Data from Independent Agents indicates that they crave a shared feeling of common purpose with their P & C insurance carriers. This is almost as important to agents as excellent service with underwriting and claims. We discussed this dynamic in a prior blog article.
When I wrote that article last May, many companies were struggling to transition to 100% virtual communication with their agents. We were not sure at the time if that situation would be temporary or long term.
Now it seems that remote work and limited business travel are here to stay. For companies competing to attract profitable business from their agents, strong relationships will continue to be essential to their success. Yet virtual environments make it far more challenging to nurture strong relationships.
We see proof of this challenge in our data. Agents indicated 54% of carriers performed worse in this relationship aspect in 2020 when compared to 2019. The agents were just not feeling as much of a sense of common purpose in 2020.
In this new virtual operating environment, we must be more intentional about how we nurture a feeling of common purpose.
Here are four actions you can take that will enhance your customer relationships.
An agent recently shared this quote about a carrier they appreciate.
“They are proactive, reach out …”
Now that we are not seeing each other face to face, it is easy to be out of sight and out of mind.
Don’t wait for agents to contact you. Reach out to them, ask how they are doing, and thoughtfully discuss how you can help them. Then make it easy for them to reach back to you with opportunities.
Proactive communication is an acknowledgement that you and the agent are “in this together.”
People will be more engaged in a relationship when there is accountability. It promotes a feeling of trust and well-being.
Here is a quote from an agent that describes just such a situation with one of their favorite carriers.
“They do what they say they will do. No excuses. They are dependable and trustworthy”
Here is another useful description of accountability.
“Accountability is doing what you said you were going to do…to the best of your ability, on time, without needing to be reminded.“
Strong leaders demonstrate this level of accountability themselves, and then encourage it from their team members.
Show More Appreciation
People want to feel valued and not taken for granted. Here is a representative quote from an agent:
“They appreciate the value that we bring in terms of our quality submissions and quality accounts. They know we aren’t just trying to write “any old” business.”
When you have success with an agent, celebrate the win together. A little thanks goes a long way. It energizes all involved.
You want agents to send you good business that is in your appetite. When they do this, give them positive feedback. Specific positive feedback makes people feel valued, and it motivates them to keep it going.
Show More Empathy
We feel closer and more willing to work with people when we feel like they understand us and what we are going through.
This agent describes the importance of empathy:
“We work best with those underwriters who put themselves in our position and truly take ownership. That is a characteristic that is disappearing today, and we need to get that back.”
When you understand and acknowledge your customers’ challenges, it helps you work with them to find mutually beneficial solutions. You realize that you are not on opposing sides, you just have different roles to play in serving policyholders. Empathy helps you find some common ground from which to build a stronger relationship.
As the quote above points out, many people don’t take the time to empathize. If you express your empathy, you will be a stand-out among your competitors.
KEY TAKE AWAY
Carriers that intentionally nurture a feeling of a common purpose with their agents will differentiate themselves.