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Do You Run Your Insurance Agency Like Amazon or the DMV?

Posted on October 20, 2016 by Daniel Taibleson in Digital Insurer

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How well is your insurance agency meeting customer expectations? 

We like to believe that our customers have so-so experiences. Customer experiences that aren’t great, but aren’t bad enough to make them look elsewhere either. Unfortunately, in 2016, that’s just not true. Your customers are constantly being bombarded with marketing messages from competing local insurance agencies, carriers, direct writers and online self-service platforms being developed by insurtech startups. In a world where everyone has access to 24/7 always-on customer service from companies like Amazon, you really only have one decision:

Will you over deliver or under deliver?

Over deliver and you’ll tap into the oldest, most powerful kind of marketing known to man: word of mouth.

It’s not complicated. In an industry like insurance built on relationships, you know that a series of referrals can help build your book - and the best referrals come from trusted resources like friends and family. They have the ability to influence us more than any advertising ever could. In fact, word of mouth is the primary factor behind up to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions (McKinsey). Not to mention these referrals (because they're built on trust) usually have better retention rates.

And please don’t tell me this doesn’t apply to you if you’re at a larger agency. In fact it's the exact opposite, and the reason I've used Amazon as an example of a large business that is able to over deliver and exceed customer expectations. As a large business, you know you're facing a different set of stories that consumers tell themselves about your business - being a faceless corporation is one of them. Making it even more important for you to humanize your brand and over deliver on your customer experience. Doing this at scale is not easy - but this should help

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The amazing thing about Amazon’s ability to build positive customer relationships and exceed customer expectations is that they aren’t doing anything you can’t do. With the help of the right technology and some executive support, they’ve been able to create a culture that makes customer service and customer experience a priority

Need some convincing? Check out the free e-book managing your agency workforce in the digital era or this video interview with agency President Ashley Brower-Whitney talking about the importance of company culture and it's ability to impact the success of her insurance agencies.

Related (color orange): How to Take Your Agency's Company Culture from Stagnant to Stellar 

No convincing needed? Bought in? Good, keep reading.

This is why I hate the DMV

So what happens if you under deliver? Let’s take a look at one of my least favorite places to go: The DMV.

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Now just to be clear, this is not an attack on the people that work at the DMV. There are many wonderful people who work there and the DMV serves a valuable purpose, but that being said, the current structure of the organization is outdated when compared with customer expectations set by companies like Amazon or Zappos. The expectations you and I have today. 

This is a very important distinction that deserves a tangent. Your customers are not comparing you to your competition post purchase. They are comparing you to the companies they interact with most frequently. They are not cutting you slack because you come from a “tech laggard” industry. Instead it’s the opposite, they’re looking for the insurance agency that can operate closer to the expectations they’ve been trained to expect!

Back to the DMV.

If there was one thing I could change about the DMV it would be the hours of operation. In fact, I’d change the hours of operation to be the exact opposite! Instead of 9am-5pm, I’d have them run from 5pm-9am. Yes, I would lose a good excuse to leave work in the middle of the day for 2-3 hours, but I don’t want to plan my day around going to the DMV.

Why would anyone want to plan their day around going to your insurance agency?

It’s not meant to be a dismissive question, rather, it’s meant to force all of us to ask ourselves, “how can we make our agency easier to do business with?” Because this is where it gets interesting. Even the DMV lets me go online and request a new driver’s license when I lose it. Which is essentially the same type of customer experience you can deliver for your insureds with a tool like client portal.

My ideas about when the DMV should be open might not get me elected to public office, and they might seem irrational, but the reality is that humans are predictably irrational

But all in all, the DMV, Amazon, these are just common examples I've used (assuming you've used both of their services) to show you the difference between the stories that people tell themselves about your brand based on your ability to meet and/or exceed their expectations. It's no different than going to a movie with high expectations and leaving unimpressed. If you're not exceeding customer expectations you can't expect growth at your agency to continue... Don't forget, word of mouth is also the most disruptive form of advertising and marketing. People aren't going to engage with brands or businesses that come with poor expectations. 

How well does your insurance agency meet the demands of your customers?

You might already run the Amazon of insurance agencies, you might be more like the afternoon shift manager at the DMV. There’s really only one way to know, and that’s by taking the quiz below to find out where you stand.

Download a free guide to exceeding customer expectations

And for those with a little more time on their hands (58 minutes to be exact) – I recommend watching our on-demand webcast on exceeding customer expectations. Join 700+ other insurance professional who’ve already watched thought leaders from the insurance industry share their secrets about how to exceed customer expectations.

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Daniel Taibleson

As a content marketing manager at Vertafore, Daniel acts as the Editor-in-Chief of the blog, uncovering and telling stories about the intersection of insurance and technology.




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