In the age of Twitter tirades and Yelp rants, a seemingly minor customer service fumble could lead to a full-on public relations nightmare. Customers can be quick to criticize companies that fail to live up to their expectations. These online reviews could have an impact on future business. The latest statistics show that 90 percent of consumers read online reviews, 88 percent trust these reviews just as much as a personal recommendation, and 72 percent say that a positive review makes them trust a local business more. But a stack of negative reviews can unfairly skew a local business's rating and may even discourage future business, so what can insurance agencies do?
While you can't control what people post about their experience with your agency, you can take steps to try to ensure that each and every experience is the best it can be. This starts by understanding your customers' expectations for your services. These expectations are formed not only by other insurance agencies, but also by customers' experiences with high-profile consumer brands.
Just because customers aren't complaining doesn't mean they're happy with your services or that they're going to recommend you. If you want to make your service even better, then following the same standard customer service practices that you always have may not suffice. From integrating new digital tools to revamping old practices, here are some tips on how to help improve customer service:
1. Offer a mix of self-service and full-service. Offering self-service options is good for your customers who expect a quick, automated solution to basic transactions. Even if your automated system feels seamless, keep in mind that it may not be for every customer. Build an "escape hatch" into any self-serve systems so customers can quickly access live help when they need it, such as chatting online with a live representative. Ask friends and family to test your online services to identify and correct potential frustration points.
2. Institute a better customer feedback/response loop. You can't meet your customers' needs if you don't know what they are! Customer surveys could be an opportunity for customers to share valuable feedback about their experience with your agency. Think of this feedback as "free customer service consulting". Don't wait until the end of the month or quarter to review survey results. Scan feedback as you receive it in real-time. Set a 15-minute window aside every week to promptly address a customer service concern, rather than waiting until frustrations build further.
3. Make a great impression before ever meeting your customer. Customer perception could be reality. Think about the experience your customer will have before he or she ever walks through the door at your agency. Is your website professional and easy to use? Did the customer have an easy time finding parking or locating your office? Are the grounds attractive? Is the office comfortable yet professional, or is there an unpleasant odor, outdated reception furniture or a poorly signed entrance? These "pre-first impressions" will linger in your customers' memory: be sure they're the best they can be.
4. Make a great last impression. Once you've completed a customer transaction, like signing a new client up for homeowner's insurance, it's easy to jump right into the next thing. Resist the urge to rush off to check your email or make a phone call before your new customer is even out the door. The "goodbye" is an important stage that will linger in your customer's memory, just like the "hello".
5. Be considerate of your customer's time. A perfect service that's delivered late could be a failed service. Respond to customer inquiries as promptly as possible; even if you can't solve their problem immediately, let them know you're working on it. Give them a timeframe for when you'll have a solution, and hold yourself accountable for meeting this deadline.