Successful customer service is not just about understanding what customer's expectations are. It's about implementing an entire corporate strategy that aligns customer touch points which improves the overall customer experience. In the past, the customer experience usually centered around the insurance agent. When customers had questions, they would simply call their insurance agent to get an answer. But in today's world of Twitter and Facebook, insurance companies and agents must get ahead of customer needs and be able to address inquiries quickly and with as little disruption to the customer as possible.
So how can insurance companies and agents structure their organizations to be more customer-facing as a way to retain customers and increase customer loyalty? Successful insurance companies are the ones that can develop an overall corporate customer strategy where aligning multiple customer touch points improves business execution. Let's examine four key customer contact points in the insurance industry: initial sale, policy delivery, claims, and resolution.
Closing the Sale
The first contact with the customer takes place in the "sale" phase. In today's world this type of contact can happen via a direct channel, through the Internet, over the phone, from a text message or a face-to-face meeting with the sales representative. This can make or break the customer relationship and is a prime example of how important it is for employees to have clarity on performance goals and metrics and how they align to the larger corporate business strategy.
For example, if a company is prioritizing a holiday promotion, the message to all sales agents needs to enforce clarity on messaging and sales targets. There's nothing more frustrating than for a customer to feel as though they've been promised one thing yet provided with another. The negative impact on the customer relationship can be long term. Alignment with other departments to highlight issues covered at the point of sale helps to secure a happy customer.
One way to secure proper alignment is to help provide guidance to the call center agents from their supervisors. Working with the agent to improve performance helps to ensure that they follow corporate strategy. What methods have proved successful? Using performance management technology and developing KPIs help improve agent performance and ensure that the corporate strategy is being followed. Plus the data derived from managing agent performance can be shared internally with the management team to make sure that other divisions are in alignment with the goals of the organization. The primary goal is about providing the customer with a pleasant experience rather than simply closing the sale.
Delivering On A Promise
The next step focuses on delivering on the promise of the contract. As most customers will say, receiving official documents that don't match what was promised leads to confusion and dissatisfaction. It is also a way to start the relationship off on a sour note.
The customer wants to see that he has been heard by the sales representative, that the insurance company can deliver on its promises, and that the agent involved is competent. At the same time, the underwriter must know everything that the sales representative covered in the initial meeting. Alignment between the sales representative, the underwriter and the customer is critical to complete the transaction.
While it may take years for the customer to develop a strong sense of loyalty, it only takes one mistake at the beginning to ruin the relationship. Having KPIs that help align the underwriter with the rest of the organization will help to ensure success.
Claiming The Customer Typically a customer contacts the insurance agent after a traumatic event such as an auto accident or a house burglary. A claim is filed and the agent or claims adjuster will get involved to gain an understanding of what happened and to what extent the insurance company needs to jump into action. This is a critical juncture for the insurance company since the agent or the claims adjuster must empathize with the customer and be as supportive and helpful as possible. The last thing a customer wants to hear is an agent reading from a script or a voice recording and menu.
Following through on the policy is a key area that is often undervalued and overlooked. Since this is a stressful time for the customer it's important that the process goes smoothly and without any hiccups. Supervisors need to make sure that the agent is providing the services that the customer expects, and that the agent's actions match the strategy of the company. In order to do so the supervisor needs to make sure that processes are in place to ensure that everyone involved has the same knowledge of the case and is on the same page.
Resolving The Matter The last area to examine is the delivery of service or payment. While some aspects of delivery depend on the complexity of the incident or the customer's policy, seeking closure is a very important part of the process. Take for example healthcare codes. The agent involved must make sure that the codes delivered from the doctor for a procedure match with the customer's understanding of the situation. It's also incumbent upon to agent to explain the calculations behind the claims so that the customer feels as though they are getting the services they deserve.
Supervisors and upper management must think this process through carefully to make sure that their customer strategy is properly aligned. Systems need to be in place to monitor agent performance, highlight what areas the agent needs help with, and how supervisors can help improve the agent's performance. For example, one of the largest property and casualty insurers in the U.S. has made significant gains in customer satisfaction and call quality scores, as well as standard call center metrics, such as reduced average handle time.
In order to secure customer loyalty, insurance companies must have procedures in place to monitor the performance of the sales and service staff in these four areas. Why is this so critical? Because the company can address performance issues specific to individual employees as well as prioritize key business goals in corporate training sessions.
When customer satisfaction declines, business suffers. A proven way for insurance companies to secure customer loyalty is to:
- Develop and execute a corporate customer-facing strategy
- Align customer touch points within the organization
- Utilize performance management technology to measure and improve agent performance
- Provide the necessary support and training for supervisors to improve overall company performance
Many insurance companies have followed these steps and have raised their customer satisfaction scores. And as we know, securing a high level of customer satisfaction usually leads to a health, long-term customer relationship.