The US insurance industry is the largest in the world and recovered well from the 2008 financial crash.
Nevertheless, insurance remains a competitive field. For smaller firms, surviving and thriving means tailoring services to your customer’s needs, harnessing the latest software and, perhaps, excelling in a few types of insurance rather than merely being competent in many.
Whether you’re the owner of a small agency or you want to buy an insurance firm, here are four tips on how to stay competitive.
1. Personal service
Offering a personalized service to each and every customer is a big challenge in today’s fast-paced business environment. It can be tempting to lump clients together into broad groups and address them collectively, assuming their needs and desires are all basically the same.
While that may be the case to some extent, such a one-size-fits-all approach won’t effectively cover each individual’s needs. It may also give customers the impression that they are neither valued nor receiving value for money.
Far better to view each individual as just that: an individual with their own unique situation, preferences and desires. Everyone has their own unique family circumstances, financial situation and insurance history.
The ‘little things’ therefore make a big difference. Be sure to begin every client relationship with an in-depth interview where you ascertain all relevant information about the client’s financial past and present circumstances. Then, tailor a policy or set of options specifically for them.
Finally, they will appreciate reminders of important deadlines, such as billing due dates and annual renewals. This needn’t strain your resources because there are software platforms out there that can automatically send alerts via SMS, email or whatever medium the customer prefers.
A personalised service is obviously more time-consuming, but it needn’t be onerous at a time when customer relationship software (CRMs) – like Salesforce, which offers a demo tailored to insurance agents – can help you log, update, track and interpret customer data.
2. Online claims
Giving customers the option to file and monitor insurance claims online has become fairly standard practice, especially with larger companies. While offering all services online may not be practical for small agencies, offering some level of online claims entry and status updating will give customers the convenience – along with the personal touch that larger companies struggle to emulate – they have come to expect from their insurance company.
It also reduces the amount of data entry required of you or your staff at the beginning of the claims process, freeing up valuable time and resources for improved, more personalised customer service and more efficient claim resolution.
3. Boutique services
While an ‘everything under one roof’ strategy has its merits in the insurance field, specializing can also be highly profitable.
For example, while it’s common for an agency to offer all types of property and casualty insurance along with life and perhaps even health insurance, doing so requires the division of their marketing budget among diverse target markets.
On the other hand, an insurance agency that is highly specialized – say, dealing strictly in liability insurance for boat owners – can focus their marketing spend on one or two target markets. This gives you a powerful USP: being a master of one or two trades rather than a jack of all of them.
4. Mobile integration
Today’s typical consumer is rarely without their mobile device. You name it, there’s an app for doing pretty much anything and everything these days, including researching, buying and using insurance coverage.
If your agency offers products backed by large companies that already have mobile apps, make a point of encouraging customers to use them. Take the time to learn the apps yourself so you and your staff can train customers on how to access information on their phones and tablets.
If an existing app isn’t available, explore the possibility of having at least a simple one created for your agency that, at a minimum, offers:
- Quick and easy contact with your office, especially in regards to filing a claim
- A summary of useful information such as policy numbers and IDs for customers
- A means of scheduling meetings with agents
- Access to basic educational content regarding products and services your agency offers