Category Archives: Retention

Using Newsletters to Improve Insurance Customer Retention

At the start of this retention series, in the first post I listed a handful of tools or actions an agency can begin to seem immediate retention improvement.

The first listed was NEWSLETTERS, but nothing more was said.

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In this final post on retention, lets delve into the details of putting a newsletter into action.

Why do you need one?

As mentioned before, customer contact is key to improving insurance customer retention, and the newsletter is a great foundation to Customer Communication Plan.

Also they can be very easy to setup and automate with little expense, creating a high return on investment.

So how do you set one up?

1.  First, scrap the paper.  Yes, I have read some studies that suggest a paper newsletter mailed out to customers gets read more than an email newsletter, but there are drawbacks to paper.

Paper is expensive.  A newsletter will easier cost $.50 to $.60 a piece.  If you do that monthly on a 1000 customer book, you are easily dropping $500.  Yet that same newsletter in an email format would be free to $30 a month.
Paper is harder to generate a call to action.  Email makes the call to action much easier, because you can create links to email or your own landing page.

Paper is harder to track results.  Most email services will tell you whether something was opened and links have been clicked.  It’s easier to split test emails

2.  Choose an email service.  There are multiple ones to choose from:  Aweber, Mailchimp, Constant Contact.  You will not find a consensus among marketers about which is the best.  Explore on your own.  I use Mailchimp for my newsletter and have found it easy to use.

Mail services are great because of the tracking ability, and they allow you to set up unsubscribe features, so you don’t feel like a spammer.

They also provide templates that allow you to drag and drop content in professional looking design.    Most will make sure their templates are mobile friendly as well.

3.  Gather your email addresses.  For newsletters, don’t limit these to current customers, but include prospects and lost business.  They will unsubscribe if they don’t want the content.

4.  Create a content calendar.  Monthly is an appropriate schedule for best results, but you don’t want to scramble each month to come up with new ideas.  Spend a couple hours looking over a calendar, and deciding which topics are appropriate to each month.  Don’t just think insurance topics, but what is going on in your community.  Will you have parties in the office at certain times of year that you will have pictures you can place in the newsletter?

This may lead to the question:  Where do I get content?  The easiest place is your companies.  Many will have sample newsletter content that you can easily copy, paste, and adapt to your agency.  One carrier offers almost 70 distinct newsletters.  That will keep you going for nearly 6 years–not bad.

5.  Finally, block off time to set everything up, and automate as much as possible.

So do you have one in your agency?  Any tips for the readers?  Please comment below.

Theron Mathis

P.S.  I hope you enjoyed this retention series.  Look out for the May newsletter for next month’s topic.

Insurance Customer Retention: A Tale of Two Agencies

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….sorry, wrong story.

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Here are two real stories with similar insurance customer retention issues but very different results (names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Story #1: Jones Insurance resides in a medium size Midwestern town. Due to market conditions, their companies contracted leaving them with only a couple of companies. Their largest company has had major internal changes as well increased loss pressure because of bad weather.

The result is that prices have increased dramatically over the last year, causing customers to shop and move. This has led to a 3 year decline in customer count.

What would you do?

Here’s what Jones did. They contacted the carrier to discuss rate activity. The company said there was no room to lower rates because of loss activity. The company did provide the agency with a list of upcoming renewals and the potential price increases. They also increased the deductible credits, because a lot of the agency’s customers were at a 250 home deductible.

Nothing happened….customers still left, and the agency was frustrated.

The next time I ran into this agency, I asked how things were going. He mentioned that his main company was killing him, because all their customers were leaving due to price increases. I asked a lot of questions, and discovered the information above.

My next questions was whether he was proactive in calling customers ahead of time.

He responded, “We don’t have time.”

I asked about sending out postcards since the phone was so time-consuming. He was afraid of the cost.

“What about email?”, I asked. “I don’t have a list”, he said.

I walked away from the conversation as frustrated as he was, but for very different reasons.

How would you have responded?

Here are my thoughts:

You can only control what you can control. The agent can’t control the company rates. The marketing rep can’t either. Even if their complaints take root, it would probably be 6 months before new rates would hit the street. So continuing the current path would continue to lead to customer run-off.

So what can he control. He can control how he helps his customer respond to the increases. He can’t control their reaction, but making an attempt to contact, sympathize  explain, etc. may not save every account but it is action in the right direction and would save more than doing nothing.

He can control his access to markets, and now may be a good time to look for more. He can’t control whether they appoint him, but he can stack the deck in his agency’s favor. Look professional, demonstrate activity in the agency, and feel modern with an online presence.

Story #2: The Smith Agency is larger than Jones but facing a similar problem. Like Jones, they have had markets contract on them in the last several years. One particular market left the agency, forcing them to roll to a current carrier. Thankfully they had a carrier willing to take on the business, but that is when things get interesting.

The carrier that took the book transfer setup a price match on incoming business. This made the transfer fairly seamless, unfortunately at the first renewal, a storm hit. Pricing jumped from the matched price to the “natural” rate which was dramatic.

Customers were jumping ship, and when they called, they were angry. The agency immediately called the carrier frustrated and disillusioned at what could look like a “bait and switch”. The company listened, but wasn’t able to make any pricing concessions.

The agency was short-staffed and did not have the manpower to requote every renewal, so they had to get creative.

What advice would you give?

They assigned one person to reach out to the customer and walk them through the renewal increase. They did everything to avoid shopping the renewal, no matter the increase. They looked at deductibles, discounts, replacement values, and potential cross-sells.

