Insurance Retention Strategies: The Customer Communication Plan

In the last post, I listed a number of things that agents use to effectively increase retention.

Very few things impact retention as readily as customer contact.  talk to customers for insurance retention

Your customer gets hundreds if not thousands of Insurance Impressions every day.  I just spent the last month watching the NCAA basketball tournament (Go Cards!), and I can’t begin to count the number of insurance commercials I saw.  It’s not only TV that bombards your customer with these messages; radio, billboards, and direct mail are always reaching into your client’s eyes and ears.  I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t have an insurance solicitation in my mailbox.

So what impressions are leaving your customers if they only hear from your competitors, and not from you?

Studies and best practices say you should reach out to your customers, 3-6 times a year.  This sounds like a lot, and you may be seeing dollar signs with the cost of print ads, newsletters, and postage.  It doesn’t have to bust your budget.

Not everyone needs to hear from you 6 times a year.  In fact, only those customers in the “retention danger zone” need that level of activity.  That danger zone is 1-2 years.  Make sure those young customers get more touches, because after year 3 customers tend to stay much longer.

So what kind of communication do you need to make with them.  Calls are one touch, then you can add birthday cards, thank you cards, seasonal tips, holiday cards, agency newsletters, emails, and social media touches.  If you rely heavily on phone, email, and social media, then print and mail costs are very low.

Let’s focus on the annual customer call.

Agents that do this often try to call customers pre-renewal or at anniversary date.  This can work, but unless you have the automation set up to prompt you to do it, it can be tricky.  Most management systems track anniversary date, and you can easily generate a report on monthly basis of that month’s customers to contact.

One solution is to forget anniversary date, and use the alphabet.  This will help you roll through your book of business throughout the entire year.  In January call A-Bs, in February call C-Ds, in March call E-Fs, and so on.  In agencies that don’t use alpha-splits among their CSRs this is a great solution.

These calls do not have to be complicated.  In fact, you will reach very few people, and will get a lot of answering machines, which is good.  The main point is to let them know you appreciate them, and are looking out for them.  This is a big deal.  Think through all the business relationships  you have, and how many times throughout the year do you get home from work, check your messages, and hear a thank you from those businesses — rarely.

leave a message for insurance retention

Here’s a simple script:

“Mr. or Mrs. ____ this is _______ from the _______ agency.  Everything is okay with your policies, we wanted to call and tell you thank you for doing business with us.  If you have had any changes in your household or have questions, let us know.  Thank you.”

If you do get a customer on the phone, this is a great time to verify email and other contact information.  This is really a courtesy call and it’s not necessary to sell anything.  However, if you uncover something, like another line of business, such as a boat or motorcycle, vacation property, or scheduled items, set a time to get back to them with information on those issues.

You may be thinking, do you really need to call everyone?  It would be great, but feel free to segment.

There are a lot of ways you can segment your customers.  You can rank them based on the revenue they generate to the agency, tenure, centers of influence, etc.  Definitely if it is a customer you would rather get rid of, don’t put them on the list.

Make sure those in that retention danger zone are on the list, as well referral generators and high revenue clients.  Then prioritize from there if you don’t think you can do them all.

Here’s my question for this post.  Do you do customer reviews?  Do you have a communication plan for customers?  What has worked best for you over the years?  Let us know in the comments below. 

Be Productive,

Theron Mathis

Bonus:  What do I do if I don’t have a management system?  Is there an old-school way to automate?  Yes, and it’s simple.  In fact, I use this method even today to prompt me to follow up and remember future to-dos.  It is the simple accordion file made up of 31 days and 12 months.  Or you can create your own 43 folders.  My father taught me this in his agency years ago.

Here’s how it works.  Today is April 12th.  Let’s say you want to follow up with Mr. Jones next week on a quote proposal.  Drop the quote or any other reminder with a couple scribbled notes in slot number 18.  Review your accordion file every morning, and on the 19th you will see your reminder to contact Mr. Jones.  Once you write him as a customer, you know you need to check in with a call in 6 months.  Put a note in your October slot.   At the beginning of each month, clean out the current month folder and place it in the appropriate date for that month.  If you review this every day, this can be a lifesaver to trigger follow-ups and contacts.


How To Use a Comparative Rater without Destroying Your Revenue

For years Independent Agents have longed for the holy grail of quoting–the comparative rater.  It is here!  Prior to comparatives, it could take an agency hours to quote one small personal lines account because the data had to be reentered into each company’s rating software.  If the account manager really did this, the hit to revenue becomes truly apparent.  You pay the CSR $15/hour and it takes him 2 hours to quote one policy.  He only sells 1 out 3.  So for three quotes it would cost you $90, and on average you make $80 to $100 per auto policy.  This is depressing.  Thankfully most CSRs did not follow this path.  Due to experience, many learned what companies were better on what types of risks.  Also, they gravitated to whatever ever systems were easier.  So instead of quoting your 7 – 10 companies per risk they might be only quoting 3 -5.

Today comparative raters have changed this.  Insurance Scoring has made it very difficult to determine company niche and get a bead on what company appetites were.  As a result, there could be a lot of competitive opportunity lost if all companies were not quoted. Because of internet based quoting systems, comparative raters can pull from multiple sites and aggregate the data in one place ensuring accuracy.   One company rep told me that in his state, nearly 80% of all their quotes are now coming through comparative rates.  This has helped tremendously agency workload.

This trend toward comparative rater use has caused agents to be less hesitant about picking up multiple markets.  At one time an agency might limit himself to 3-5 carriers, now he is willing to pick up 7-10 because he can quote them all and hopefully create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  However, this is where a hit to revenue can begin to occur.  If an agency does not train their staff well, the presence of the rater can further ingrain their staff that price is king, and the cheapest always wins.  What can begin to happen is that profit sharing is diluted, and staff may slowly move business to lower commission carriers.  Staff do not think of these concerns.  Ease of doing business is their master.  If the price is low it is easier to sell.

Now your 5 million dollar personal lines book that was split between three carriers is now split between 7 carriers, and you no longer qualify for profit sharing thresholds.  Your revenue has dropped by a third because previously most of your business sold at 15% commission and now a majority is being sold at 10%.  This is dangerous especially in this market.

Bottom Line:  Comparative Raters are good, but keep your eye on where they are taking your business.  They could create more revenue problems than they solve.