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Doesn’t it feel like 2018 went by in the blink of an eye?

Shockingly, it will be 2019 in less than a month.   Have you taken the necessary steps to close out 2018 and welcome 2019 with the bang it deserves?

Closing out last year is a Must-Do step in any agency.

Get your accounts in order. One of the most important tasks at year-end is to accurately and timely close your books.  Close out your account payables and receivables and balance operating and trust accounts.  Sounds logical, right? If you have good accounting, the process should be a pretty easy task.  Closing out of your accounts and starting the year with organized and accurate balances allows you to understand your previous year’s financial activity as well as awareness to any balances that will carry forward to the new year.

Some tips from Hawksoft CMS to help you with your Year End accounting:

  • Run the Customer Summary Balance report to get a report of all of your current customer balances. This report includes all unpaid customer balances and credits.
  • Clean up balances as needed by waiving balances, voiding invalid invoices, issuing credit, and sending a current statement to your customers.
  • Verify that unpaid company payables are current and accurate.

 

Understand the KPIs of your book of business from last year.  By understanding the trend of your book of business from last year, you know how to move forward, what to avoid and where you gained the most new business.   Although you cannot change the past, it can be an insight to promote your future.

Really look at your Customer KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

  • How many customers and policies did you add in the past 12 months?
  • Of those new customers and policies, what was your best source of acquisition?
    • Are all of your team members entering accurate sources in your CMS?
  • How many customers and policies did you lose in the past 12 months?
  • Did your team do a good job of entering the sub-status of cancelled policies? The carrier download status of ‘cancelled-non-payment’ is not enough.  The WHY did the customer let the policy cancel is essential.   
    • Was it the price? If so, who was the competitor?  Tracking trends of lost business to competitors can lead to a Win-Back campaign.   
    • Was it the agency’s or carrier’s service? This is an opportunity to understand the downfalls of the agency or the carrier.  
    • Using a Report Card or calling the client to find out WHY they left the agency is crucial to understanding retention trends

 

Now, what are you going to do to Ramp-Up new sales for 2019?

We all know that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 – 70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is just 5-20%.  Yet, almost every agency that I work with has an average of 1.5 policies per customer.   What does that say about “mining our own diamonds”?

Run the following reports for your agency:

  • Active auto but no home
  • Active home but no auto
  • Active home and auto but no active umbrella
  • Monoline business report of the entire book of business…my favorite report of all! Using your advanced reporting, run a report with number of Active and number of Inactive policy filters.  Simply sort the report for any client with only one active policy and now you have a Monoline policy report.

Start a Cross Sell campaign that fits your agency’s book of business and offer an incentive plan or a competition among your team members.   

Studies have proved that personal lines retention rates average 95% with clients that bundle their auto and home.  Whereas, retention rates are only 83% for monoline clients.  Also, the same client with only one product will stay for 18 months on average. Those clients with three products have an increased longevity of the 6.8 years on average. The more invested a customer is in your agency, the better your retention and longevity of clients.   

Written on December 13, 2018 by Peggy Corbett

Why an Annual Insurance Review is a Must!

You work hard to bring in that perfect new client.  You study their needs, you provide solutions and you write the policy that provides them the perfect protection.  You send them a Welcome Letter gushing about your agency’s amazing customer service.  Everything is textbook, right?

Wrong!  You started out strong but like most agents, you set it and you forgot it. 

Every client has specific needs in the beginning of the sales cycle but like all things in life…they change.  The product and the associated coverage that you sold them today will not meet their needs of tomorrow. 

You cannot sit back and wait for the client to think that the events that impact their everyday life will have an effect on their insurance coverage.  This is the job of their insurance professional. The person that have entrusted and depend upon to make sure that they have the coverage when they need it for the exposures that they face today.

The first thought of the client that renovates and adds square footage to their home is not to call their insurance agent but to throw a party, inviting all of their friends, to show off the new home.

The family that has their first child does not think to call their insurance agent with an announcement of this new bundle of joy.  However, their life insurance needs just drastically changed. 

Ensuring your clients have adequate coverage is not the only reason to offer insurance policy reviews.  For example, your client may have just put on a new roof or installed an alarm system which would qualify for a possible discount.  They might have graduated college or landed their dream job which qualifies them for a new professional discount.   The next agent that they talk to will surely discover the additional discounts for which they qualify.  This will not only make the new agent’s premium more attractive but it will emphasize that you did not expertly do your job.

I know…you are thinking that we don’t have time!  Did you know that it costs five times as much to attract a new customer than retain your existing customer?  Whether you have 100 clients or 10,000 clients, every client must have an annual review. 

As already highlighted, the annual review provides the much-needed review of the clients ever changing needs.  It also, just as importantly, proves your agency’s value. It is crucial for building and strengthening the Agent/Client relationship and puts your agency’s ‘face with a name’ so to speak.  It also increases loyalty from your clients and provides you with the perfect opportunity to offer needed advice for higher limits of coverage or additional policies.

