Lucas, our VP of Product and I were talking about tweaks to our latest customer communication tool. We were digging deep into 5 critical questions:
- What is the ideal relationship between an agent or broker and their customer?
- How do they create that relationship?
- How does the customer feel that ideal relationship?
- How often does an agent need to communicate in order for the customer to feel that?
- What do agents & brokers actually say to their customer to make theme feel it?
He told me a story that he tells his engineering team to help them “get” what we’re trying to do.
Some years ago, he was standing in line with a colleague at one of our favorite restaurants in downtown Bend, OR, waiting for a table.
He couldn’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation between two young women, in line right in front of him.
One of them turned to the other and said, "My insurance agent has the best job in the world." (So far, you may agree, yes?) Then she said, "He takes my money once a year, and I don't hear from him until a year later…when he wants my money again."
Sound familiar? No wonder a recent Edelman Trust Barometer determined that 55% of consumers dont trust the industry.
I recall - many moons ago - when US agents were upset about the transition from agency bill to direct bill. They were worried about losing the relationship with their customer.
But - really? - how well have agents delivered on that "promise of relationship?"
Relationship does not depend on who sends the bill. It depends on successfully:
- Communicating enough that your audience feels like you are really there, present and ready to help.
- Delivering enough value in your communications that they look forward to them.
- Crafting your messages in such a way that they represent the kind of person that people want a relationship with.
There may have been a day that the typical agent or broker could do this by “pressing the flesh.”
In days gone by, the local “hometown” agent or broker was like a private sector mayor. Hanging out at the Chamber. Serving on community committees and boards. Coaching the Little League. Connecting people with other people…because they knew everyone.
Many agents still do that.
But nobody pretends that they can really reach their customer base that way. Not by today’s standards.
Two things have changed:
- Agencies have grown. Our average client has about 10,000 customers. But even the small ones, 3,000, let’s say…how can you even pretend to be in a “relationship” with 3,000 people? (Hint: technology.)
- Customers have changed. No surprise there. Time spent online has doubled. (It’s more than 20 hours a week. Half a work week!) The modern consumer expects meaningful relationships to have a well crafted, thoughtful online dimension.
- Customers will reward agents & brokers who deliver value through relationship. (Otherwise, what are you offering that really matters? Not a cheaper price, I hope.)
- Carefully craft what you want to say to your customers. 12 months is a long time. In the ideal world, what would your customers hear from you? How would they feel about that?
- Use communication technology to deliver those messages. It’s the only way to create meaningful relationships with thousands of people. (Even hundreds!) Your competitors are already doing this very well.
PS: When Lucas shared the story of the young woman at the restaurant, I said, "I've been telling that story for five years. I was the 'other guy' with you at the restaurant."
Series: Mending The Broken Promise
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