Achieving the role of trusted advisor should be the goal of any insurance agent.

But how does an agent become a trusted advisor, with hundreds if not thousands of customers to manage? How do you scale both the frequency and the quality of customer touches? Are carriers providing the tools needed to empower their agents to become trusted advisors in their local markets, allowing them to grow and influence the outcome of their business?

Let’s break down what the term trusted advisor means. By definition, trust is the reliance in character, ability, strength or truth about someone. Trust is earned over time by communicating, in a way that is invited, consistent, relevant and meaningful. The producer who has become a trusted advisor builds a long-term relationship with their customers, not just the short-term gain of one sale.

The insurance industry was built by companies using a distributed sales force of agents that connected in their local communities appropriately, communicating with each customer based on a foundation of trust. Traditionally, agents built relationships with their local individual network of contacts on a one-to-one level. Hours on the phone, the golf course, the PTA meeting, their networking groups, etc. resulted in true relationships with people.

Relationship Marketing and the Insurance Industry

The insurance model of a distributed field force of agents, requires technology that is specific to the insurance industry. Broad-based customer relationship management tools are good for maintaining a customer record, setting up reminders and managing a customer file, but do little to expand the capacity for quality and frequency of interaction. Are these tools helping your agents field force truly connect in their markets with their customers and building relationships?

At the velocity and volume of the insurance industry today, technology must be applied to empower agents with marketing and communications tools that enable relationship marketing with hundreds of customers, creating agents who are continually earning the role of trusted advisors.

Dialing for dollars won’t get you there

Agents must be empowered to communicate in a way that is relevant to each individual customer. That’s an overwhelming task for producers who are managing a growing a book of business. Technology focusing on automated marketing and communications allows agents to manage their relationships with each customer individually. Staying “in touch” with manual input and management with a large book of business is simply not humanly possible.

Effective relationship marketing requires several overlapping strategies and technologies to develop the agent’s role as a trusted advisor. The result of integrating these technologies is increased cross-sell opportunities, increased customer retention and growth through acquisition.

Lead Generation

As the number of leads increase, managing the lead process can be difficult. Studies show that the “speed to lead” dramatically increases close rates. Technology can help agents respond quickly to high quality leads, resulting in quoted and closed business. If agents aren’t responding via the appropriate channel at the right time, the opportunity is lost. Technology can feed qualified leads to the producer’s mobile device within three seconds resulting in that agent becoming the first point of contact for a prospect providing valuable guidance and information. That’s how trusted advisor relationships begin.

Customer Experience Management

Gartner defines customer experience management (CEM) as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” It is a strategy that requires process change and many technologies to accomplish. Traditional CRM applications don’t account for the insurance industry’s frequency and velocity of communications necessary to facilitate the trusted advisor relationship.

But what if producers could build the role as trusted advisor by automating communications and marketing with their customers – setting up each customer on a sequential marketing plan that is relevant, timely and consistent.

Targeted Marketing and Communications

To develop relationships with customers and prospects, the marketing communications needs to be frequent and contextual. Knocking out calls from call lists based on selected query criteria is the technique many “technologically astute” producers use. It’s a numbers game, right?

Is that a best practice that is scalable and elevates agents to the level of trusted advisor? Agents who are building sustainable books of business are building relationships with customers. They are using automated marketing tools, managing their customers’ experience with their agency and managing customer data in a way that allows them to leverage those relationships to build business.

By Sam Fleming, Vice President of Product Marketing