As an agent, have you ever had a client upset with you because they had too much coverage at the time of a disastrous claim?  On the flip side, I bet that you have had a client blame you for not enough or inappropriate coverage.

Systematic insurance reviews must be a part of your agency’s business model.  The occurrence of these reviews and looking out for your clients’ best interest is the differentiator of your agency versus your competition.  It’s up to your agency to determine if the reviews are done annually on renewal, by a systematic breakdown of the clients by alphabet or working your way through your client base by individual client premium volume.  Whatever works for your agency, just remember to set it and don’t forget it.

 

Written on August 8, 2018 by Peggy Corbett

Retention, Retention, Retention

​​​We all talk about retention and we know how important it is to realize growth.  However, I have found that many agency owners have no real insight on their actual retention.  Many agents that I talk to will guess and say “95%” without any real sense of how they arrived at that number. 

If an agency sets a goal to grow their book of business by 10%, they need to know their retention ratio.  Using simple math, an agency with a one million book of business with 100% retention only needs to add $100,000 in premium to meet their goal.  While the agency down the street with 85% retention rate needs to work much harder by adding $250,000 to realize the same goal. Knowing your true retention rate is crucial to measuring growth.

Fortunately, many agency management systems can give agencies a snapshot of their retention.  However, like anything else, the information that you pull from your agency management system is only as good as the information that you put in to it.

Another simple way to calculate your customer retention rate is to locate a few key numbers:

Retention Rate = ((CE-CN)/CS)) X 100 

C= number of customers at end of period

C= number of new customers acquired during period

CS = number of customers at start of period 

Once you understand your retention rate, you can accurately measure your growth and proactively plan your strategies to grow your agency. 

Agency owners need to look at retention as a sales strategy.  It is equally (if not more) important than your new business acquisition strategy for every boost in retention will increase bottom line profits.  Studies have shown that $1 paid towards customer retention increases profits by more than $5 spent on new customer acquisition.

Now…how do you improve your retention?

Retaining your customers is based on a variety of procedures that should be set up in your agency.  I recommend that you initiate as many of the below strategies to effectively boost your retention.  Also remember that a retained customer is a strong source of referrals.

  • Put it in writing! First and foremost, your agency needs to have documented procedures on your retention strategies. These procedures need to include that the agency’s outreach is consistent and that every employee is held accountable for delivering an exceptional experience at every level of client interaction.
  • Appoint a Retention Expert in the agency. This person should be the point person that swiftly reacts to any whiff of a potential loss of a client.   The ideal person for this role is someone with a strong sales ability and the authority to negotiate on behalf of the agency.
  • Annual reviews are an agency’s best friend but few agencies actually follow through with this process. An annual review is your way to ‘touch’ your clients and prove your agency’s value.  It can be a 5-minute call that can be used to update information, offer new discounts and necessary coverage advice, cross sell or just remind the client of your referral program.  Always remember to genuinely thank the client for their business and to remind the client that you are a full-service agency representing multiple carriers and there is no reason to ever shop their insurance.
  • Strengthen your onboarding process. Many agents write a new client, collect the new commission and forget it.  Treat each new client as a new member of the agency family.  Introduce them to the agency principal and their customer service representative either in person or by a Welcome Kit.  Send out birthday cards and handwritten notes. By treating the client like family, you ‘marry’ the client to the agency and establish a bond beyond just the sale of insurance.
  • Get in front of rate increases. Many agents would rather put their head in the sand, ignore the rate increase and hope for the best.  But what does that say to your client?  By being proactive on rate increases, you show your client that you are looking out for them.  Set an alert in your agency management system to trigger a suspense for any rate increase over 5%.  Be prepared with suggestions on how to possibly lower the rate or to explain that their actions impacted the rate (ticket, claims, change of underwriting factors).  Remember, an unexpected and unexplained rate increase is one of the biggest incentives for an insured to shop around for new coverage.
  • Offer to shop rates for them. This is a double-edged sword as it can make clients price centric.  However, when you know that a client is unhappy with a rate explain that agency represents the top carriers and you will do all of the shopping for them.  Head off competitor shopping and be sure to share with them the higher rates of other companies that the agency represents.
  • Educate your clients. Anyone can get a price online but when you explain the coverage that they need versus their specific exposure, the more value they will see in your service.  Give claim examples as a way to illustrate the need for certain coverages.
  • Be a claims advocate. This is your opportunity to shine!  Call every client on any claim.  Show your concern, walk them through the claims process and advise if expectations are not met to call you.  The worst place an agent can be is on the wrong side of a bad claim experience.  When clients have a bad claims experience and they don’t tell you about it, they’ll think the only way to send a message to the company is by cancelling the policy.
  • Reward referrals. A reward for referral is just a thank you on steroids!  Who doesn’t like to be thanked and get a small reward at the same time.  Make it meaningful and be consistent.  A socially conscious act can go a long way too.  Donate to their favorite charity, their kids school or their church.
  • Set up automatic payments. Clients on EFT payments renew their policies at a much higher rate.  A rate increase on an automatic monthly payment is much less noticeable and more palatable than a rate increase that is 12x as much on an annual renewal.  Remember that carriers recognize the increased retention on automatic payments and typically charge considerably less payment fee for this type of payment.  Getting your clients on automatic payments is a mini-sale within the sale and should be appreciated for its value.

