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Customer Service Tips that Generate Referrals

Insurance prospects fuel the future success of insurance agencies and an amazing way to target prospects is to build up a referral program with your existing customers. To get there, agents need to pay special attention to stellar customer service. A personal touch and good customer service reputation can have a big impact on a prospect’s final decision and on whether or not existing customers enthusiastically recommend your services.

American Express reports that consumers feel customer service has declined over the years. However, good customer service can have a major impact. American Express’ 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer showed that a vast majority of consumers are willing to spend more money with a company that they have a history of positive customer service experiences with. Three out of four consumers report spending an average of 14 percent more with these companies. Customer service counts for a lot with consumers and is second only to “good value for the price” when choosing a company.

The competitive insurance market demands that agencies use every available means to gain and retain clients. Great customer service is one highly effective method of getting insurance referrals and converting them into sales.

Common Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

Customer service can be a tough nut to crack, but without good service, an agent’s hope of getting referrals drastically diminishes.

There are many little things companies can do wrong that will leave consumers with a negative impression – from not using the right language, to not understanding the multi-channel nature of today’s consumer environment. Here are the 10 All-Time Worst Customer Service Practices from Forbes, tweaked to have an insurance agency perspective:

  • Hiring employees who lack the “right traits for customer-facing work”
  • Considering customer service training a one and done process, rather than setting up a program of on-going education and review
  • Failing to view customer service practices from the client’s perspective
  • Giving off subconscious miscues that will leave customers with a poor opinion of your services (i.e. long wait times with annoying hold music; inconvenient helpline hours; hard to find information on your website)
  • Using language that doesn’t match your brand’s image, or using a script that doesn’t allow the customer to interject or ask questions
  • Not paying attention to time – underestimating how long it will take for something to process or not getting back to a client when you say you will. Not respecting a consumer’s time is a major customer service taboo.
  • Fees or charges can have a major impact on a client’s perspective of customer service. If you’re charging in a situation that the consumer considers unfair, it will affect their opinion of your customer service.
  • Not offering sales, deals or services across all channels. Today’s society is one of convenience, don’t make customers jump through hoops.
  • Not having a clear and appropriate plan of action to follow if a consumer is unhappy. You need an established and consistently followed client recovery process.
  • Not beginning and ending strong. Customers remember how long they had to sit on hold or how hard it was to contact of you. They also remember the outcome of their interaction with you. What happened in between tends to be less memorable.

Making any of these common customer service mistakes will make it more awkward for you to request referrals from your clients and will make your customers far less likely to refer your services to their friends and family. If they didn’t have a good experience, how can they trust that their loved ones will?

Generating Insurance Lead Referrals

Once you’ve mastered the principles of good, timely, personalized customer service, work in ways to request lead referrals from your existing clients. This process should be a mix of organic interaction and automated requests. Here are a few tactics to generate lead referrals from your customers:

  • Send a personal or automated follow up email after a customer service interaction. This allows you request feedback about the interaction (so you can make your customer service even better) and prompt your client to refer someone after they’ve had a positive experience with you.
  • Once a year, send an email to your clients thanking them for their business and asking them to refer anyone who’s looking for insurance to you. You make them happy and you’d love to make their friends happy too.
  • Create a Refer a Friend portal on your website for proactive clients.
  • Incentivize the referral process by offering a discount or a giveaway if a referral becomes a client.
  • Give your clients a personalized referral code to share to help you track success.
  • If asking for a referral is too strong of an approach, gently remind clients to “tell their friends” about your services. This is a softer pitch that might be more appealing to some.
  • Give you clients a way to share your information and their positive experiences with your services via an email to their friends or social media.
  • Encourage Yelp reviews. While this isn’t a direct referral, people are increasingly checking online reviews and endorsements before making a purchasing decision. Having a good online reputation can help seal the deal for a referral.

Contacting Insurance Prospects

If you’re proactively collecting referred prospects (meaning an existing customer provides you with a prospect’s contact information) tread lightly. Remember, at this point you’re still just a random salesperson to this prospect.

As with any lead, provide a hook to get them interested. Always mention that they were referred to you by a current customer and, if it doesn’t violate any privacy or confidentiality laws or expectations, mention who that client is. Focus the discussion on how much better your services are compared to competitors, and how that provides a better value for the money – don’t forget to mention your dedication to customer service. Tie it all back to the fact that you currently work with a happy client that the prospect knows.

When making contact with a prospective client, be persistent but never obnoxious. You can follow up calls with an email introduction, but make sure your points of contact are well spaced out so they’re not overwhelming or unwelcomed. Weigh calling during the “best” contact periods against interrupting dinner or other activities. If, after making a short pitch, the prospect says they are not interested, thank them, say goodbye and hang up.

Customer Service’s Impact on Referral Generation

If you want customers to refer your agency, you have to give them something to refer. They aren’t going to recommend you simply because you exist and happen to be their insurance agent – your services need to be memorable and above par.

“People don't refer business to you because you meet their minimum expectations. They refer you because they expect you to do a good job which, in turn, enhances their relationship with the person they are referring,” Ivan Misner, founder and chief visionary officer at BNI, said in an Entrepreneur column.

Provide stellar customer service then capitalize on that by actively requesting prospect referrals. If your clients are happy with you, they’ll likely be happy to refer more business your way.

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