Customer Service
Blog Home All Blogs
Although customer service is a dedicated position, in an independent insurance agency, it's everyone's job, from the top down. Read tips, best practices and more. For an overview of all PIAK posts, visit our "Blog Post Library List" at "All Blogs"

 

Search all posts for:   

 

Top tags: customer service  insurance  tips  agency  best practices  habits  independent insurance agent  insurance agency  insurance agent  management 

Top 10 Irritating Insurance Customer Service Habits

Posted By Kelly Donahue-Piro, Wednesday, October 10, 2018

from AgencyPerformancePartners.com

Recently, we have been receiving requests to train insurance teams on polishing up their phone skills. With the advent of recorded phone calls and many more agencies actively listening to the recorded calls you can hear things that make you go “Hmmmmm???”.  It today’s more modern world of emojis, texts and emails many insurance team members may have missed out on training to help polish up their customer service skills. While a more casual approach may be OK to certain people, as a professional organization we want to make sure your people never get to the grey area of phone skills.

We came together to create our top 10 phone skill faux pas list that you can share with your team to make sure we all remember to keep it professional during work hours. Remember, words and tone matter. Due to the fact that so much communication happens over the phone, we need to all train ourselves to select our words carefully.

#10: Yeah…
In all honestly I struggle with this one personally. It comes flying out of my mouth and I instantly want to suck it right back in. Yeah? The proper word is a full “yes”. If you need a filler word so you think people are listening and you throw out the random “yeah”, stop right now because most of us would rather not hear it!

#9: No Problem
“Yeah man no problem”. We are not in Jamaica and why are we talking about problems? “No problem” is two negative words smooshed together. By saying it we imply there could have been a problem? Let’s instead say “I’m on it” or “My  pleasure”.

#8: My Internet, Phone, Website, Computer are all so slow
Nothing drives me more bonkers than this one. When I am the customer, I do not want to hear about YOUR problems. It makes me think I’m doing business with a less than adequate company. If your technology is a little slow, connect with the client and build rapport. Never ever discuss any delays or weaknesses of the company with client.

#7: Email Vs. Phone Call
I know for several agencies we are on the pursuit with to communicate with the client the way they would like to be communicated with. Love it, support it and think we have to do it. But we also have to know when to pick up the phone. Just because it’s not the preferred method of communication doesn’t mean we can’t use the phone. I prefer my doctor to text me appointment reminders but if they have something to discuss with me, I’d like a call. Too much becomes lost when we chat, text or email. We need to understand when to pick up the phone and have that good old fashion conversation. We all too often see that people would rather explain bad news in email. You just added gasoline to a fire. Pick up the phone!

#6 Thanks
I can’t stand “thanks”. It’s “thank you” a sincere thank you. “Thanks” to me is condescending. Like you didn’t have the time to actually say or spell out “thank you”. In a time when gratitude is so critical for retention we need to identify that “thanks” is not enough. “Thank you” may be marginal but stopping and really showing sincere, authentic gratitude is what we should be doing.

#5 I’ll Get Back To You
By nature this is a fine comment but it’s missing a second half making it an absolute disaster. “I’ll get back to you by…. “is 100% better. “I’ll get back to you” means nothing.  When? How? Who? I’m panicking just adding you to my list of follow ups I’ll have to do. Set the client’s expectations so that you can have the right space and time to get the job done.

#4 Well, We Are Short Staffed Today
Ohh great, well I’m sorry I needed help today. I’ll call back tomorrow when you aren’t put out by my call. You are never short staffed and you are always eager to help. If you are feeling a time crunch ask the person when they need it by so you can triage your work accordingly.

#3 Delivering Difficult News without Options
Here is the thing.  In insurance we don’t always have the best news. Rate increase and uncovered claims happen and, well, people do some silly things. However, every piece of difficult news should be delivered with options. Even if one of the options is unimaginable, it’s still an option and shows people the range of what they can expect. With options people feel like they have some power over the situation. Never underestimate the power of choice.

#2 I’m Sorry
What exactly are you sorry for? If you made a mistake you should 100% apologize. If you are delivering difficult news there is nothing to be sorry about. Instead how about letting the client know you are grateful for their patience, loyalty, understanding.  “I’m sorry” means you are guilty and in many situations all it means is let me get you off the phone.

