How Many of Your Customers Know that They're Your Customers?
Answer: If you sell insurance through agents, probably a lot less than you think!
If you ask someone with whom they are insured, in many cases they’ll reply with “John Smith Insurance” – the name of their agent. Perhaps it’s because I previously worked for State Farm as an agency liaison, but I often feel obliged to try to explain that “John Smith” is the name of their agent, not their insurance carrier. Inevitably their eyes glaze over, and I am left talking to myself. In their minds, their agent is the face of the insurance carrier. To the insured of a carrier who utilizes agency distribution, the agent is often the billing, policy and claims department of the carrier.
If this is the case, how do insurance carriers empower their agency channels so that they can accurately represent the carrier and deliver precision service to their customers? I think the answer is through knowledge. Knowledge implies intelligence and competency, both of which are essential to building a good relationship between the agent and the insured. It empowers the agent to hit the ground running without having to piece together information through multiple systems & paper files. It is data that has already been analyzed. It is fresh and accurate and it is what empowers the agent to service and sell to the customer in a precise and targeted fashion.
The insurers that are most successful with their agents are the ones that empower the agent through knowledge by utilizing a customer centric model for policy, claims and billing data. These insurers will:
Display customer intelligence to the agent. Employ algorithms which use ‘fresh’ policy, claims and billing data to determine & display customer intelligence such as customer profitability ratios. These ratios will immediately alert the agent to the level of service or type of product to market to a particular customer.
Alert agents to cross and upsell opportunities. Run rules on customer data to alert the agent to profitable cross and up-sell opportunities – both in the quote process and proactively, in the quote mining process.
Alert agents to potential bad business positions. Rules can also fire to avert an agent from selling to certain markets or geographies based upon factors such as losses, weather, delinquency and rate updates.
Allocate customers to segments or customer tiers. Analyze consolidated customer policy, claims and billing data to have the system automatically allocate the customer to the appropriate tier. From new business through renewal, customer tiers can determine which products to automatically offer to a customer, which discounts to apply, which payment & delinquency plans to offer and which level of claims service the customer qualifies for.
Display knowledge to the agent in a visual manner. Dashboards, gauges and smart activities educate the agent on the potential of their book of business as well as motivate them based on their progress towards certain goals.
Provide knowledge through multiple channels. For example, send text messages to the agent on large losses, fraud alerts or rate holds. This will update them on high priority customer situations.
Allow the agent to ‘visualize’ their business and potential new business. Provide ‘map’ options which display policy and claim saturation areas for their book of business. Layer on demographic and weather information. This knowledge will provide the agent with insight into growing their business profitably.
Allow agents to connect and share knowledge by providing them with access to carrier created message boards.
In short, if you expect your agents to act as the face of your company, they will need access to a lot of information, and in an easily digestible format. Without this, it’s not realistic to expect your agents to be able to sell, upsell, and renew the profitable business that will keep you happy while also providing great policy, billing, and claims service to keep your customers happy.