What do customers want from independent insurance agents?
That simple question was the starting point for the work of the Agents Council for Technology’s (ACT) Customer Experience work group. The group originally developed the phases of the insurance customer journey—discover, evaluate, buy, experience, renew/leave and advocate—in 2014.
But in light of rapid changes in technology and consumer behavior, the group recently updated the strategies to help agents leverage technology and motivate staff to provide the service today’s insurance consumers want.
By creating a process with touchpoints throughout the insurance policy lifecycle, your team will build relationships—and your clients will become champions of your agency who help you grow your business.
Use the customer journey as a roadmap to identify recommendations that would improve multiple areas of the customer lifecycle, and therefore optimize your agency’s investment.
Phase 1: Discover
Maintain a presence where your clients and prospects search for insurance.
Customer: Performs online search for local agent or agent specialization based on line of business.
Agency: Focuses on improved SEO, local search, review best practices, keywords and blog content to rank higher in search engine results.
Customer: Views agent on TrustedChoice.com, carrier website or other “find an agent” functionality.
Agency: Completes all carrier and TrustedChoice.com profiles, adding photos, logos and branding to sell the value of why people should do business with you.
Customer: Looks for agency recommendation or sees reference to agency in social media posts from friends, relatives or co-workers.
Agency: Implements drip campaigns—daily or weekly pre-planned content—on social media channels that resonate with agency’s target markets, such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.
Customer: Views agency website via smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
Agency: Optimizes agency website with adaptive design for compatibility with any device, or risks losing 66% of viewers.
Customer: Accesses agency website to learn more about agency, including checking customer reviews, areas of expertise and carriers represented.
Agency: Develops an easy-to-use, actionable agency website that helps the prospect take the next step. Website features:
- Access to insurance information, including links to carriers you represent.
- Links to social media spaces and trade associations.
- Ability to submit an inquiry, with a process in place to quickly respond.
- Agency reviews and testimonials.
- Chat and real-time quoting capabilities.
Phase 2: Evaluate
Create a digital presence reflective of your agency’s brand and services.
Customer: Looks for agency website to provide depth of information.
Agency: Outfits website with information on:
- Insurance products.
- Agency availability, such as hours of operation and location.
- Agency employee profiles and multiple contact options, including email, phone, chat, social media and more.
- Evidence of a customer self-service component.
Customer: Looks for rate and coverage comparisons online before taking a step toward a purchase.
Agency: Provides real-time rates on website to reduce additional shopping on aggregator or carrier websites.
Customer: Consults agency websites to find client reviews, views consumer rating websites such as Angie’s List, BBB, Google+, Facebook, Yelp and more, and checks to see if agency or carriers have complaints listed on the insurance commissioner’s website.
Agency: Solicits reviews via agency website and in social media, then monitors and replies to reviews.
Phase 3: Buy
Invest in technology and processes that make purchasing easy.
Customer: Seeks online chat for quick help with questions and assistance using the website.
Agency: Enables staff to support online chat functionality.
Customer: Purchases from agent online, by email or by phone, and wants to complete forms such as an application electronically and sign via e-signature.
Agency: Accepts and implements common e-signature protocols, making sure e-signature functionality is compatible with mobile devices.
Customer: Expects easy-to-use monthly electronic funds transfer or recurring credit card payments, both of which improve customer satisfaction and retention.
Agency: Works with carriers that are willing to offer electronic funds transfer and recurring credit card payment options at no or very low cost to clients, and advertises this option to clients.
Customer: Based on direct writer capabilities, expects a quick and easy application process and wants to limit the amount of information they must give the agent.
Agency: Uses all publicly available driver, vehicle and property information via online databases and assessor websites to save time during the quoting and application process, enlisting help from company partners and industry vendors to access and use as many data sources as possible.
Customer: Completes the application online, possibly using co-browsing functionality with agent to clearly choose coverage and billing options.
Agency: Investigates co-browsing options and gives sales and service staff the opportunity to become comfortable and proficient with this technology.
Phase 4: Experience
Build a relationship with your client throughout the year.
Customer: Seeks mobile and other options for managing account, including inquiries regarding payments, ID cards, household inventory, claims reporting and updates.
Agency: Investigates industry options for web-based and mobile apps to give clients the ability to self-service, such as sending text alerts with claims status updates.
Customer: Accesses the agency website for educational content related to their insurance exposures.
Agency: Ensures agency site contains easy-to-find, educational content geared toward target client, and delivers it the way customers want to consume it, such as via blog posts, video or podcast. Content is easily sharable to expand brand awareness.
Customer: Wants value-added services from agency.
Agency: Nurtures client relationship by offering value-added services such as shredding events, defensive driving classes and more, and advises customer of services via agency newsletters, blog posts, website content, social spaces, texting and more.
Customer: Expects access to policy forms with 24/7 availability.
Agency: Provides website portal to generate certificates and to access and download insurance documents.
Customer: Wants to connect based on their communication preferences.
Agency: Uses text-based messaging and tracking through management systems and ensures the customer is aware that coverage cannot be bound or altered via text messaging.
Customer: Expects agency to proactively look out for their needs and life changes.
Agency: Creates and implements a client nurturing plan or similar process, consistently delivering topic updates such as storm safety advice and recognizing life events, such as issuing a congratulations card to a newly licensed teen driver.
Phase 5: Renew or Leave
Assess client needs and modify services accordingly.
Customer: Shops around online to see if others offer better rates.
Agency: Uses management system notification/diary or suspense functionality to contact client well before renewal with a proposal inclusive of comparable quotes and rate increase explanations. Takes advantage of this interaction as an opportunity to update the customer’s profile.
Customer: Wants proactive renewal increase explanation.
Agency: Using features within agency management system, implements procedure for reviewing renewals prior to renewal timeframe and reaching out to those with increases or approaching life changes that impact rate or coverage needs.
Customer: Experiences claim and needs guidance on submitting claim to carrier.
Agency: Provides advice on claims—what to submit vs. what not to submit, and what to expect in the claims process—and is available promptly, including after-hours options. Follows up with client on claims status with either a phone call or an email, and acts on client’s behalf to resolve any problems. If client’s claim is denied, agent works with client to better understand denial and identify next steps.
Agencies should consider implementing a claims communication plan, which might include personal acknowledgement of each claim via phone, email or notecard, as well as after‐claim service report cards to solicit feedback on the claims experience.
Phase 6: Advocate
Ask for online reviews and referrals to drive future sales.
Customer: Agrees to write online review that is easily linked and shared.
Agency: Requests that satisfied clients post positive reviews on agency and social sites, then tracks and posts reviews on the agency website. Agency has an approval process in place to review and approve testimonials before they are posted online, and thanks customers individually for writing a review via a phone call or brief thank-you note with a small gift card.
Customer: Agrees to provide a video testimonial.
Agency: Uses simple video equipment, such as higher-end smartphone functionality, and posts to social and website pages, highlighting the agency value in the client’s own words.
Customer: Authorizes blog post.
Agency: Crafts honest blog entry, expanding on satisfied client’s commentary and including client’s background and picture if possible.
If your agency connects the touchpoints in the customer experience with technology and consistent processes, you’ll be ready to serve customers as their needs change.
Ron Berg is executive director of the Agents Council for Technology.