hope not, because the future of the independent agency avenue depends on each and every one of us independent agents.
We need to look at other independent agencies as friends, rather than competition. The future independent agency will not have customers within their agency, but instead, they will only have clients. The successful agency will become more client focused, and that doesn’t mean that we just call our clients from time to time. It means that we need to have a digital experience for our clients (I’m happy to share mine with you, just email me at email@example.com) along with a traditional (paper) experience, as well as a social media experience.
I firmly believe in this is because if you think about “The Lizard” in our industry, they get in front of our clients by the time they wake up in the morning. They then drive to work, and that same Lizard (who spends close to 2 billion dollars on advertising) is on the radio and on the billboards during their commute. Our client then shows up to work, and they turn on the computer, and once again The Lizard is there too. The only way we can keep our clients is to create the ultimate experience in all forms, because with social media today, we can have things set up as though we too are in front of them (our clients) all day.
Let’s not forget one major factor that we local independent insurance has that the The Lizard doesn’t have and that is we live in the community. Our community is very powerful and we should never forget that. So in 2016 we have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other social media arenas to stay in front of our clients, along with living within their own community. Our local presence is a key ingredient to our future success. If we are like banks who treat their customers as simply customers alone, do you think we’ll be able to survive? There’s no way… we need to go after, and in turn, do business with clients.
So what are clients? They are the people who are purchasing multiple policies from your insurance agency, and they are also the people who understand coverage first and price second. We all know we can get things cheaper if we just look long enough or if we cut coverage. The successful insurance agency of the future is focused on educating its clients, first and foremost. They are also the insurance agency who will not match apples to apples because the customer wants to. We are the professionals here, not the customer, so it’s important to educate our clients why we wouldn’t do that to them. Let’s just think about something, what if you walked into your doctor’s office and you self-diagnosed yourself, and then told the doctor you need surgery? Do you think the doctor would just do it? Well, what’s the difference between a doctor and an insurance professional? Nothing. We need to educate and explain to our clients what they need insurance wise, and give them the options and choices to decide what’s best.
So let me ask you again, does insurance your agency have customers, or does your insurance agency have clients? If the answer is that you have customers, then I hope you start change your sales process so you’re focused on gaining clients. If you have clients, great, you’re halfway there! My next question is this: in order to keep or retain your clients, do you have a digital client experience or a social media experience in place? If not I would suggest looking into developing a plan, because it’s exactly how you’re going to keep them as clients.
Your clients are looking for your insurance agency’s mobile app too, trust me. Have you looked around? How many people do you know that don’t have a smartphone? How many of those smartphone users don’t use apps? Well there is your answer on “WHY” your insurance agency needs an app, and it needs to be able to push notify (which means the app has the capabilities to allow you to communicate with those that have downloaded your agency app) it needs to have the ability to keep their insurance cards and allow your clients to pay their bills on their own time. Technology will continue to play a role in giving the client a great experience.
The future is not bleak for independent insurance agents; actually I think it is very bright for those who are working on their agency rather than in it. Insurance agencies need to embrace technology such as a CRM tool, along with an app and invest in their website in order to compete. If you’re investing in technology you should also be investing in your staff. Have you called Geico lately and done a quote with them? If not try it, because there is a lot to learn from them. They are very well trained and very persistent in driving the sale in the direction they want it to go. Geico has invested a lot of money in training and so should we. Wishing you and your insurance agency the best in building your agency of clients!