Yes, they lost customers, but more amazingly their policy count went up, because they found cross-sell opportunities. Premiums went up because the majority of the customers kept the rate. They just wanted an agency that cared.

The process changed the agency as a whole, and they implemented the same strategy throughout the PL department, and had similar results.

Knowing both these agencies, I learned valuable lessons: Action trumps inaction, don’t let fear ruin your retention efforts, and control what you can control.

What are your thoughts?

The Lost Business Log: A Simple Customer Retention Tool

Don’t Let Quiters Ruin Customer Retention

The “Lost Business Log” is an easy tool you can use today that will help you get a handle on your customer retention.

not this type of log

This is a back-end tool that allows you to track customers leaving your agency.

You may be thinking, “How can counting my losses help me keep more business?”

The Lost Business Log does several things that will improve customer retention.

  1. It never lets you forget that customers are being lost and need to be replaced.  Even if you are only losing customers through death and moving, it is important to track because while there was nothing you or your companies did to send them away, they are still gone, and you need to replace them.  

  2. It forces you to change your marketing before it is too late.  Think about our first example.  If death and moving were the only reasons people were leaving, what does it say about your book?  Your demographics could be old or full of transitional type customers.  How does this change your marketing?  Reach out to younger customer or look for a more stable demographic.

  3. It gives you a crystal ball on at-risk customers. What are reasons people move: price, customer service, claims service, etc. The log forces you to ask these questions.  Perhaps it causes a followup call because they left without telling anyone.  You can send out an exit survey on why they left (email makes this easy). You can get them to commit to becoming a prospect again when things change. If possible find out their x-date, new company, and pricing. Then they become a prospect again.

  4. It can help you redirect referral sources.  If a particular lead source, whether outside like a realtor, mortgage lender, car deal, etc. or inside like a customer is the source of a lot of lost customer you can stop the lead sources.

  5. It can help you pre-qualify new business.  You may find in looking at your lost business that there are certain characteristics they all have in common.  They be monoline customers, multi-incident, single car, single driver, etc.  If you find these to be true, it can change how you quote and sell.

Here’s how to set it up.  You can use or paper or something like Excel, and include the following columns:

Customer name         Policy type         New company         New price         Xdate         Reason   

Don’t over-complicate the process.  Place a spreadsheet on everyone’s desk, and review as part of your month end checklist.

You will find this simple task will make a big difference, and help everyone feel the pain of losing customers, leading to conversations about how to keep them longer.

Theron Mathis

 

Getting A Handle On Customer Retention in Your Insurance Agency

Agency consultant John Fear talks about the three Rs of Insurance: Referrals, Rounding, and Retention.  These are like the three-legged stool, remove one leg and it collapses.

If you are a newsletter subscriber, you know that April’s focus is on retention, and Retention is crucial to success in the Insurance Industry.

Insurance Customers Leaving Your Agency

Before we move forward, we need to get a handle on agency retention.  Agents that perform well at this metric, track it on a regular basis looking for ways to improve their score.  I have worked with several agents that assign a person to retention improvement, and tie a portion of their compensation to retention improvement.

So, the first step to improvement is to figure out where you are.  If you are a direct writer, this is easy, because you represent one carrier, and your company can run the figures for you.  For Independent Agents, this can be a bit trickier.  Company reports will be deceptive, because your agencies numbers are always better than the individual companies.  The reason is that because you lost business with one carrier does not mean it left the agency, there is a good chance that it found a home somewhere else in-house, but you need to verify it.

Most management systems can handle this type of reporting, but don’t make it too complicated.

There are three ways you can track retention:  written premium retention, customer retention, or policy retention.  Tracking premium retention is dangerous because rate increases can mask customer run-off.  Customer retention is good, but I like policy retention, because it can alert you to problems quicker, and allow you to salvage customers in the danger zone who have moved a policy or two out of the agency.

Pick a benchmark date (month-end is easy) and determine how many policies (or customers) you have (subtracting any new policies you’ve written over the previous 12 months).  Find how many customers you had a the previous year’s month end, and compare the two.

Here’s an example:  At the end of March 2013, you have 1000 policies.  If you look at March 2012, you might find 1000 polices as well.  Retention looks good.  Don’t forget new business.  Between March 2012 – March 2013, you wrote 500 new policies.  You need to subtract that from your 2013 to get an accurate picture of how many policies you kept.  In this example, you really only had 500 policies at the end of March 2013.  You only have 50% retention.

This is an extreme example.  Very few agencies will have such a low retention, but even in this case, you can see how many policies you had to write to stay even.  Acquisition costs for new customers are really high, and retaining more would have allowed you to write less and stay even or possibly see growth.

Insurance Customers Exit This Way

Don’t Put This Sign On Your Door

Let’s talk about some simple retention strategies that you are able to implement into your agency.

1.  Agency Newsletter.

2.  Selected Pay Plans.  EFT / Recurring Credit Card / Paid-in-Full.

3.  Pre-Renewal Calls.

4.  Customer Reviews.

5.  Account Rounding & Cross-Selling.

6.  Social Media.

7.  Value Creation.

8.  Service Center.

Theron Mathis

Next Steps:  Over the next several weeks, we are going to dig into some of the above strategies, and detail out how agents are using them effectively.

Here’s what I need you to do, let me know what is working in your agency, and what strategies you would like to know more about.

Here’s how you can give us your feedback.

Comment below,  email us at productiveagency@gmail.com, or message us on Twitter @productiveagenc.