#1 Can I
“Can you…?” Of course you can, what you really mean to say is “May I?” “May I make a recommendation?” “May I send you this for electronic signature?”  “May I ask for your license number?”  “Can” is the wrong word; “May” is the appropriate word.

After writing this blog I feel a bit like Miss Manners but words do matter. Every person in insurance from a processor, intern, receptionist aka Director of First Impressions to a million dollar producer needs to become a forever student to master how little words make a big difference!

Tags:  customer service  habits  insurance 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Nominate Outstanding CSR of the Year!

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 15, 2018

Nominate Your Customer Service Champion!

What better way to recognize the invaluable role of a Customer Service Representative than to nominate them for this distinction. The Outstanding CSR of the Year Award represents the highest honor for customer service representatives.

Who Can Nominate?

Anyone may make a nomination, so do not hesitate to nominate an individual. You can even nominate yourself! It’s as easy as providing a name, and contact information on a Nomination Form. Even if you do not think your nominee would write the essay or could win the contest, just being nominated is often considered an honor. Once you have nominated someone, encourage him or her to write the essay.

Who Can Enter

Anyone, regardless of affiliation or professional designation, whose primary duties center on insurance customer service, is eligible to enter (a CIC or CISR designation is not required). It is recommended, however, that candidates have a minimum of two years’ experience in the industry and sufficient experience to share through their essays.

To compete:

  • Download and complete the Entry Form
  • Write an essay of no more than two double-spaced pages (approximately 1,000 words) on the following topic: “In today’s business environment, CSRs are finding that more work is required from a smaller staff pool. As a CSR, what four ways have you found beneficial in helping you accomplish work tasks while still providing excellent customer service? In short, how do you do more with less?”
  • Submit letter(s) of recommendation from a business/professional reference(s). These may come from the references listed on the Entry Form, or they may come from other business/professional acquaintances.
  • Email clemay@piaky.org

This post has not been tagged.

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Who is the Insurance Agency MVP?

Posted By Barry Seigerman, Thursday, March 15, 2018

from PropertyCasualty360.com

Who is the most valuable person in your agency?

It isn’t the founder, owner/principal, head of finance or accounting, IT/social media guru, claims person, head of HR, or the high-profile producer with the biggest book of business.

It’s the customer service rep — the CSR.

Today, CSRs may have titles such as Account Manager or Account Exec, Senior CSR, Relationship Manager, or others, but they all refer to that special person who performs many key, difficult tasks. The CSR role I’m referring to can be at an independent agency, wholesale broker, captive insurance company, or any retail insurance provider that has relationships with customers.

At our agency, we respectfully referred to the CSR as “The Mother of the Account.” The CSR had full authority over all of the functions and services related to the customer and had full authority over the producer as well. The CSR was often taken on joint client visits with a producer to enhance relationships and to get a firsthand grasp of the total account.

For support, I interviewed two savvy professionals whose roots are firmly embedded as CSRs in the business, and with whom I’ve personally had the pleasure of working.

CSRs are ‘essential’ to your success

Laura Senn states clearly that the CSR is essential to an agency’s success. She says CSRs were originally order-takers who have evolved to the level of an account manager to help customers understand their insurance needs, and the CSR is now the front-line relationship builder. Laura adds that the important traits and skills a CSR needs are the following:

  • Technical skills
  • The ability to see and understand a person’s or business’ needs and exposures, and know what is important in their lives
  • Strong, two-way communication with management
  • Commitment to continuing education and an interest in taking professional courses and becoming licensed
  • A desire and passion for growing and taking advantage of the agency’s career path
  • The ability to work closely with producers, especially on joint calls with VIP customers
  • The ability to work closely with the client to identify ongoing insurance needs and not perpetuate the “sins” of the prior agency/carrier

Laura began her career as a CSR, rose to supervisor, then personal lines department manager. She eventually became an SVP, an agency principal and one of my partners until the agency was sold.

