Do You Create Drive in Your Office?

DriveRecently, I listened to a book by Daniel Pink.  After finishing, I need the hard copy.  There is so much here that is applicable to what we do as leaders and managers.  The book is all about what motivates people, and is especially cogent to managers and owners in small business.

The book begins by dismantling the current carrot and stick approach most of us live with and practice to get results.  Then he replaces it with what he calls Drive or to be motivated by meaning.  He spends a lot of time fleshing out practical suggestions and does not discount the carrot and stick, but proves when to use and when it is counter productive.

His main argument is that motivation with meaning is comprised of three components:  Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose.

Autonomy is when we give more control to our staff than we are comfortable.  We allow them to be self directed to create areas of improvement.  One great example he gives is freedom days.  These are days or times that you allow the person to work on anything in the office that they choose.  This could generate needed efficiencies or greater marketing approaches in the agency.

Mastery is continual practice and help to develop skills that make them better.  See my posts on Talent is Overrated to get more detail here.

Purpose is helping the staff feel part of a greater mission.

There is a lot here that is applicable to agencies and needs to be studied.

Do People Like You

If you’ve ever read anything by Jeffery Gitomer one of his big questions is “Do People Like You?”  If you are in sales or service this a huge question to ask.  Before anyone will listen to your products, they must like you or you are getting no where.  This seems simple, but there is not a sales person on the planet that has not shoved his products before spending time to connect with the other person.

Rapport and connection are the key factors here.  Looking a person in the eye, asking questions, listening and finding commonality are essential.

There is probably another questions that is equally important and should be asked first, “Do you like people?”  Are you amazed at the differences and diversity in the people you meet?  Are you interested in the unique experience of everyman?  Do people fascinate you?  Do you enjoy their company?  If your answer is no, then you may want to find another line of work…underwriting, product, actuarial.

Before you wonder if people like you, do you like them?

Marketing with Claims Wrap-up

By now you are ready to experiment with this claims idea.  You are going to add value like no other.  Your customer service is going to hit all time highs.

In reality, you probably will discover data that will be helpful to your agency and the company in handling claims and improving the process.  Your own process will become streamlined and the company will greatly appreciate the improvements.  The truth is that ultimately you want this process to drive new business and generate referrals.  If you stop before this happen, you short circuit the process.  Increased revenue will make the steps above profitable.

What are ways to do this?

1.  Ask.  Sounds simple, but we all forget.  At the end of the process, ask the customer if they know 1 to 3 people who would benefit from such wonderful service.

2.  Send a letter.  Here’s a sample directed at cross-selling:

Mr./Mrs. __________

It was a pleasure working with you recently when we were able to help coordinate the payment of your claim relating to ……………

We appreciate your business and are prepared to meet all your insurance needs.

While reviewing your auto/home/business file we noticed that we do not have the coverage relating to your auto/home/business (if business owner).  Do you have a copy of your policy handy so we can discuss some easy ways to make sure you’ll receive this type of service on your other insurance requirements?

You have already discovered that our agency team is committed to providing quality service relating to your auto/home/business policy.

Do you know of anyone who would benefit from the type of service that we provided you?

3.  Send a refer a friend card.  Include in the letter above a business card they can hand out.  Create a card that has language on the card header that says something like: “I received unbelievable service at:”

4.  Business Card magnets.  I love this idea, and it works great with this process, but I learned it from an agent who uses it when selling new policies.  He has business cards that are refrigerator magnets, but he gives specific instructions when handing them to clients.  He gives them three.  One for themselves, and two for their adjacent neighbors.  He tells the customers to give these to neighbors so that they can call him if anything happens to their cars or homes when away.  That communicates a lot about his service to the customer’s neighbors.

Try this claims process for 90 days and see what happens.  A 90 day commitment (or 60) won’t scare your staff, and it could create cheerleaders for a new effective sales process.

Marketing with Claims #2

Claims are painful, and create a lot of stress in an agency.  Even with ruthless followup they can often turn sour and distance the customer from a deeper relationships with the agency.

Last post we discussed three models of claims handling seen in most agencies.  The third model is the unique one, and the minority choice, but it is designed to strengthen the customer relationship and create referrals.

The other two models are not bad, but they can easily degenerate into negativity.  Let me demonstrate.  When followup takes place the staff person he finishes the phone call with the statement, “If you have problems, call me.”  The reason for this is that all of us like to be problem-solvers, and this makes us feel valuable, but this statement may not be effective.  Think through the process.  If you do hear from the customer again, it will not be positive.  Something your company did was wrong and they want you to fix it.  You become the bad guy and are seen in a negative light in the customer’s eyes, and you must work to change this impression.  Even if you resolve the complaint, will this lead to further sales or referrals?  You have created a black mark on yourself even if you resolved it.

Here is another option that the third model follows.  When following up with the customer, rather than implanting a suggestion of problems, suggest the following: “Mr. Customer, here is the process.  The adjuster will be contacting you in x days.  I will check back with you to make sure the process is going smooth.”  With this option you are not soliciting problem calls, but making yourself the hero.  If something goes bad, you are not at fault because you set the company expectation based on what you know of their claims procedure.

To make this more effective, know your markets and how they handle claims.  For example, if you know company A contacts the customer within 24 hrs, tell the customer that they will here from the company in 2 days.  This sets their expectations which the company will exceed in most cases.  You call back the customer on day 2 and ask how it went.  In most cases, the customer will be positive.  If the claim still has legs you can set their expectation on when the next step will be complete plus 1 day.  You continue to contact until the claim is settled.

This may sound like a lot of work, but the phone conversations will be shorter and you can discover and eliminate any issues before they become full-blown problems.  Full blown problems and customer initiated phone calls would generate much more work than these short 2-3 minute calls.

The ultimate goal is to solicit the customer for referrals at the end of the process.

How we solicit for referrals is for another day.  Have you done something similar in your agency?  Rather than blowing your staff’s mind with another new program, implement as a 30 day experiment.

Marketing with Claims

How many sales have you made because of a claim in your agency? Do claims generate referrals?

What do we really sell as an insurance industry?  Most of the times we are selling price, coverages, or customer service; but claims are rarely discussed.  Yet it is protection from disaster and the settling of that disaster that we are selling.  To be fair, customers rarely ask about claims.  Most have not had a serious one, and if so it was small or has been some time ago.  However, because this is so crucial to the insurance product, could we turn the tables and use it to generate customers and close more sales?

Most agencies I work with handle claims in 3 ways.

1.  An incident happens / Customer is instructed to call the agency/  Agency establishes coverage and need / The claim is turned into the company / Agency follows up for problems.

2.  An incident happens / Customer reports directly to the company / Agency follows up for problems

3.  An incident happens / Customer reports directly to the company / Agency follows up to provide service / Agency generates referrals

Each one has benefits.  Model 1 was probably the standard for the longest time until companies began asking and requiring that customers call direct rather than going through agencies.  Most agents were initially resistant because they saw it as taken away one of the key things that they do for customers, and it would lead to their irrelevance.  Companies on the other hand felt it sped up the process and lowered their costs which would ultimately improve everyone’s profitability.

Agents conceded and many began Model 2.  This still gave them customer contact and kept them in the claims loop.  A handful of agencies got creative and used Model 3.  It took more time than the other models but led to happier customers and increased sales.

What’s your experience?

For more check out: Part 2 & the Wrap-up