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More than 15 years ago, many companies forced consumers to perform certain tasks themselves. For example, about 15 years ago banks started charging customers for not excluding their own transfers, leading to some pretty angry customers. Today the world looks very, very different than it did 15 years ago. A company today that doesn’t offer some sort of self-service solution has absolutely suffered the consequences.

In order for me to accurately show a picture of this trend, I wanted to discuss a survey that was done globally with the collaboration of SSI. The interesting conclusion that came out of this study was that the majority of consumers favor self-service solutions today, including the safety net of their own personal contact if the consumer so chooses.

This trend is even more apparent in other countries such as Brazil and China, far more so than in the United States. As we can see, as service expectations continue to grow, self-service may be the only answer. Consumers expect companies to continue to improve on their level of service but the real question is can we the small independent insurance agencies throughout this country continue to keep up with expectations. The better question is do you feel we have kept up with the customers’ expectations?

photo 1The interesting facts to come out of this consumer study is what is important to a customer when they have an issue with the company and they want to be able to resolve that issue. Here are the results below: 88% wanted to solve the problem with one interaction 89% wanted to have a transparent overview of the next steps 90% wanted speed to play a big role which is no surprise 92% wanted the company to take their problem seriously 88% said friendliness played a large role during the process  We as independent agents need to realize it is not okay to respond to a client’s or prospect’s email within 24 hours- those days are long gone. A recent study I was reading said that 39% of the modern consumer expects a reply within four hours. That same study talked about the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and the modern consumer even has less patience coming off those sites which showed 55% of social media users wanted an answer in less than four hours. After hearing and reading about the statistics, I ask myself, “is my agency keeping up with what the modern consumer expects?” I challenge you as an agency owner to question whether your agency is keeping up with the expectations of today’s modern consumer.  We have to remember self-service may be the only long-term solution. We have to meet modern consumer’s expectations. Studies show that the younger generations love self-service and are expecting it. If they don’t get what they are looking for, they will move on and find an agency that will provide for them what they are looking for. When thinking about my agency’s customer relationship, I need to think about every step of the process of helping the modern consumer self-serve. When mapping out my agency’s self-service strategy, it’s very helpful to consider every single step in the customer relationship building process. Self-service relates to the pre-purchase phase as well as the purchase phase.

Let’s talk about presales: customers make their own inquiries regarding their purchase quite often. They say 70% of consumers have already made up their mind before contacting your agency, whereas 27% prefer to ask questions over the phone and 56% opt for self-service on their approach. So with that being said, is your agency prepared for the presales process of self-service? If not, what are your plans to keep up with the modern consumer? Moving on to the sales process…we all know the enormous growth of e-commerce. It shows that more and more people want to stay in control of their purchasing process. Today, people want to control that process and I’ve asked myself that very question to our clients and prospects who have the ability to be in control during the process of purchasing insurance from our agency.

The post sales process: it’s about 35% that prefer to ask questions over the phone during the post- sales process and about 48% choose the self-service option. We need to understand the statistics in order to understand the modern consumer, and if we ignore what the modern consumer wants, we will continue to lose ground against the direct writers. With all this data then, what should we do? I believe that the data helps us understand the key traits of who is calling or emailing or texting our agency looking to purchase insurance. The strengthening of the self-service economy through this use of the data is the key to success. Data can help improve the quality of the relationships that we would like to build with our customers. As long as it’s to their own advantage, consumers are generally open-minded when it comes to giving companies access to their data.  Some more statistics that really open our eyes that come out of the real self-service economy study:  A) Presales Process          33% are interested in personalized advertising          48% would like to receive a personalized offer          43% would like to receive bespoke promotions B) the sales process          62% want faster and more improved purchase possibilities through use of client data. it’s all about speed in today’s era C) the post sales process          81% are willing to grant access to data in order to help them caught waiting times. Speed speed and more speed          48% want companies to be able to track data through various channels so they do not have to repeat themselves  After reading all this I have to ask you are you still thinking that the self-service economy is the wrong avenue for your agency? I have processed a lot of this information for my own insurance agency and have said the self-service economy is absolutely a win-win situation and I must embrace it in order to continue to grow my agency.

Why do I personally feel that the self-service economy is a win-win? To me, it’s a philosophy that allows our consumers and prospects to get what they want and I also feel it’s a great opportunity to save the agency money if we implement the right technology to help our prospects and clients get the self-service they are expecting. You are probably thinking, “What possibly could be out there that is self-service in the insurance space for technology?”

There are two avenues I feel that will play a huge role in your agency moving forward. The first is mobile marketing. Yes I have implemented this into our self-service process for several major reasons, and the first of which is through a mobile app. It allows clients the ability to touch a button and pay their bill, as well as have the ability to report a claim easily and quickly, because the faster the claim gets reported, the better it is for our clients. The faster that claims are closed, the better the agency’s loss ratio is, and that’s a direct result of having the mobile app.

The second Avenue is having a self-service portal. Creating a portal that will allow your clients to have access to specific information is going to be a key component. I presently am looking for the right portal to implement so unfortunately I cannot give you the pros and cons of a self-service portal but I can tell you I personally feel it is the wave of the future and it is what the modern consumer wants and expects from us.

So after reading this article I’m hoping I planted some seeds in your head in order to get you not to just think about what the modern consumer wants but needs. I hope you take me up on the offer and reach out to me and I would be more than happy to share what we here at Paradiso Insurance are trying to do to help our clients get the modern consumer experience that they are expecting.