For independent insurance agencies, upholding professional standards is a fundamental business practice. The individuals and organizations that work with you choose you based on reputation as well as cost, so image is vital.
Why, then, is the industry failing to reflect this in its call handling practices? A survey of 2,234 American consumers by audio branding specialist PHMG discovered that 59% of respondents aren’t satisfied with the telephone experience insurance businesses provide to callers. The same number of people said they wouldn’t repeat business with an organization if their phone call wasn’t handled to expectations.
Insurance organizations still rely on the phone to conduct business and get leads—which means bad call handling can be the difference between attracting new business and driving the customer away permanently.
Most employees understand the importance of visual branding, but making them understand the value of a good phone presence is just as imperative. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all calls can be answered immediately. If all employees are busy, a customer may have to wait or be transferred to another department.
According to PHMG, insurance companies in North America are keeping customers on hold for an average of 27.53 seconds per call before they reach their intended destination. While this may not seem like a long time, think of it in relation to a TV commercial: The average ad lasts around 30 seconds, which is enough time for viewers to make a buying decision. Similarly, waiting on hold for more than 27 seconds is long enough for a caller to lose interest and hang up.
Of the businesses PHMG surveyed, 27% subject callers to beeps and 24% use generic music. Either way, customers are waiting in silence. But this time doesn’t have to be a total inconvenience. One effective way to evade caller boredom is on-hold marketing: customized, brand-congruent voice and music messages played over the phone.
On-hold marketing extends far beyond a simple request to keep holding by transforming an otherwise meaningless space into a highly targeted method of communication. It operates in a similar fashion to visual branding, complementing your agency’s values to strengthen your brand image in an unobtrusive manner.
The tactic tends to boost customer satisfaction levels as well, decreasing perceived waiting time and leading to a 79% reduction in caller hang-ups. A study by PHMG reports that 65% of American consumers feel more valued if they hear a customized voice and music solution when they’re on hold.
The messages can also help you cross-sell products and services. For example, if your agency offers a wide range of coverages, take advantage of on-hold messaging to notify them of a type of policy they were going to purchase elsewhere—or one they didn’t even know they needed. Or, use these messages to endorse your agency’s website, perhaps notifying callers of its virtual quote system or directing them online to learn more about the products and services you offer. This not only helps to boost traffic, but helps to free up employees for other calls.
An insurance business needs to establish itself as trustworthy in order to build its client base. By promoting your agency’s accreditations, or perhaps informing the listener of an independent agent’s value proposition, on-hold marketing helps reassure customers they are receiving the best possible service and are in safe hands.
Mark Williamson is CEO of PHMG, a global audio branding specialist.