10 Urgent Things You MUST Do to Stay Relevant in 2020 — Part 1

I can’t believe we are ending one decade and heading into another one.

I still remember the Y2K threat like it was yesterday. While nothing major happened when we rolled into 2000, there have certainly been a lot of changes in insurance since then. All too often the adversity we face happens slowly over time, rather than as a punch to the face. But that’s insurance — slow, yet always steady! Change in insurance can slowly erode our businesses if we don’t prepare and embrace it. I know that none of us want to become Blockbuster,  but it takes commitment to a business plan to make sure we are embracing the changing consumer and investing in ways to continue to grow. In this two-part blog, we are going to review the ten urgent things agencies must do to stay relevant. 

Let’s take a moment to define “relevant.” Here is dictionary.com’s definition: “bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent.” In reality, independent agents have a few stakeholders to stay relevant with:

  • Current Customers
  • Prospects
  • Carriers
  • Your Team 

As a business owner, you may be feeling overwhelmed thinking about just one of those areas. That’s ok! We can break down some simple strategies that you can employ to boost your relevancy this coming year. In writing this blog, I chose not to make them in any order. Any one of these areas may be the most important for your business. As you’re reading through them, we encourage you to number them to attack your biggest opportunity first. 

 

Build Processes and Procedures to Meet Your Expectations and the Clients’

Who’s excited to build a process manual in 2020? What, not you? Why? Because most of them sit on a shelf? That’s because most of the process manuals focus more on where to point and click and less on the purpose, outcome, and how to get there. Take a moment and think about the last frustration you had with a team member. Was your expectation of how to handle that situation documented and trained on, or was your team member supposed to be a mind reader? If it’s the latter, I know how frustrating it is when something that seems to be common sense to you doesn’t happen. Listen — we can all play Monday Morning Quarterback on calls we made, but the way to get everyone rowing in the same direction and hold people accountable is to document a playbook or strategy of how to handle situations. You can also add in the where to point and click part, but take the opportunity to also add in scripts, the mission, and the ideal outcome. We don’t send soldiers into battle without clear orders; your team is battling every day!

 

It’s All About the Experience — Not the Price 

As I’m typing this, I hear Biggie Smalls saying, “It’s all about the Benjamins.” If you want more Benjamins, you have to invest in your entire team creating an experience for clients. In today’s world, we are all about the 5-star rating, the NPS score, and word of mouth. Recently, I was at a client’s office and we were reviewing cancellations. I asked why someone left — the first answer was “price.” This was commercial lines and I backed them up a bit. I said, “What caused them to shop?” The team member answered, “price.” I commented that there were different prices here, and ultimately, when you looked at the policy after the customer left, you indicated it was incorrect. So I asked again if it was price. They looked at me puzzled and said, “yes.” I replied, “No, it was trust. They didn’t trust you were working on their behalf and then it got into a ‘he said, she said’ dispute of right and wrong. They left you because they didn’t trust you.” Trust stops people from shopping, and we need to drive that on every opportunity. People won’t value you if they don’t trust you. 

This means we have to develop a customer experience and live by it. We often see the following customer experience blunders:

  • Not setting expectations
  • Not sharing exactly how hard you are working for a client
  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Not building rapport
  • Taking a reactive approach
  • Doing transactions rather than reviews 

Your customer experience starts with your brand messaging and goes on to how you answer the phone and how you keep your team on task, tracking the experience all the way through renewal. You need to create the experience and then relentlessly train on it so that’s the way you do business. At Chick-fil-A, if you don’t say, “my pleasure,” what happens? These are 17 year olds and they get them to do it! It can happen, but you need to start by mapping it all out and then training, training, training. 

 

You Have to Brand Yourself Like It’s 2020

I thought that in 2020 we would be in flying cars, but most agencies still look like an early 1990’s business. Major brands are refreshing their brand every few years, yet in insurance we don’t do anything to stick out. There are 36,000 agencies in the US and direct writers are spending $7 billion each year on advertising. Agencies need to spend a few thousand dollars to define their brand and help them become attractive to their target clients. If your brand looks tired, you won’t be attracting growing businesses or growing families. Possibly even more important is that you need to be attractive to the top team members in your area to gather up the best staff. We strongly encourage every agency to invest in a brand guide so you can brand first and market second. 

 

Your Tribe Is Your Vibe

If there was one gift I could give to the insurance industry, it would be the end of complaints about finding staff. Yes, it’s hard, but we don’t do much to help ourselves. Some of us treat recruiting and training like more of a hassle than a commitment. That’s crap. Your staff is your biggest investment and you need to find a tribe that is teachable and has a good attitude. We often delay hiring because we can’t find the perfect person. Let’s be honest: you aren’t a perfect employer. You need to be recruiting for experienced and inexperienced talent — right now, even if you don’t need anyone. No excuses. You want to find the best people that represent your brand and can love and serve your clients. Your team either holds you hostage, or you are leading the troops to find the right squad. 

 

Fire Your Worst Clients

Yes, let them go. Break up with them. They are not profitable and they are sucking your team’s time. Get clear on who you are here to serve. Then make it a point to fire the people who are the opposite (not in the middle, the opposite). These clients represent a profit leak and it’s time to move on. Start with the worst of the worst and every 6 months work your way toward culling your book. Identify service levels for your VIP, A, B and C clients. We cannot continue to jump through hoops for the worst payers. Most agencies cash out the favors on the wrong people. Improve your team’s day, find who deserves your services and let go of the bottom feeders that you are giving VIP treatment to.

What’s next?

Spoiler alert: we have outlined 5 of the 10 urgent things you must do to stay relevant. In our follow-up we will tackle the next five that include:

  • Relentless Pursuit of Efficiency & Effectiveness
  • Client Marketing Strategy
  • Proactivity 
  • Sharpen Your Sales Skills
  • Be Consistently Consistent

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