Insurance News

Proper Customer Handling Seen Key To Future Agency Survival

Posted on: March 28, 2009

WASHINGTON ?Agencies seeking to survive in the future will need to develop a culture aimed at being more than a business selling a commodity, and the key is customer treatment, according to an agency consultant.

Larry G. Linne, president of the agency consulting firm Sitkins International, gave that advice yesterday in an address to insurance agency representatives here attending the 33rd AMS Users Group National Conference.

Mr. Linne said it is difficult to know what the future will be, but laying out a strategy that improves an agency?s relationship with their client will help it survive into the future.

?To think any one of us can tell the future is insane,? said Mr. Linne. The objective, he explained, is to examine trends, understand what is working and what is not working, and then use those trends as a guide to the future.

For insurance agents, the number one trend they need to understand is that being an agency selling a commodity based on price is no guarantee for success or long-term customer commitment.

?If you want to figure out the future, you better figure out your client,? he said.

He said customers really don?t care about the insurance product an agency is selling them, when they can get that same product elsewhere. What they do care about is being treated in a way that makes the experience both unique and valuable to them.

Today, Mr. Linne noted, many agencies find they are in a position where the overwhelming amount of their time is spent responding to servicing issues either from the client or carrier.

Many agencies do nothing more than what a customer would expect from them. The relationship between the agency and the client is based on the price of the product, and that does not ensure client loyalty in the long term, he pointed out.

Agency efforts to differentiate their business have moved through several phases over the decades to a point where every agency is providing value-added services?something clients have come to expect, he noted.

Future success, Mr. Linne said, means agencies will need to create a client experience that they are willing to pay for, such as developing prevention strategies. Essentially, he said, it comes down to knowing your client and understanding what their needs are, then finding the solutions for those needs.

A client who has a positive experience with an agency will be much more likely to continue their business there, he noted, and that is where the future success for the industry lies.

The future agency, he explained, will need to deliver the product to the customer, understand the customer?s needs, fulfill that need and do so quickly. This will require innovation on the part of the agency, but the agency that does it will find success.

In addition, Mr. Linne said agencies will need to extend their social networking base through technology, (such as Face Book and My Space), establishing a brand that is understood and adopted through the entire agency.

Focus also needs to be placed on broadening the business beyond a few insurance products to a customer, either through adding more products to a client?s portfolio or finding new markets for existing product lines, said Mr. Linne.

Finally, a critical factor for the future will be building relationships with clients, understanding the client and, from that understanding, building innovative products for the customer that solves their problems.

?You must be an advisor,? said Mr. Linne, adding that agents must know the customer and be in a position to help their client be successful.

?Be more to your client than an insurance box,? he said, ?and you will be more to your client.?

Copyright © 2009 by National Underwriter Property & Casualty Magazine.

Proper Customer Handling Seen Key To Future Agency Survival
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