The Rising Importance of Customer Relationships in the Insurance Industry
Each year, Insurance Journal publishes their 101 Sales, Marketing, and Management Ideas list based on the input of “readers, experts, educators, marketing professionals” and more. The list compiles big picture suggestions, macro view comments, and obvious recommendations that seem like no brainers but often get pushed to the side in the day-to-day scramble. This year’s list offers ideas such as “#7. Stick to the Plan” and “#9. Take a Risk,” both with compelling reasons. An interesting shift in this year’s list is the number of suggestions relating to customer service and centricity. Here are just a few of the 15+ ideas related to consumer focus:
Top Customer-Centricity Concerns in Insurance
1. Companies don’t buy, people do: Sales is not all about rational thinking and having the best value proposition. You also need to understand the psychological needs of your prospects. You want them to understand not only how your product will benefit their company but also how they will benefit, how it reinforces their own self-image. Will your brand boost their pride or help them win respect? —Harvard Business Review, June 2015, by CEB Marketing’s Brent Adamson, managing director of advisory services; Karl Schmidt, practice manager; and Anna Bird, director of strategic research
16. Wow your customers: In every interaction and transaction, big or small, exceed your customer’s expectations.
21. Customer-centric: “Customers are looking for an understanding of their personal situation when they’re having an event, and they’re looking for people to help them cope with it. They’re looking for that from their retailers, from their airlines, and from their insurers. They expect all of those people they have relationships with to be able to respond in the same way.” —Lynn Kesterson Townes, Worldwide Commerce Marketing Leader, IBM, at IMCA 2015 Conference
100. Informed shoppers: Remember today’s buyers don’t even talk to the seller until they’re ready to make the purchase. They’re going to look at the wealth of information available on the Internet that is published by someone other than the brand. They’ll visit, on average, 10 places online before they make their buying decision. When they make first contact with the seller, their decision to purchase has already been made. —Kevin Brandt, director of operations, Trusted Choice at IMCA 2015 Conference
Innovating How Insurers Interact with Customers
If customer-centricity is on the mind of the top insurance experts, shouldn’t it be at the forefront of your company’s practices? Customer churn rates are up in the Insurance industry as many providers are failing to keep up with the rising demands of consumer expectations. The Accenture Strategy Report, “Capturing the Insurance Customer of Tomorrow” found that 71% of insurance customers are unsatisfied with their current provider and fewer than 1 in 6 respondents said they would purchase additional products from their current provider. This overall negativity toward the industry means lower cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and increased attrition rates- both detrimental to your company’s long term success. So, what do customers want? A relationship.
69 True relationships: Establish a true relationship so clients enjoy working with you. Avoid being seen as “just an insurance salesperson” to clients and prospects. That just makes it easier for them to replace you with one of the other thousand advisors. Never forget people will work with those they genuinely like. —Michelle Couture, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners
While Couture was referring specifically to an individual salesperson, customers can garner these same feelings of loyalty to a company or brand when they’re provided with reasons to feel this way. At the Insurance Marketing and Communications Association (IMCA) Annual Conference in Nashville, IBM expert Lynn Kesterson-Townes made an intriguing point about the current vernacular used in modern marketing practices. Kesterson-Townes said, “Today’s customers also expect all of the people they have relationships with to be able to respond in the same way. Therefore, marketing and communications functions in insurers need to be more nimble, more innovative, and better able to engage with their customers and help their entire ecosystem along as well. They don’t want channels. They want interaction points, and we’ve changed that language on purpose because channels infer a one‑way communication. From me to you, from the insurer… ‘Let me push this product to you.’”
No more “channels?” But what will we do with all of the infographics and articles we’ve written about streamlining omni-channel experiences! While the term “channel” probably isn’t going anywhere, Kesterson-Townes does make an excellent point when considering the implications of the term. “Channels” imply a pathway separate from the other “channels” – meaning the interaction with one doesn’t impact the interaction with the other. An “Interaction Point” implies an individual point on the same pathway all leading toward a singular, cohesive goal.
Data Ensures Positive Interactions Between Customers and Insurers
It’s still alright to use the term channel, as long as you’re remembering the impact that channels have on each other in the big picture of building brand loyalty. Integrating databases and raising data quality standards are essential to ensuring customers have positive interaction points leading toward brand loyalty. Nothing is worse than the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, and a simple mistake as the marketing team sending an acquisition piece to a current customer can leave consumers feeling undervalued and on the lookout for their next insurance provider.
Integrating customer profiles also brings great cross-sell opportunities, such as: “I noticed you recently had a baby, congratulations! It may be a great time to consider setting up a life insurance policy to make sure your family is always taken care of.” But don’t forget to reach out time-to-time just to say “thank you” or check in on how you’re doing.
66. Keep in touch: Contact customers when it isn’t necessary. Check in a week or so after doing a job for them. Don’t just ask for feedback on what your agency has done, but also pass along helpful information that’s not directly related to the customer’s work. It sends the message that you appreciate not only the work, but also the relationship. —John Graham, GrahamComm
A key to building brand loyalty and consumer-brand relationship is making sure the customer always feels like the top priority. Laura Sherman of Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners even suggests implementing a “sundown rule” (#53) where clients always receive a response in the same day. Training employees in the necessity of excellent customer experiences will not only set them up for success in their future careers, but foster a companywide customer-centric culture.
Small steps like these can make a huge difference in your brand reputation- and news like this will spread. After all, two thirds of consumers say they check out reviews, and 90% of those who do say that positive review influence their buying decisions. So why not give your customers a reason to say something great about your company.
To learn more about data driven practices can improve your customer experiences download our free insurance marketing guide.