Don’t micromanage the CSR
Selecting Melissa Van Schaick to interview was easy as she epitomized who and what the essential CSR should be. Incredibly, Melissa has retained customer relationships for almost 30 years — many long after the original producer (including me) has moved on. Melissa agrees that when it comes to service, agency management should draw a line in the sand beyond which a producer cannot cross so as not to interfere with the CSR — who should never be micromanaged by the producer. Melissa also feels strongly that management can help CSRs be more effective by:

  • Providing the best available IT/agency management system for maximum productivity,
  • Consistently reaffirming the agency’s culture to all staff,
  • Having CSRs accompany producers on selective joint calls to enhance relationships and retention,
  • Encouraging CSRs to take professional courses and education,
  • Providing the opportunity for CSRs to become licensed and to be paid for new business production, and
  • Embracing CSRs as part of the sales team and including their participation in sales meetings.

Melissa feels that the most essential traits needed to be a great CSR are: learn to listen, reassure the customer, answer questions directly, have empathy and compassion, and spend time talking with the customer.

CSRs are the infantry, on the front lines every day, in the foxhole, never knowing what the next phone call or email will ask of them. They are always there, every day, doing what they do to provide the best service they can to satisfy the customer.

Tags:  customer service  insurance agency  management 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

Customer Service Best Practices for Independent Agents

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 15, 2018

from Insureon Solutions

There’s a lot of competition out there for small business clients. Investing in a good website, providing the best coverage at competitive prices, and implementing a strong marketing strategy are all factors that attract customers.

But the secret to keeping your current clients is surprisingly old school: excellent customer service. Customers want to know that they're spending their money with an agent who exceeds expectations and treats them with kindness and respect.

Why Customer Service Matters for Independent Insurance Agents

Whether a company is big or small, customer service plays a critical role in consumers’ decision making. According to the 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer report, providing "excellent customer service" is the second most important factor consumers consider when choosing a company to do business with. The report also says…

95 percent of consumers talk about their negative customer experiences.
42 percent say a positive word-of-mouth referral is most likely to get them to try a business.
60 percent say they decided not to use a business after a poor service experience.
74 percent say they have spent more with a business because of a history of positive experiences.

If you’re just starting an agency, it can be hard to gain new clients' trust. 

Customer Service 101 for Independent Insurance Agents

Good customer service starts with hiring people who are suited to the position. Typically, that means looking for someone who is…

Patient.
Empathetic.
A good communicator.

You also want to make sure you have a program in place that helps your employees provide excellent service. For instance, you may want to:

Consider your customer service practices from the client's point of view.
Create action steps for handling an unhappy client.
Establish time estimates for resolving problems.

A good plan is essential for resolving issues, but you also want to minimize them from happening in the first place. 

Digital Customer Service Strategies for Independent Insurance Agents

According to the report, more people are looking for customer service through their social media accounts. This means independent agents may need to pay attention to their digital customer service strategy, too. Try these digitally savvy customer service tips:

  • Ask what channel they prefer for service. Finding out this information upfront makes it easier to meet their expectations.
  • Address negative feedback. No one likes mean comments, but it happens sometimes. Try not to take them personally. Instead, respond with courtesy and send helpful links. You might also want to ask a disgruntled client to send more information via direct message.
  • Avoid stale responses. Getting back to an unsatisfied client quickly is important, but using boilerplate responses usually turns people off. You may see more loyalty by putting some effort into a personalized response.

Simplify referrals. Add a “Refer a Friend” button on your website and gently remind clients to tell their friends about your services.

The bottom line is customers expect positive customer service experiences across communication channels. Make sure your independent insurance agency is prepared. 

Tags:  best practices  customer service  insurance agent 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

4 Customer Service Tips for Independent Insurance Agents

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 15, 2018

from Abram Interstate

Many of us have paid our dues working in various service industry jobs. Whether that’s waiting tables, working retail, or something else of the source, those lessons learned are still valuable for you as an Independent Insurance Agent.

QQ Solutions has some tips to help you improve your customer service skills and win new insurance customers.

1. Make Time for One-on-One Interviews
People will want to meet you in person. After all, they will want to have confidence in you before entrusting you with their insurance needs. The business relationship between you and your clients can last for years, so make it easy for them to schedule a time to sit down with you and ask any questions they have. If you make them feel valued and respect their time, they will be far more likely to choose you. Offer to explain any and all of your services and methods so they are fully knowledgeable about you as an agent.

