Attraction, acquisition and retention are the three legs of the client continuum stool. Agents tend to focus their energy and resources on the front two legs—attraction and acquisition—because they believe that once a prospect becomes a client, their relationship will likely last a decade or more.
Supporting that belief are industry retention rates, which continue to hover around 87%, according to the 2018 Future One Agency Universe Study. But unfortunately, these numbers are just part of the retention story. Buyer surveys tell a different tale—one that smart agents should heed.
Business owners are not happy with the majority of their professional service providers. Complacency, failure to provide insight into new and emerging risks, and the inability to grasp the unique challenges facing them frustrate today’s decision-makers.
Surprisingly, these same issues also contribute to the high retention rate many agents enjoy. Why? Because most prospective agents are rarely skilled in addressing these issues and, as a result, the buyer falls into the status-quo mindset that their current provider is good enough.
But clients leave, and when they do, it hurts financially and emotionally. Often, agents are caught off guard, believing that the relationship was strong because no issues had been discussed.
The goal should be more than retention—it should be retention with intention. Here are three reasons why clients leave, and what you can do about it:
1) Commoditization. Out of all the reasons agents lose clients, this one is the most predictable. Many buyers believe all agents and carriers are the same. This belief is reinforced by agents who are unwilling or just don’t know how to lead prospects to a new way of thinking during the sales process.
If the buyer isn’t shown that the commodity mindset is harmful to their business and prevents them from getting what they really want, they will remain a commodity buyer—and that means they’ll be easily persuaded to leave their incumbent agent for a lower price, because that is how they are measuring the relationship’s value.
To avoid the commodity trap, agents must master a sales process that disconnects their value from price and leads their prospects through an approach that focuses on risk identification, mitigation and management. This strategy will yield far greater value for the client and ultimately loyalty for the agent.
2) Complacency. This occurs when processes aren’t in place to prevent it. Complacency arises not because agents are lazy, but because they do not have a process for remaining engaged with clients outside of renewal time.
To effectively combat complacency, agents must establish a front-end sales strategy that assesses their prospects’ risks and threats. Then, by leading prospects through risk assessments and gaining agreements on how to address issues, agents can develop an action plan.
As the framework for client engagement, the action plan holds both the agent and the client accountable and becomes the antidote to complacency. Quarterly meetings to assess processes and address previously discovered risks, coupled with a mid-year review to identify new and emerging risks, not only prevents complacency, but also guards against competition from other agencies.
3) Change. The biggest threat to losing a client is when the buyer or key decision maker changes. A new buyer within an existing client relationship can pose a significant threat to maintaining and growing the relationship because they had nothing to do with selecting the incumbent agent and therefore have limited loyalty.
In fact, many new buyers try to prove themselves and their value by assessing existing relationships to determine if they are effective and efficient. In addition to their personal agenda, they have an obligation to their company to ensure the resources for which they are now responsible are being protected.
Too often, agents are defensive when a new buyer enters the picture. They struggle to convey the value they have brought to the relationship, often because that value is not part of a formal, documented ongoing action plan.
Upon learning of a new buyer, agents must reach out and bring them close. The first conversation should assess the goals, objectives and priorities of their new client—not extol the benefits they and their agency bring to the table. Then, they can incorporate any new goals into the existing action plan and start executing programs to meet them.
Losing a client is never easy. But implementing strategies that help build ongoing, meaningful and measurable relationships will limit unpleasant surprises and the unexpected loss of good clients.
Susan Toussaint, partner and co-founder of Oceanus Partners, provides agents and brokers with strategies that help them more effectively pique the curiosity of business owners and decision-makers and lead them away from the flawed process of bidding and quoting insurance, toward a more effective client engagement strategy.