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"Independent agents face many challenges. The modern insurance industry is complex and competitive, the team at web-based CRM software provider Salesboom writes. Finding new customers is becoming increasingly difficult, with independent agents citing large market ownership by major insurance companies as the primary reason. Another is the growing trend of customers going online to search and buy policies. In fact, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of people now use insurance provider websites or aggregators to find cheap quotes, says Maggie Murray at Elephant Insurance. Overcoming these challenges requires independent agents to be agile and adaptive. You need to have an understanding of what your customers are looking for and how to respond. One way to do this is to use customer relationship management (CRM) software.  

What Exactly is CRM?

“CRM is a technology for managing all of your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers,” according to Salesforce. “The goal is simple: Improve business relationships. A CRM system helps companies stay connected to customers, streamline processes and improve profitability.” Business strategist Jason Kulpa adds that many companies prescribe to the notion that the “customer is king,” and CRM is one of the best tools for managing and improving interactions — both with current and prospective customers. Here are some reasons why implementing this tool is a smart move and the benefits it can have for your company.  

Centralizes Information

Open communication is a must in this field. Whenever information becomes siloed and team members fail to properly exchange key data, the customer experience ends up suffering. A CRM platform offers a “360-degree view of your customers,” explains business owner Justine Cross. This can include everything from customer contact information and data points to call notes and order history. In turn, your entire team always has a real-time snapshot of what’s going on, what needs to be addressed, and how you can better serve your customers. If a customer speaks to one team member, others can quickly find the details and get up to speed on what transpired. This reduces any frustration on the customer’s end, while simplifying the lives of team members and ensuring that no one is left out of the loop. And this is essential for taking a customer-centric approach to insurance coverage.  

Helps Build Stronger Relationships

CRM plays a vital role in the relationship building process. There are three main reasons why. First, digital marketing team manager Josh Borillo says that it’s a natural catalyst for meeting your customers’ needs. By tracking their purchase history and behavior, you can keep close tabs on their current coverage and better predict policy add-ons that might benefit them. CRM coupled with artificial intelligence can assist customers by alerting them of potential issues ahead of time. Jon Walker at TechEmergence offers one example where a car insurance companies using Salesforce access real-time weather data to stay on top of weather conditions. When a hailstorm was anticipated in a specific area, agents were automatically notified and turn alerted their customers to take cover. This reduced the odds of damage occurring to their vehicles. Secondly, CRM is helpful for promptly resolving issues. By having instant access to real-time information, you or your team can quickly locate data and come up with a viable solution. There’s less back-and-forthing, and insurance customers can have their needs addressed and go on about their day. Help Scout, a help desk software provider, points out that valuing a person’s time is one of the most important things a company can do for its customers. Two-thirds of people actually say it is critical to a positive online customer experience. Thirdly, CRM helps you achieve more of a one-on-one type of relationship with customers. Because CRM platforms allow you to analyze individual customer data, monitor purchase patterns, and set task reminders, you can really get to know each person and maintain highly personalized communication. This is important because many of today’s consumers have come to expect a personalized experience. In fact, 71 percent get frustrated when service feels impersonal, according to customer data infrastructure provider Segment. The end result is often a significantly higher retention rate — which is important because, as Justine Cross writes, retaining a customer is five times less costly than acquiring a new one. Additionally, retention has a positive impact on your profitability. Sales and marketing authority Eilis Cope explains that just a five percent increase in customer retention can increase profits anywhere from 25 to 95 percent.  

Helps with Coverage Recommendations

Recommending the right insurance policies is critical. Giving the wrong advice can create unnecessary costs for your customers and quickly dissolve your reputation. Given that insurance investment advice isn’t always 100 percent accurate, it’s only natural that some customers are a little wary, especially if they’ve only been with a company for a short while. Fortunately, CRM helps improve this process as well. For example, software development company Elinext can provide insurance companies with a recommendation module where customers fill out a questionnaire. It then crunches the data and suggests coverage that matches their specific needs. This makes things far more objective and provides recommendations based on the criteria a customer has input themselves — not just what an agent thinks is right. The end result is better coverage where customers get exactly what they need without spending on unwanted extras.  

Improves Customer Communication

Each person has their own preferred means of contact: phone calls, texts, email, social media, instant messengers and even traditional direct mail. Picking up the phone and calling might make complete sense for one customer, but could be a turnoff for another. You also have to take the complexity of the communication into account. Founder of web-based help desk app UserScape, Ian Landsman points out that 63 percent of people prefer a less personal medium for simple things (e.g. checking their billing status), while 60 percent prefer speaking with a human directly for more complicated matters like answering an open-ended question. Using the wrong form of communication could create friction between you and your customers and potentially cost you business. Inputting a customer’s mode of contact preference into the CRM platform lets you know at a glance when you should use less personal methods like text, email and social media and when you should use a more personal one like a phone call.  

Improves the Site Browsing Experience

CRM can be a real game changer when it comes viewing your website. “For example, browsing behavior or email identification stored in the CRM can connect with your web personalization tool to dynamically change the content according to the unique preferences of the customer in real-time,” writes digital marketing industry analyst Omar Akhtar. “A recognized repeat customer could see a more product focused home page, versus a first time visitor, who might see a more brand-focused home page.” This helps prevent a boring, generic website experience that’s built for the masses and replaces it with a hyper-targeted one that approaches each customer as an individual.  

Boosts Productivity

Finally, this type of platform is a tremendous time saver and can dramatically increase an agent’s productivity. Analytics software and solutions company SAS specifically found that CRM improves productivity by an average of 30 percent. How? It automates many tasks, helps coordinate team collaboration and provides you with detailed customer insights, explains Kevin Gardner at Digitalist Magazine. Beyond that, it consolidates all of your customer information into one location for easy access, adds Rebekka Kuhn at Nutshell CRM. Contact information, communication history and purchase history are all a cinch to find. In other words, it does much of the heavy lifting for you and allows you to accomplish more in less time.  

Meeting the Demand of Modern Insurance Customers

CRM software has experienced immense growth over the past decade. a mere 12 percent of businesses used it in 2008, but that number has risen to 87 percent in 2018, Mark Taylor at SuperOffice notes. With benefits as covered here, it’s easy to see why more and more companies are getting on board. It makes perfect sense for independent agents who are trying to be more efficient, while delivering the best possible customer experience. And with the team at FinancesOnline reporting an average ROI of $5 for every $1 invested in CRM, it’s definitely something to consider.   Images by: goodluz/©, delphinmedia, rawpixel"

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