2. Make Sure Your Website is Comprehensive and Easy to Use
Clients will most often find you through some sort of online interaction, which means that you need to put on a great first impression when they arrive at your website.

Provide a customer-friendly experience online by having your products/types of business clearly stated, and a quick way to get a quote and/or get ahold of you, either online, or on the phone. It’s also helpful if you have your background as an insurance agent easily visible so they don’t have to wonder or search too hard to find out who you are and why they should trust you with their business.

3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
When you speak with prospective clients, remember that they are people with families, lives, and jobs. Get to know them by starting the conversation on a light note. Ask about these things and you will make them feel more at ease before you start to talk business. Making your potential clients feel comfortable is important, and ultimately they will feel better working with you if they feel valued by you.

4. Ask Customers to Spread the Word
If you have a great experience with a client, ask them to tell their friends and family about it. People have absolutely no problem recommending an agent to their friends and family, especially if they feel like the agent is knowledgeable and nice. By encouraging your clients to spread their positive stories about working with you, you’re providing a service to new clients before they even walk in the door!

We all know that this is a customer-oriented business, but amid the stresses of everyday life as an independent agent, it can be easy to lose focus.

Tags:  agency  customer service  insurance  tips 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

22 Little Things that are HUGE

Posted By John F. Carroll, Thursday, March 15, 2018

from Insurance Splash

A lot of agents think sales and customer service are two separate aspects of running an insurance agency.

I don’t – I think great customer service is a sales strategy.

If your entire book of business is thrilled to do business with you, loves interacting with your agency and feels appreciated as a customer you won’t need to prospect – you’d have a sales force of customers doing it for you!

The difference between giving an amazing customer experience and a horrible one is usually  just a few little things here and there that aren’t too hard if you establish processes in your agency to follow through with them.

Here are 22 little things you can do to improve your insurance agency’s customer service.  (I saved the most important one for last.)

1 – Follow-Up Throughout the Claim

Establish a procedure within your agency for following up with customers who have claims. It’s easy to think it’s the claims department’s job but that theory will hurt you.

I was a casualty claim adjuster so take my word for it:  insurance claims will get ugly if communication breaks down but an agent can play an integral role in preventing delays and problems.

You can come up with your own schedule but I think most agencies would benefit from reaching out to clients one-week, two-weeks, and four-weeks after a claim is filed. It’s the opposite of sales calls – the more you call, the more they appreciate it.

Just be careful not to set the wrong expectations – express care, concern, and empathy but defer specific claims questions (like how liability is determined) to the people who specialize in it.

2 – Thank You Calls For All Referrals

Every single time a client recommends your agency you should personally reach out to him and thank him for the referral.  Referred business is absolutely the best type of lead and it’s important to encourage the behavior.

I know some agents who only thank the referrer when they sell the policy. That is a ridiculous idea. When you fail to make the sale and still reach out to thank the referrer it’s better because it says “I appreciate your recommendation” instead of “Thanks for helping me make more money”.

3 – Offer a Drink (not that kind)

Offering a drink makes clients feel more like a guest in your home than a client in your office.

Coffee and bottled water are always great, but offering a particularly enjoyable drink can be a real bonus – think lemonade on a hot summer day, hot chocolate with whipped cream in the winter, or egg nog in December.

When they’ve got a drink to enjoy, your clients will be more relaxed and likely to stick around to hear more about their options for life insurance.

4 – Warm Transfer All Phone Calls

Remember the last time you were speaking to a human being who transferred you to a voicemail? Don’t you love that?! It happens to me at least once a week and I can’t imagine a more customer-unfriendly behavior.

When clients call you to report a claim, do you give them the phone number for the claims department? Do you forward their call to the right number and tell them to press “2 then 7 then 1″? Or do you stay with them on the line, press the buttons for them and introduce them to the person they need to speak with.

If you don’t know how to do this on your phone, figure it out today.

5 – Wish a Happy Birthday

One of my closest agents spends an hour every day calling clients on their birthdays. A lot of agents think he’s crazy but he swears that he gets more positive feedback, more referrals, more cross sales, and more positive energy from those phone calls than anything else he does.

