Life and health and property-casualty insurance agents (and investment advisors) arguably are in business to serve their customers. Despite this universal truth, too many view them as the enemy, both during the acquisition and retention phase of the customer relationship.
Evidence for this assertion? It’s all in how agents talk about them. They often speak of segmenting (“dividing and conquering”) their markets, planning their sales “attacks,” launching e-mail “blasts,” and overcoming objections through mind and language games akin to psychological warfare. In effect, bringing a new customer on board seems more like running a military campaign designed to vanquish an enemy than one geared to initiating a collaborative new business relationship.
When the prospect decides to buy, the campaign shifts from offense to defense. Here, rather than being the company’s opponent the customer becomes a source of potential problems — someone who consumes too much staff time, files insurance-commissioner complaints, abuses front-line staff, and when angry over mistakes real or imagined, sparks an errors-and-omissions insurance claim.
Sound familiar? Have you caught yourself being overly aggressive toward prospects and overly worried about customers once you’ve closed the sale? Relax… you’re not alone! This is the inevitable result of viewing customers as the enemy rather than valued partners. Though common, it’s still an unfortunate attitude because insurance and financial advisors who view customers as the enemy suffer the following negative consequences:
- Marketing becomes a process of unleashing one-way marketing salvos (OK, messages) at prospects rather than initiating conversations about customer needs.
- Sales become a contest of wills rather than a process for discovering prospect requirements and learning about company offerings.
- Customer service becomes a risk-management exercise rather than a process of generating cross sales, upsales, referrals, and ultimately long-term loyalty.
- The processes of marketing, selling, and serving become negative and stress-filled for company employees rather than inherently positive and rewarding. This creates sub-optimal employee performance levels, job satisfaction, and longevity.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But losing the martial mindset requires these four attitude adjustments:
- First, view your prospects as people, not targets. They don’t want to be on the receiving end of marketing attacks, sales salvos, or campaigns of any kind. They do want to talk to their insurance agents and financial advisors about their problems and concerns and receive helpful information and guidance in return.
- Second, view existing customers as opportunities, not problems. They represent future first-year commissions and renewals and should be nurtured and cherished, not complained about. Granted, some customers will generate problems and even errors-and-omissions insurance claims, but these should be a significant minority of the total. Focusing on the positive, not the negative, will help you view customers in the proper light.
- Third, view marketing, sales, and customer service as doorways to greater customer intimacy. To fully leverage this opportunity, you need to relinquish your need to control interactions and be receptive to what prospects and customers wish to convey.
- Fourth and finally, be less secretive and more transparent with your customers. When they know more about you and your employees as people, they will be less likely to become difficult or file complaints or lawsuits.
Because at the end of the day, insurance and financial professionals of all types succeed not become they vanquish their enemies, but because they convert prospects into satisfied customers and passionate advocates. Why make war when you can make friends instead?
Harry J. Lew is Chief Content Officer at EOforLess.com. For information on affordable errors and omissions insurance for low-risk financial advisors, visit E&OforLess.com. For information on ethical sales practices, please visit the National Ethics Association’s Ethics Center.