By Joel Zimmerman
In any industry where there is high competition, customer satisfaction accounts for the largest share of successful sales performance. Insurance is no different, which is why there is so much emphasis placed on understanding your customers and offering the products that will work best for them.
Insurance companies tend to think that customer touch points are limited only to the noticeable interactions they have with customers. Some common examples of obvious touch points include telephone calls, in-person meetings, email communications and financial transactions. But the reality is far different.
Defining Customer Experience and Touch Points
Right from the moment that someone finds out about your product or service, the customer experience begins. This term defines the total interactions between you and your customer, which either add to or detract from the emotional and psychological connection formed with your brand.
Based on that, touch points are the interactions themselves, and can be intentional (like emails sent to customers about a new or existing life insurance plan) or unintentional (checking out an online review site for feedback about your product or service).
Improving Customer Experience Through Touch Points
To achieve better results with consumer satisfaction and experience, you don’t necessarily need fancy analytics tools or advice from consultants. What you do need, however, is to set aside some time and put in the effort to determine customer touch points and analyze them.
1. Create a Process Map with Touch Points
In order to make the most of touch points, you first need to create a list of them. Touch points exist throughout the customer life cycle, which includes:
• Termination and win-back
Then, take an inventory of touch points and group them according to the place they occur in the life cycle. Include every manner in which customers encounter your brand, such as:
• Websites, directories, social media and blogs
• Emails, newsletters, advertisements, product brochures and literature
• Sales calls, meetings and presentations
• Sales contracts, onboarding materials
• Customer service
• Complaint resolution processes
• Referral or loyalty programs
• Customer surveys
2. Identify Touch Point Purpose and Assign Ownership
The next step is to identify the purpose behind each touch point, which becomes easier when they’re grouped according to their position in the customer life cycle. Here are some examples of touch point purposes:
• Advancing a lead
• Resolving a problem
• Supporting a transaction
• Encouraging a decision
• Creating loyalty
This is more relevant for insurance companies than for individual advisors, but it’s essential to understand who’s in control and who “owns” each touch point. Identify which ones are your responsibility and under your influence, as well as those outside of it. If you have multiple employees, assign ownership of touch points to them too.
3. Rate the Impact of Each Touch Point
Some touch points have a greater impact on the consumer experience than others. For example, poor customer service and complaint resolution can cause customers to look at other companies or agents, but infrequently-scheduled email promotions won’t really affect your consumers (just you!).
Rate and sort all the inventoried touch points according to their impact. For example, create a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is highest impact and 10 is lowest. If a touch point includes more interactions and drives value (such as customer service, onboarding, claims and renewal processes, your website and social media pages, etc.), rate it higher up the scale.
4. Create an Action Plan for High-Impact Touch Points
When you have identified and sorted the touch points on your list, create an action plan for the ones that rate higher than a 4 or a 5 and that you have ownership over. Then you can prioritize these in your short-term and medium-term plans for insurance sales. Start with those you are familiar with or have experience in, if you feel intimidated.
Trying to change everything all at once won’t work, so begin with the touch points that have a very high impact on consumer experience but can be easily changed or improved upon. These will start the process off and have an immediate impact on customer perception of your brand.
Here are some examples of high-impact touch points to consider:
• Mobile-optimized websites – This deceptively simple change can yield huge results, since many people prefer to use their smartphones for everything from shopping to life insurance renewal. Make sure to get an updated design for emails and newsletters too, so they can be read easily on a mobile device.
• Reach out to clients nearing renewal – When you have a list of policyholders whose insurance renewal is approaching, send them regular email/SMS alerts starting 5-6 weeks before the renewal date. Customers who are engaged at renewal time are more likely to stay with the same company!
• Explore cross-selling and retention opportunities – If you reach out to existing customers with information about saving money or adding on other kinds of coverage, they will listen. Surveys show that clients want their agents to discuss add-on products with them, and they are willing to discuss money-saving tips.
Also, keep looking for ways to improve newsletters and emails, blog posts, social media and other platforms. These can provide a tremendous help with your retention rates.
Satisfaction Can ‘Insure’ Your Competitive Advantage
When you identify and map out customer touch points, this in turn shines a light on opportunities for improvement. In life insurance, like any other sector with high consumer engagement, a customer-centric approach is one of the most powerful ways to appeal to prospects as well as to retain existing clients.
A good customer relationship works as its own advertising. Happy customers will speak to others about their experience, building or breaking your reputation through word-of-mouth alone.
If you’re using applications and database systems that collect consumer information, make sure they’re in sync with each other. This helps you avoid issues like multiple sales calls to the same person or slow response times.
Aiming for satisfied customers is not an old-fashioned notion, especially when the customer reaction to aggressive or incompetent agents is simple – switch to another company!
Joel Zimmerman is a financial advisor specializing in retirement planning and risk management. Joel may be contacted at [email protected].
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