People are happy on their birthdays and recognizing that makes them feel good. There’s a decent chance you might be the only person who wishes them a happy birthday! Why not give it a try for one month?

6 – Welcome New Clients on Facebook

If you sign up a new client and save them a lot of money ask if you can take a picture and put it on your Facebook page. I’ll bet you anything that if you saved them a bunch of money and they agree to the picture, they’ll not only like your page but they’ll make a post to all their friends about how much money they saved and how great of an experience it was.

You’ll also show all your current Facebook fans that you still have competitive rates so they don’t need to shop around at renewal time.

7 – ID Card Holders

I used to work with an agency that made little ID Card Holders by cutting plastic photo album sheets into four pieces with a pair of scissors. They would even do it in front of the client!

Your clients pay thousands of dollars for that little card – put it in a nice package!

The ones that explain what to do in an accident are particularly good because in a weird way they allow you to help your clients at a time of great distress, even though you can’t be there with them.

8 – Look For Discount Opportunities

When a client calls you up to talk about something, take a few moments to tell them about any additional discounts they may be eligible for.  (Ask their permission first to make sure they have time)

I know some agents that don’t like give away discounts because they think giving discounts to existing customers is a pay cut.

I disagree – it can be an incredibly positive experience for a client to get a discount when they were least expecting it. Would you rather give back a few dollars of commission and keep a client for another 20 years or keep their rates as high as possible so you lose them in next year?

9 – Use Your Customer’s Name

Everybody loves the sound of their own name. Use it. When you say a customer’s name as much as possible it shows you respect them as an individual and often makes people feel the need to be more respectful and friendlier to you.

Does your client have a name that’s difficult to pronounce? Good! Take the time to learn to pronounce it properly and they will appreciate your gesture even more!

10 – Call When There’s Not a Problem

Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle? It says that you spend 80% of your time dealing with clients who make you 20% of your money.   If that happens, when will you get to speak to the 20% that make you 80%? If you wait for them to call you it’ll probably never happen – until they’re calling to cancel!

If you think it’d be too hard to reach every customer do this: Make a list of the 50  customers that make you the most money and schedule 1 phone call a week. You can make one positive phone call a week.

I personally like the time right before a renewal goes out because it allows you to have a friendly conversation with no business on the table but when the renewal arrives a week later they’ll remember the relationship they have with you.

11 – Always Establish the “Next Step”

Whether you’re helping a client through underwriting, policy issuance, a billing dispute, or a claim make sure you end every interaction by explaining what the next step is. People don’t always need their problems solved, but in almost every situation your clients want to know that things are moving forward and what their expectations should be.

My experience as a claims adjuster made this crystal clear to me. People are very patient and understanding but they NEED to know things are moving forward.

If nothing is moving forward then create the impression it is.

12 – Accept Responsibility

I don’t care if the billing department messed up, the underwriters lost your documentation, or the dog ate your client files – always accept the responsibility yourself. The reason is very simple:

When you blame others for what happened it makes you look powerless.

If the insurance agent has no power then it’s time to call an 800 number.

On the contrary, accepting responsibility for a mistake makes clients think you are in control and will be able to help them when they need it.

People can usually tell it wasn’t your fault anyway and they’ll often try to talk you out of blaming yourself. (I have a bachelor’s degree in reverse psychology)

13 – Keep the Kids Entertained

Your office is a professional environment and you don’t need a playpen in the corner full of grimy toys but it helps to have some activities to entertain the kids. Coloring books and crayons are cheap and work well for a wide range of ages.

While you’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few other amenities that can help with kids like a spare diaper or a juice box.

You don’t want any excuses for the client to leave halfway through your sales pitch.  As a father of a 1 and 3 year old I can honestly say that a clean diaper in a time of need, will make me a lifelong client indeed!

14 – If You Must Put Someone On Hold, Ask Them

“Insurance agency, please hold…” CLICK.

Have your customers ever heard that? I hope not, but I know I’ve heard it a lot when calling agencies! I understand that things get crazy, but it doesn’t generally set the tone for a positive conversation when you start by telling the caller what to do.

