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Best Practices of Quality Customer Service

15 Aug
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When the Going Gets Rough, We Just Need to Get Better.

Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like this downturn will every end—just when you see a glimmer of hope the next shoe seems to fall. But for us old timers working in the insurance industry has always had its challenges—it’s tough and it’s never been easy. What is different now is what is happening economically to our customer base both our personal and commercial lines clients. We have to begin with changing our whole outlook and the words we use in our business. We refer to the people and businesses we sell insurance to as our “insureds”. They are not our “insureds” but rather our customers. They are not a policy number; an annual premium; a renewal but rather individuals who we have to care for and know that we appreciate the “opportunity” of working with them in problem solving and partnering in their personal and business future.

More than ever this is when we cannot rest in our efforts– but for the purpose of this article the word “Rest” has a special meaning when used in the form of an acronym on how we can actually improve the quality of service. The four elements of REST stand for:

Romance Your Current Customer

Evaluate What You Are Doing

See Yourself Through Your Customers Eyes AND

Try HARDER to be the best you can be

I think back to my first date with my husband (actually I had two husbands so I have more memories than some) and I remember how nicely I was treated and how I was made to feel special. I must say that this memory is in direct contrast with the experiences of my single, thirty four year old daughter’s first date experiences which she generally characterizes as psychos! The point of “romancing your current customer is that once we are over the “dating” stage we just don’t provide that same care and special attention that we devote to searching out the new customer. While price has become a prime motivator for customers finding new agents, the number one reason that most clients change agencies is because they just feel ignored, have received poor treatment and basically feel they don’t matter. The sad truth is that all too often you don’t really know why they left—you just assume it was pricing. The fact is “The romance is gone” and we have to get that back in our daily operation. We have to treat our “old” customer like they were our “new” customer.

• Focus most on customer retention

• Our current customer is our best “new” sale by upselling, cross selling and getting referrals
• Focusing on the lifetime value of a customer
• It is the overall income from the customer base that allows us to survive

Remember some of those old dating tricks like:
– Remembering their names and calling them by their name
– Remembering their stories and ask them how things are going
– Act like you want to spend time and listen to them

That’s the romance we need to recapture

Evaluate What You Are Doing

Nordstrom has long been considered a leader in providing quality customer service to their customers and has written a great deal about their philosophy. They have a wonderful slide share presentation at: http://www.slideshare.net/parature/the-nordstrom-way-to-customer-service-excellence. They pose some basic questions they use to evaluate how they are doing:

1. Am I offering a better product or service than my competitors?
2. Am I selling a less expensive product or service than my competitors
3. Am I offering customer service that is better then my competitors?
4. Am I offering value added services that are not offered by my competitors?

See Yourself Through Your Customers Eyes

One of my very favorite stories on customer service was from the book How to Win Customers and keep Them. The story was titled “The only way to know how customers see your business is to look at it through their eyes”.

A young boy entered a drugstore phone booth and the druggist overheard the following conversations:
“Hello, is this the Smith residence?
I would like to apply for the opening you have for a gardener…
What’s that, you already have a gardener?
Is he a good gardener?
Are you perfectly satisfied with all of his work?
Do you plan on keeping him?
I see, well thanks anyway.
As he left the booth the druggist remarked, “Johnny, I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation I know it’s none of my business, but aren’t YOUthe Smith’s gardener?”
To which Johnny replied, “That’s right. I just called to find out how I’m doing.”
And that is precisely what we need to be doing—checking with our clients; finding out how we are doing; finding out if we can do more and make them feel like they matter.

Try HARDER to be the best you can be

We need to try harder to provide the best service to our customers so we can meet and Exceed their expectation through such techniques as:

• Availability and Access
o They want someone to answer the phone
o They want to be able to talk to “someone” not just a machine
• Courtesy and Friendly Attitude
o They want to be treated nicely
o This often fails at the first point of contact, the person that answers the phone
• Care and Understanding
o They want to feel like someone cares about the fact they need something done
o AND listens to them and takes the time to understand what they need
• Competency
o They “expect” you to be knowledgeable—that is what they were promised
o If you don’t have the answer then make sure you find it and don’t “fake” it if you don’t know. Honesty is the best policy
• Follow Through
o Do what you say you are going to do
o Do it when you said you would do it
o Do it right the FIRST time

Lastly we need to motivate our employees—without their full commitment our customers will be disappointed. So much of being the best we can be is to have the “best” team. Nancy Singer, CEO of American Bank Corporation has an acronym for Teamwork that stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More With Recognition and Knowledge. We need to:

• Establish leadership that models excellence in service
• Promote top-down rewards and two-way communication
• Clearly define quality customer service goals
• Have procedures to meet those goals

~Laurie

http://www.insurancecommunitycenter.com

http://www.insurancecommunityuniversity.com

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