What Independent Insurance Agents Can Learn From Etsy

As the insurance marketplace continues to evolve and consumer choice grows, customer experience is becoming a leading factor defining brand equity and building customer loyalty.

Defined by how customers perceive their interactions with our organization throughout the customer lifecycle, from brand awareness to purchasing products and services to fulfilling ongoing needs, today’s customer experience plays out largely online. While consumers still visit traditional storefronts, their first point of education, research and often purchase has shifted toward digital channels, whether online or via mobile devices.

The blurring of physical and digital worlds requires today’s leading agencies to evolve their customer service model and take their storefront digital, delivering a seamless experience both in person and online. One company has perfected the art of the digital storefront: Etsy. A marketplace where people connect around the world, both online and offline, to make, sell and buy unique goods, Etsy is a self-proclaimed “people-powered economy” that enables creative entrepreneurs around the world to expand their distribution channels beyond stores and farmers markets to meet today’s consumer demand for online shopping—while maintaining a personal touch.

What can independent agencies and brokerages learn from Etsy about business and customer service models?

Make sure your store sign always reads “Open.”

Whether researching gift ideas or furnishing your home, Etsy thrives on providing a place for information exchange and commerce 24/7. Consumers can engage with shop owners through multiple channels, including online chats, social media and direct email. Across all touch points, customers experience an ongoing, personalized dialogue from start to finish that happens on their own time—regardless of traditional store hours.

Agency how-to: Agencies need to leverage advanced digital tools to build out customized websites that provide information on products and services for clients and prospects anytime, anywhere. Websites should include online self-service portals, where clients can access policy information and file claims at any hour of the day. Agencies also should tap into the power of social media to extend communication channels and join customer conversation. 

Listen, learn, customize.

Etsy excels at collecting customer data to deliver a customized customer experience. Based on customer purchase and search behavior, Etsy learns preferences and areas of interest to provide new, relevant and related content each time customers visit the online store. Etsy also taps into site-wide trending items, creating a sense of global community among its merchants and customers.

Agency how-to: Agencies should tap into the goldmine of exponential industry data to better understand their customers now and in the future so they can provide superior, personalized service. By tracking customer and prospect engagement online, agencies can follow up with targeted information based on customers’ research and inquiries. With current clients, agencies should review books of business for information about trends in client policy and renewal history to deliver customized products and services in the future and improve client satisfaction and retention.

Never forget the power of personal touch.

Etsy’s mission is to build a human, authentic and community-centric global and local marketplace. In doing so, its values embody personal representation of its merchants and dialogue with customers. When creating a shop through Etsy, merchants have the opportunity to include a custom introduction to their business and encourage open engagement and honest commentary. Post-purchase, merchants maintain a personal dialogue via direct email, ensuring customers are satisfied with the product, its distribution and the service as a whole. This level of personal service and seamless experience drives brand loyalty.

Agency how-to:
Independent agents are unequivocally recognized as trusted advisors—don’t understate this level of personalized advice. Recent research indicates consumers continue to value agent insurance advice over any other source. Considering communication is the No. 1 factor driving customer satisfaction, agents should continue promoting in-person engagement and personalized communication throughout the course of their client relationship.

Balancing a business in person and online requires detailed strategies and commitment to robust planning and process. Agencies and brokerages that develop their own multi-tactic customer experience framework and leverage multichannel engagement will earn trust and loyalty—and ultimately create clients for life.

Kristin Hackney, executive vice president of customer experience, is responsible for Applied’s customer delivery strategy and operational execution for the company’s professional services, support and cloud-based solutions. She is the former vice president of Worldwide Enterprise Solutions & Services for Chicago-based SPSS Inc., a leading global provider of predictive analytics software and solutions, now part of IBM.