Although it’s still probably less than ideal, a change to something like, “Insurance Agency, can you please hold?” wait for the answer and reply “thank you I really appreciate it.” will help make things a bit less tense.

While we’re at it, don’t tell someone you’re going to put them on hold “for a minute” unless it’s really going to be a 60 seconds or less. People can take that quite literally and setting the wrong expectations will lead to a worse customer experience.

15- Give Great Introductions To Co-Workers

When you’re handing the phone over to one of your co-workers because they specialize in a certain situation do you say, “Here’s Jen – she does all the claims”?

Why not try something like this instead:  “Although I want to help you with this, I’d like you to speak with our claims specialist, Jen. She used to work as a claim adjuster and has over 10 years experience helping our customers get through the claim process. If anyone on earth can get you through this as painlessly as possible, it’s Jen.”

Not only is that customer going to feel more comfortable and taken care of, you’ll also make your co-worker’s job easier because the customer will listen to everything they say without doubting or questioning anything!

16 – Remember the Family

When people ask me about my girls I appreciate it so much more than when they ask about how I’m doing.  I don’t really like to talk about myself but I’ll talk about them all day and when someone remembers that I have two daughters it really shows that they’re paying attention to me.

It’s best if you can remember names, but it never hurts to ask, “so how are the little ones doing?”

17 – Thank You Notes

We all know a handwritten note can go a long way in today’s society. The reason it’s so valuable is also the reason we don’t do it – because it’s a pain in the butt!

Make it easy on yourself by making a bunch of pre-stamped envelopes with the return address already written on them.

Send one hand-written thank you note every day and over time you’ll make a big impression on your clients, prospects, and business contacts.

18 – Ask For Improvement Recommendations

Ask your clients if there’s anything you could be doing to improve their relationship with you.

You’d be surprised what you find out – you’ll probably get better ideas than this article!

The added bonus is that by asking this question you’re giving the customer the idea that they have some say in the way they are treated and you also let them know that their experience is important to you.

You don’t have to listen to everything they say, but by asking the question they’ll think you care.

19 – Act on Improvement Recommendations

I have found that when a customer points out an opportunity or idea for improving your business, they’re usually on to something.

Customer suggestions aren’t always 100% doable, but they almost always identify a problem that should be addressed more effectively.

Next time a customer makes a suggestion that seems impossible don’t just dismiss it.

Think about another way you could to solve (or ease) the problem they’ve identified and place that change into action.

And don’t forget to follow up with them explaining the change you’ve made.

20 – Don’t Say Bad Things About Anyone

Don’t say anything bad about other insurance companies, other agents, other customers, people you work with or people you don’t work with. Just don’t say anything bad about anyone.
It just makes you look like a bad person and will cause your clients to question whether the kindness you exhibit toward them is genuine or if you’ll bad-mouth them as soon as they walk out the door. If you don’t have anything nice to say…

21 – Proofread Your Emails

Email is one of the least effective forms of communication. We don’t always realize it, but when you speak on the phone or in person there are hundreds of hidden cues both parties use to fully understand each other.

Email removes those clues to understanding and many people aren’t very effective with expressing themselves using written communication to begin with so emails are a customer service disaster waiting to happen.

Here’s some good advice: Before you hit send, read the email aloud to yourself in the most snotty voice possible because there’s a decent chance that’s exactly how the other person will interpret it.

22 – #1 Customer Service Tip: It Comes From the Top

I have worked with hundreds of insurance agencies and there is ultimately one thing that will make or break your agency’s ability to provide great customer service:

Excellent customer service comes from the top.

It doesn’t matter who the employees are, if the person running the agency is not 100% committed to the customers then no one will be. I have seen it time and time again…

Fortunately the opposite is also true – A leader who puts the customers first will have employees who deliver the same promise.

If you’re the head of your agency, how are you going to demonstrate to your team that the customers come first? 

Tags:  customer service  independent insurance agent  tips 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
 

PIA of Kentucky
107 Consumer Lane
Frankfort, KY 40601

   
© PIA OF KENTUCKY

Phone: 502-875-3888
Fax: 502-227-0839
Email: info@piaky.org