34 Insurance Agency Retention Strategies: The Ultimate Agent Resource

Written by John F. Carroll on . Posted in Agency Management, Customer Service, Lead Generation, Sales, Social Media

insurance-agency-retentionRetention is necessary to build and maintain a successful insurance agency.

Every agent knows that.

You know small boosts in retention will grow long term profit immensely.

You know it costs more to get new customers than to keep current ones.

And you probably know the pain of losing more policies than you wrote in a week.

You don’t hear as much about these two things:

  1. Retention is a sales strategy – Every single thing you do to improve retention makes customers more likely to refer you.
  2. Retention requires established processes –  Unless you decide exactly which methods in this article are going to work for you and establish formal procedures in your office to follow through, you will not see results.

I wrote this article so you couldn’t say, “I don’t know how to effect our retention.”

Here’s 34 ways to improve your insurance agency’s customer retention. No excuses, decide which retention strategies you like and take action!

1) More Customer Contacts

Don’t harrass your clients, but the more times they hear from you throughout the year the less likely they’ll consider shopping around.

The key to multiple touches throughout the year is to vary the method and make sure you’re always bringing value. The same email every month about why to buy life insurance doesn’t cut it.

Need ideas? Here’s a few: emails, phone calls, newsletters, postcards, seminars, policy reviews, holiday cards, birthday cards, text messages, surveys, handwritten letters, webinars, community events, recommendations, gifts, billing notices, customer appreciation parties.

2) Cross Sell More

It’s very simple: The more lines you sell someone, the higher their retention rate.

I used to work for a company that gave such a big discount on your auto insurance if you bought a renters policy it was usually cheaper to have both.

A lot of agents thought the company was crazy but I didn’t.

I know the retention rate for those clients went through the roof when we added that extra policy.

3) Annual Coverage Reviews

coverage-review-for-retentionI could write a book about the value of providing coverage reviews for your clients but you’ve already heard it hundreds of times.

What holds most agents back is deciding they’re going to do it, developing a process, and following through.

Make it easy on yourself and start with a small goal of doing one coverage review a week (or even less) and only go after your best clients.

Remember that even when clients decline your offer to review coverage, they’ll still appreciate the gesture and won’t be able to use, “I never hear from my agent.” as an excuse to shop around.

4) Discount Reviews

Has a client ever left you to save 10% when you could have saved them 15% just by applying all the discounts they were entitled to?

Don’t lie.

It’s incredibly frustrating and I know a lot of agents that will blame the client for not calling you first. This is wrong.

Asking your clients a few questions every year to make sure they have every discount they’re entitled to will make them feel more confident they’re getting a fair price and they’ll be more endeared to your commitment to saving them money.

5) Strengthen Your “Onboarding” Process

Marriage is the most important and longest lasting commitment most people ever make and that’s why every culture makes such a big deal out of wedding ceremonies.

I know it sounds silly, but I encouarage agents to compare their new client onboarding processes to a wedding ceremony.

Do your new clients feel like they’ve just joined a family, or made a business transaction?

Unless Kim Kardashian is your client, the more your onboarding process resembles a wedding the longer they’ll stick with you.

By the way, this is a highly symbolic analogy so don’t toss rice or tie cans to their car.

6) Call Before Premium Increases

I know many agents prefer to “let the sleeping dog lie”, but when you know a client is going to receive a big premium increase I recommend being proactive about it.

If you’re open and honest, the good clients will appreciate it. You can also give people an opportunity to change coverages around or identify any additional discounts to reduce the effect.

Orient your conversation around what is causing the increase and what can be done to offset it if needed. Assume that leaving your agency is not an option.

7) Setup Automatic Payments

automatic-payments-boost-insurance-retentionClients on EFT payments renew their policies at a much higher rate than those who write a check and mail it every month.

It’s just too convenient to stay and too inconvenient to leave.

Getting your clients on automatic payments is a mini-sale within the sale and should be appreciated for its value.

Make sure your staff is aware how important it is and compensate them accordingly.

8) Get More Referrals

Every agent loves referrals and you can never have too many, but one value that often goes unappreciated is that clients who refer are more likely to renew.

It’s psychology… if I tell everyone you’re the best agent ever,

  1. I’ll believe it more every time I say it aloud.
  2. I’d feel stupid switching after saying you’re the best.

Read this article for more ideas on getting referrals

9) Shop Rates For Them

Obviously it won’t work for the captive agents but for the independent guys, sending your client comparison quotes with your other carriers once a year is a great way to keep them with your agency.

