BY DAVID SQUIBB
In order to work toward creating an ideal environment for securing new customers, it’s important to first understand where the most reoccurring points of drop-off are from a consumer standpoint and what causes these issues:
1. When your data collection is slow
Courting new business is successful when a carrier shows two sides to their business: The benefits of your coverage and the simplicity of working together.
That becomes difficult if the early stages of data collection are slow, repetitive and poorly designed.
Some insurance companies still rely on manual, paper-based or archaic electronic entry mechanisms that don’t focus on the customer. Poor mechanisms such as broad questions without clearly defined answers, neglecting additional follow-up questions based on a previous selection, and neglecting to provide sufficient guidance reflect negatively on both the carrier and the agents handling the policy.
Carriers should work toward creating documents that capture all relevant information in one sitting, without the reliance on outside reference or help. This could be the difference between shifting potential customer perception from a seemingly never-ending process to a controlled one with a clear conclusion.
By adopting intuitive document design and streamlining the on-boarding process, carriers can greatly reduce the amount of time to close.
A simple change of moving from paper to paperless, for example, in key areas of the on-boarding process can make a major difference in terms of cost per mailing and time between touch points. Modern customer communication management technology is allowing carriers to rapidly deploy automated intelligent onboarding forms that dynamically guide the customer, facilitate add-on purchases, and even add instructional video content.
A recent Technavio study found that the global document management market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14% over the next four years because of the paperless processes — not only for environmental reasons, but to account for the addition of preferred screens such as mobile and tablets.
2. When your response is slow
Drop-off can be high as a result of sub-par communication between the agent and the insurer after the potential client is through the submission process.
Deborah Smallwood, founder of Boston-based Strategy Meets Action, alludes to this in an interesting articlecomparing a poor communication system to medieval times, highlighting the misunderstandings, wasted resources and antiquated practices between the “kingdoms” of agents and insurers.
When a customer provides information to an independent agent for a quote, they will typically shop this information to one or more carriers. This information is often conveyed either manually (paper, fax, email) or electronically. If it’s electronic, the agency management system and carrier systems must communicate — but this conversion is anything but a seamless process. When the carrier responds to this information, it’s the same process but in reverse.
With so many different agency management systems needing to translate to carrier systems and vice versa, this process is often long, confusing and tedious, which can lead to client fatigue.
A typical customer doesn’t know or care how the process is carried out, and will often mistake this delay as a carrier’s disinterest in their business.
3. When they are filling out a frustrating application
We have all experienced the situation where we are completing an application for something, either on paper or online, and for some reason we cannot easily get through the process to a successful completion.
I remember filling out the mandatory Free Application for Federal Student Aid for my college-age daughter. After more than 30 minutes of entering every financial detail of my entire life, I was asked for the PIN that I had set up the prior year. Flash forward to the next day when I was able to dig out my PIN only to find that I was forced to re-enter every piece of detailed information all over again. If I wasn’t required to do it, I would have terminated the experience at that moment. This nightmare plays out in voluntary situations every day.
The process of applying for insurance, if not simple, will create similar barriers to new business acquisition. The number of questions and level of detail can be very complex, and if the prospect does not have all required information — or if they cannot complete the entire process in one session — many will abandon the application.
If the process was difficult, unintuitive or the information from the first session was not retained for call back, in most cases that agent or carrier has lost the opportunity to sell to that prospect.
4. When you make the customer “work”
The simple truth is that customers like to do business with companies that are easy to work with.
We use websites that let us make purchases with fewer clicks, we go to the drive-thru because it is faster and more convenient, and we pay with a wave of our mobile device.
We like it easy and we want to buy our insurance the same way. Customers don’t want to enter information that is easily available from other data sources. For example, entering information about their vehicle or driving record when that information can easily be obtained from the DMV or when making a change to their policy and being asked to provide information about themselves, their vehicle, property or policy that is already known by the carrier or agent.
There are numerous points during the process of securing new business that can cause customer dropoff, but by focusing efforts on these four areas carriers can drastically reduce their time to close, improve customer perception of their company, and help agents be a better asset to their clients.
David Squibb is the chief sales and marketing officer of Peabody, Mass.-based Xpertdoc Technologies Inc.