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Agent to Agent: Reaching out to Your Customers

Jenkins_Bill_133x200jpg.jpgBy Bill Jenkins

Today there is a considerable amount of effort and expense being spent by mass marketers pushing customers to think about the brand of insurance they’re offering as the best commodity in the marketplace — often based on price alone. However, when these same customers are asked what they truly value when it comes to insurance, their answers run much deeper.

A national survey of more than 900 personal lines customers was sponsored by The PIA Partnership (see sidebars below for a description of the survey and a description of The PIA Partnership) and the results are clear. Across the board, customers want what professional independent insurance agents have to offer.

When we go to the grocery store and pick-up “Grade A” eggs, we expect them to meet standards that have been established by the US Department of Agriculture. When they meet these standards, they become a commodity and that’s how they’re purchased. But when it comes to insurance, it takes more than eggs to make an omelet and our Partnership research helps identify the ingredients that can help enhance customer satisfaction and improve agency retention. Put simply, the research shows that after good value, customers want to be able to trust someone who will take care of them when it comes to their insurance. Over the past several years, The PIA Partnership has built on these research conclusions to develop its most recent set of tools for members entitled “Closing the Gap – Growth & Profit.” These tools are available on the PIA National website via http://agency-growth-profit.com.

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When you visit the website, you’ll find Microsoft Excel based calculators which can be used to help an agency examine and then project growth, retention and revenue for personal lines. The website also offers several downloadable turnkey approaches to help enhance growth and profitability. The design of each of these turnkey approaches focuses on various ways that an agency can let their customers know that they are there for them — whatever their insurance needs may be.

Agency success stories (which can be found on the “Making Changes” tab of the website) demonstrate how these practical approaches can be employed to “reach out to customers” in ways that let them know that you have more to offer than the “commodity” that some call insurance.

As an example, Phil Garlow started his Charleston, WV, agency in 1995. Today it has grown to six locations, sixty five employees, $60 million in premium and a combined PL/CL retention of 91%. He attributes much of their success to proactive contact with existing customers — asking simple questions every time they make contact. By consistently reminding them that they are ready, willing and able to meet ALL of their insurance needs, they have enjoyed phenomenal success.

By viewing the “Making Changes” tab on the “Closing the Gap – Growth & Profit” website you can view their story on video, read their story in print and even download guides to help implement their strategy in a way that’s right for your agency.

Another example comes from the town of Southport, CT, where The Russell Agency knows that “community matters” and that giving back to their community is a key ingredient to their success. As you follow their story, you’ll come to understand how they’ve taken the idea of conducting a “Young Driver Seminar” to reach out, in a positive way, to their entire community. Again, their story is available on the website on video and in print — along with guides to help any agency conduct their own young driver seminar in their own community.

PIA Partnership Personal Lines Customer Survey and Partnership Companies whitespace.jpgThese are examples of how PIA members are using their own unique “value proposition” to reach out to their customers. Customer research makes it clear that, for many, insurance is much more than a mere commodity. When customers contact their professional independent agent, they experience the value an agent can provide first-hand. This value can only be enhanced when we, as agents, proactively reach out to our customers — using proven ways to help “Close the Gap – for Growth & Profit.”

Bill Jenkins works with The PIA Partnership and has been involved in the insurance industry for more than 20 years in areas of marketing, advertising, communication and technology.