We’ve advised hundreds of agencies across the country, ranging from businesses in their first year to third-generation, multi-million dollar operations. Over and over we hear the same issue: “My people won't get the job done!” It's easy to blame Sally or Rick, but how is that going to help you identify the core issue and fix the problem? More often than not, we find the problem is the process, not the people.
Most agencies we meet with have loyal and hard-working customer service teams with strong credentials and years of experience. Commitment and grit go a long way, but there is always a ceiling of impact if fundamental processes aren't in place.
Some agencies mention that they re-shop all policies that carry a 10% increase in premium when compared to last year. This is a great strategy if the economy is strong, market disruption is minimal, and renewals don't increase too much, but what happens when your renewal percentage dips below 90%? This is when agency owners — and managers — are quick to blame Sally and Rick.
Stop the blame game! Look into your processes first! Written processes are vital to the success of a small business. Insurance agencies get stuck in the way they do things and often don't analyze or re-visit the reasons for their actions. Identifying, simplifying, and documenting the renewal process will identify areas for growth, improvement, and allow your teams to create a positive experience with your clients.
Writing your processes down in checklist format and connecting them with your mission will also allow you to pivot from conversations that start with: “This is the way it's always been done,” to “This is why we do it this way.”
Here are three examples of what we see as the essential steps for a successful renewal process:
Proactive vs. reactive
Your renewal process should be on the offensive, not the defensive. Waiting for a premium increase before beginning the activity is a reactive measure.Does every client need a re-shop if the premium increased by 10%? What if the client loves the insurance company and wouldn't make a change even with savings?
Instead of analyzing percent-ages, change your process to include an automatic review of the renewal if the client had a claim in the last policy period. This will ensure a proactive step to follow-up from the claim, and confirm your client is satisfied. Chances are, these are also the clients who will realize a hefty premium change.
Make the renewal call early
There is nothing more embarrassing than receiving a call from a client letting you know they received the renewal paperwork and they’re upset at the offer! You’ve lost your advantage, and now you’re scrambling to find a better rate. Even if you do find a better price, your client will be shopping the competition and remember that you only acted once instructed.
Avoid the situation by calling your client at least 45 days in advance of their renewal. The purpose of the phone call is not to review the policy, but to let them know the paperwork will be coming and that you’ve already started the process to begin the renewal! What a relief for the client to hear! They will be glad you’re on it and they’ll appreciate the communication.
Appreciation and gratitude
Treat your renewals as if you're selling them again each year. You don't win only on price to obtain your clients’ business in the first year, and the renewal of their policy should not be a time to sell them on price to stay.
Show them sincere appreciation for considering renewing their policies with your agency, and find out more about how the last year has been personally and professionally.
Walk a few minutes in their shoes before you focus on your goals. Help them solve a problem that has nothing to do with your renewal commission, and see how it feels to engage without discussing deductibles and comprehensive coverage.
Write it down!
Most importantly, write down the renewal processes. You should be able to hand the process to someone without insurance training, and they should understand how to do the job. Your processes aren't a training program, but they will allow you to analyze your agency without biases.
Next year, when your renewal percentage increases, you’ll have a fun time debating which improved more: The People, or The Process?