It’s easy to take for granted the things we value the most. This is especially true with relationships, including the relationships we have with our best insurance clients.
In 1988, the long-haired, shrill sounding rock band, Cinderella, released the song, “Don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” If you are a fan of metal ballads from the 80’s this one will bring back memories. Although this song was about losing a lover, the message holds true for insurance agencies losing their top clients as well.
Have you ever had a “lifetime” client that you assumed would never leave, and then unexpectedly moved their business away from your agency? As an agency coach, I see this happen too often and I have also learned this the hard way from my own personal experience.
Midway through my insurance production career, I wrote a $15,000 revenue account for several years. We had a good relationship (or at least I thought) and after a few renewal dates, I simply figured they would be a client for life.
Then, one cold wintry day, I got back to my desk at the office to find a signed agent of record letter on my desk. My heart stopped, my face wrinkled, then I immediately got angry. “How could THEY do this to ME!” I exclaimed.
After a week of pouting, the stark reality hit me upside the face. I didn’t earn their business. In fact, I took it for granted. I deserved to lose it.
As insurance professionals, there are two things that should be your focus every single day; Relationships and Risk Advice.
How are you developing and improving the relationships with your clients, especially your top clients, and what are you doing to help them control their true cost of risk?
The top reason that insurance clients move their account to another agency is indifference. Not an egregious mistake or a premium increase, but most often, it’s simply indifference.
At the Sitkins Network, we believe that the goal of every agency should be to achieve 100% effective retention on their best clients. Outside of businesses closing or merging, death, or any other factor outside of your control, your agency should maintain 100% of the clients you want to keep.
Is maintaining 100% of your top clients possible? Well, if you are like most agencies, the answer is no. However, if you are committed to providing a continuation process with exit barriers based on relationship management and risk advice, the answer is yes.
Stop renewing accounts and start continuing relationships
Most agencies focus on how they will renew accounts. What if your agency spent more time on building value-based relationships and less time stressing over renewal dates and pricing?
When we work directly with agencies, our goal is to make the renewal a non-event. The renewal is simply part of the continuation process, not a hair-raising event.
So how can you achieve 100% effective retention and make the renewal a non-event? Here are 5 ways
One of biggest mistakes we see agencies make is that they do not round-out their best accounts. Do you write all lines of your client’s business (personal lines, commercial lines, life, and benefits)? Why not? Even if the other lines of coverage are handled by a different department, your agency should still be the point of contact for all of their insurance needs.
Every additional line of coverage you write for your clients multiplies the likelihood of retaining that account for multiple years. In fact, studies show that the average agency increases their five-year retention by 65% (from 27% to 92%) when they go from single line policies to four or more lines of insurance.
The sad truth is that many agents do very little in terms of proactively contacting their clients. Every touch point is either an emotional withdrawal or a deposit with your clients. If your client’s only interaction with your agency is regarding billing, claims, or the upcoming renewal, you are sucking the life out of your most important relationships.
I was recently speaking with an agency leader who said one of the most powerful and effective things he has ever done is to put a list of his top 20 clients in his desk drawer and make regular calls simply to check in to see how he can help and add value. Remember, if you aren’t making regular contact with your best clients, someone else is.
Schedule and execute on specific proactive client touch points. This can be anything from a thank you, a friendly check in, a birthday, or holiday. There is no bad reason to touch base with your client if it is providing an emotional deposit.
Could you imagine playing a game where the rules are made up as you go along? That’s what many agencies do with their clients. There is no defined outcome, schedule, or expectations. Therefore, at renewal time, instead of feeling confident that you have performed as expected to continue the relationship, you simply hope that the score will turn out in your favor.
When I ask most agencies about their continuation (renewal) process, they start about 120 or 90 days from the renewal date.
An effective continuation (renewal) process starts by understanding the client’s expectations up front. What are the rules we will play by? What do they expect from the agency? This needs to be defined up front.
Does your agency have a defined service calendar for your client? Do you provide an annual stewardship report? Do you conduct annual risk reviews? Do you have a defined plan of how their account will be marketed in the future? These are just a few of the items that need to be discussed up front in your continuation process. Having no plan is a bad plan.
Your best clients likely work closely with their attorneys, CPA, wealth manager, and banker. They are their trusted advisors. A vendor makes changes after the client has already made a financial decision, but a trusted advisor is contacted for advice before making a financial decision.
As an insurance professional, you provide knowledge, insight, and advice that your clients can’t get anywhere else. That’s what makes you a professional. You need to position yourself as a member of your client’s financial team.
The law of compensation states that your ability to get paid (and paid well) depends on three factors: 1) The need for your products/services in the marketplace; 2) Your ability to deliver those products/services; and 3) the difficulty there is in replacing you.
How difficult are you to replace? What do you offer or what can you offer to your top clients that no one else can provide? What makes you indispensable?
This could come in the form of your risk analysis for a specific industry, your network of resources, your consistent communication, your community involvement, or your ongoing educational services. Only you can determine how to become indispensable, but when you find it, you clients could not imagine doing business with anyone else.
The Bottom Line
100% effective retention is possible. Yes, it may be more work up front, but when you implement these five strategies with your best clients, your relationships will be stronger, your referrals will increase, and your stress level will decrease.
The goal is to have clients for life. We don’t want to churn clients. We want clients that are with us forever.
Even a 1% to 2% increase in your retention can improve your agency’s overall profitability by 5% or 6%.
Remember, your best clients are your competition’s best prospect. Handle with care.
Brent Kelly is an executive coach and speaker with the Sitkins Group. He helps insurance agencies sell even more, retain even more, and earn even more. You can contact him at [email protected] or visit sitkins.com to learn more.
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