It doesn’t matter if you send quotes for the worst carriers, just seeing a few other numbers that are higher than what they’re paying is all most people need to stay put.

10) Pre-renewal Phone Calls

Simple idea: call your clients before the renewal to thank them for their continued loyalty and offer to answer any questions they may have.

If reaching out to your entire book sounds daunting, identify the most important clients and reach out to them. Or identify the “flight risks” and call them.

11) Pre-renewal Holiday Cards

holiday-cards-retentionThis is a little twist for agents who send out Christmas cards.

Send clients a holiday card in the month before their renewal arrives. Each month you’ll have a new card for the holiday but it only goes out to your clients renewing the following month.

In February you send Valentines to the clients renewing in March and in March you send St. Patrick’s day cards to the clients renewing in April. (and so on)

It’d be about the same cost as Christmas cards, but more timely and more noticeable.

12) Remind Clients of Longevity Benefits

I used to be a claim adjuster and can honestly say that when a question arises about paying a claim, one of the first things looked at is the client’s longevity with the company.

A straightforward claim will not be affected but if it could go either way (and claims often can) a 10 year client will get coverage  at times that a first year client will not.

Don’t be afraid to remind your clients this. It’s true.

13) Educate Your Clients

The more your clients understand insurance, the more value they’ll see in your services.

On the other hand, when clients only understand price you’re 100% dispensable.

If you truly understand and believe that clients should stay with you regardless of price it’s your job to educate your clients as to why.

If you can’t do that, maybe you don’t really know the answer yourself.

14) Random Acts of Kindness

There’s a term in psychology called reciprocal altruism that says, “do something nice for someone, and there’s a better chance they’ll do something nice for you” (like renew their policy).

Sending clients an occasional handwritten note or personal email, giving their children balloons when they come into the office, or mentioning a client’s business on your Facebook page are just a few ideas.

The hand that gives, gathers.

15) Remember Clients’ Children

insurance-retention-familyIt probably sounds silly, but when people I do business with remember my childrens’ names and ask about them, I feel very respected and greatly appreciated.

If my insurance agent asked about my kids every time I saw him I would never leave.

This might be good information you can keep track of in your CRM.

You can pretty much always ask “How’s the family?” and manage your way through the conversation appearing to know a lot more than you do.

16) Anniversary Present

Earlier in this article, I likened the on-boarding process for new clients to that of a wedding ceremony. If you really want to take this analogy further send your clients an anniversary gift each year.

If you follow this schedule you won’t need to buy a diamond for 60 years.

You could also just send a “virtual” anniversary gift.  Email a picture of a gift and explain you’d like to buy it for them, if only the insurance regulators would allow it. ;)

17) Reward for Renewals

I’m sure there are others, but I know Allstate, Nationwide, and United Healthcare offer some sort of deductible reduction for each continued year of insurance.

As an insurance agent you can’t change the policy offerings but perhaps there are certain benefits you can offer your longtime clients so they feel more appreciated and like they’d be giving up an earned benefit by leaving.

I’m sure you can come up with better perks, but here’s a few to get you thinking. Give your longtime clients a special phone number, an appreciation party, access to your top customer service representative, a special customer service email address, or a special discount card that saves them money at other local businesses.

18) Birthday Cards or Letters

Face it, everybody likes getting birthday cards. It doesn’t matter who it’s from or how old you are, just knowing someone remembered and made the effort makes you feel good.

If you’re worried about the cost, time involved, or distraction, consider sending birthday cards to your top 10% of clients.

19) Exaggerate Your Sales Success

Your current clients want to see that you’re selling a lot of insurance.

When they think people are lining up to buy insurance from you every day of the week it proves that they still have a good price with a good company.

When you say things like, “we’re having a slow month,” your clients will hear, “No one wants to buy the product you’re currently paying for… time to shop around.”

20) Make Them Laugh

humor-for-salesI guess this is more of a just a general customer service/experience tip, but every laugh you get from a client makes them a bit more of your friend and a bit less of your client.

When your clients are your friends they’re a lot more forgiving when the policy goes up at the next renewal.

21) Follow up with Claims

Customers who have had a claim in the last policy period are one of the most likely segments of your client base to non-renew.