 

 

Written on May 3, 2018 by Peggy Corbett

Are you effectively managing your agency's interaction with current and potential customers?

Sales is the name of the game and actively prospecting is the key to generating new business for your agency.  The utilization of an agency management system or CRM software is the foundation of great customer relationships and should be a major component to your agency’s prospecting plan.  It is the platform that stores customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities. 

For the majority of salespeople, finding new customers is one of the most daunting aspects of their job and typically spending 35.9% of their time soliciting new business (Best Practices). 

The application of the tools provided by an agency management system or CRM software needs to be second nature and used daily.  It is critical to enter, scan, record, etc. all data regarding potential clients at the time of contact.  It will produce positive results if you do it routinely.  It will also provide everyone in the agency, including sales, customer service, and business development, a better way to manage the customer relationships and interactions that drive success.  The easy-to-use, customizable dashboard, can deliver a 360-degree view of your customers and prospects, all in one place.

Setting up reminders for yourself will create an automated sales pipeline that will keep you on track for each important ‘touch’ to your prospective clients.  Automated email and text messages will keep your agency’s name in front of the potential client even if they are not a buyer yet. 

Don’t forget to use it to also nurture your existing book of business, create cross sell opportunities and re-visit past clients and lost opportunities.

Prospecting is partially a numbers game but largely based on effort. By utilizing your agency management or CRM tools, you are sure to keep the pipeline full and always have someone that you can talk to regarding your products/services.  

Use your tools and practice every day and you will be amazed at the results!

Written on January 24, 2018 by Peggy Corbett

As we close 2017, what are you doing to bid farewell to the old and welcome the new?

The close of the year should be a time of reflection.  We often focus our efforts on the tasks at hand and the what might be instore for the future.  However, it is equally important to look back and appreciate what went well, grasp what mistakes were made and lastly, if lessons were learned. 

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to do this as it allows you to take stock of your business and set realistic goals for the year ahead. 

Here is a Year-End to do list:

Get your accounts in order. One of the most important tasks at year-end is to accurately and timely close your books.  Close out your account payables and receivables and balance operating and trust accounts.  Sounds logical, right? If you have good accounting, the process should be a pretty easy task.  Closing out of your accounts and starting the year with organized and accurate balances allows you to understand your previous year’s financial activity as well as insight to any balances that will carry forward to the new year.  

Undergo a Solution Assessment. The end of the year is a perfect time to assess the current systems and procedures that you have in place and see if they can be improved for the new year.  Are you running a solid agency management system?  Is everything being entered the same across the agency?  Do you have a current procedures manual and job descriptions in place for existing staff and new hires?  Agency owners and managers are busy and often caught up in day-to-day management and administration but successful systems and procedures that run the agency are essential to customer satisfaction and retention.  Improving your automated systems reduces wasted time, eliminates potential errors and omissions and increases your ability to focus on your sales pipeline.

Declutter email inboxes. Everyone has that one person in the office that cannot get rid of a single email. What if it might be important in two years?  A cluttered email inbox is the same as a cluttered desk overflowing with papers and files.  It distracts and overwhelms every time you look at it.  At the new year, have your staff organize, archive, attach to agency management files and yes (gasp!) delete unneeded emails.  It seems a very simple thing to do but the psychological effect will be amazing on your staff.  It is certainly one of the easiest ways to increase productivity.  Here’s how:

  • Have staff routinely apply client emails to the agency management file and utilize “delete source” to remove from the inbox.
  • Create filters and rules to automatically send certain emails to specified folders or junk folder.
  • Unsubscribe from 95% of the lists that everyone is on. Most people just delete the unwanted emails but they clog up the inbox every time they are received again.  So, take the extra moment and push the unsubscribe button.
  • Utilize your agency management system ‘reminders’ or your Outlook calendar. Many people leave an unopened or flagged email in their inbox to remind them to do something.  Instead of clogging up the inbox and overwhelming the user, schedule these items properly. 

Motivate your team! Employee engagement is vital to the success of your team and thus, your business.  Start the year of on a positive note by sharing the success of last year.  Ask everyone to set new plans and targets for what they want to achieve in the new year and find out what incentivizes them to do so.   This doesn’t always have to be money.   Also, be sure to give them the resources that they need to do their job well. 

Create New Year goals. Everyone knows that successful business owners should start each year by setting long-term goals.  However, it is equally important to set short-term goals. Short term goals are often overlooked and should be viewed as the steps to achieve the final goal and allow praise in shorter intervals.  It motivates employees to celebrate with more frequent successes.  Also, allow employees to have a word in the goals.  It gives them ownership of the idea and solidifies their participation.   

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.” ~ Mark Twain

Written on December 14, 2017 by Peggy Corbett