Why?

Because claims suck.

I was a claim adjuster long ago and I know there are many great claim experiences but a very high percentage of them are very unpleasant.

But here’s the good news: As an agent, you can play an integral role in your clients’ claim experiences. In order to do so, you need to establish a procedure to contact customers with claims and follow up regularly until the claim is complete.

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.

Take the complaint, absorb it, apologize, and keep the client.

22) Attract Better Clients

Okay, I know that everyone would like better clients. Most agents are more than willing to take anyone with a heartbeat and I understand.

I guess my point is this, when you’re trying to determine where to spend your marketing dollars, keep in mind the lifetime value of each sale.

It may cost half as much to get clients from the wrong side of town, but if they leave your agency 3 times as often spend your marketing dollars elsewhere.

23) Remind Clients About Discounts

discounts-retention-insurance
Insurance shoppers love discounts. And they hate not getting discounts.

When you remind your clients about every discount they get during every interaction, it does two things that help retention:

  1. It reinforces the idea that they’re not paying too much.
  2. It makes them less likely to go to another company without the same discounts.

Have you ever had a conversation like this?

Prospect: “Do you offer a discount for X?”

Agent: “Unfortunately no, but I’m confident we can save you money even without that discount.”

Prospect:  “Well, I can’t get past the fact that they reward me for X and you guys don’t even care.”

Wouldn’t you like your competitors to have that conversation if your clients ever call them?

24) Build Social Network Connections

I mentioned how important it is to “touch” your clients as frequently as possible. Connecting through social networks makes this even easier.

Each time you connect with a client virtually they’re making a bit more of a commitment toward you.

When clients connect with you, it’s like combining the recommendation benefit from #8 with the connection benefit in #7 and the increased number of contacts benefit of #1!

25) Take Ownership of Problems

Because we often want to make ourselves look better, when things go wrong with a customer it’s only natural to blame the problem on factors out of our control.

While this is the intuitive approach, it is not best for business.

When your client has a complaint and you blame forces outside your control they have no reason to stay with you.

The problem is likely to reoccur.

Blame yourself and explain why it won’t happen again and you’re far more likely to retain that upset customer.

26) New Client Follow-Up Schedule

insurance-followup-schedule

Clients who have been with you for less than 2 years are the most likely to non-renew.

Develop a procedure for keeping in regular contact with them by phone, email, or snail mail.

It should be “contact-heavy” at the beginning and can ease off over time but should ramp up again during renewals and any other important times in the life of the policy.

For the first couple years, make sure your clients don’t get any surprises.

When their policy, declarations page, renewal, and any other paperwork comes in the mail they’ll be expecting it and already know what to do with it because you called them first.

27) Make Someone Responsible for Retention

When everyone is equally responsible for retention, no one is.

Put someone in charge of developing strategies to increase retention (they can probably just read this article) and pay them for delivering results.

Also, your other staff members may be more likely to support the goals of agency retention when it’s not being driven by the person who has the most to gain. (You)

28) Pay Staff on Retention

If you’re not paying your staff for customer retention, why should they care?

I believe one person should hold the lion’s share of the responsibility and the potential commissions for retention success but anyone else who can play a role in helping or hurting retention should have some skin in the game.

Your non-commissioned CSRs might be more important with retention that your producers.

29) Customer Surveys

When you ask clients for feedback about your agency it accomplishes a lot of things:

  1. It gives unhappy clients a chance to show their unhappiness with words instead of actions.
  2. It shows clients how committed you are to keeping them happy.
  3. It reinforces positive thoughts about your agency for anyone that gives you top reviews.
  4. It allows you to ask questions about things other than price, to remind customers that price is not the only consideration.
  5. It’s another touch point. (See #1)

Need I say more?

30) Don’t Burn Bridges

This isn’t really a retention strategy as much as a re-acquisition strategy but I thought it belonged here somewhere.

When someone leaves your agency and there’s nothing you can do to retain them, make sure it’s as pleasant an experience as possible for them.

In this business, the grass is often not as green as it looks over there and many customers will come back if you let them leave with appreciation and respect.

31) Improve Your Customer Service

customer-service-and-retentionI guess I had to put this somewhere on the list, right?

Focusing too much on the retention strategies on this page when your customer service sucks is putting the cart in front of the horse.

For example, can customers use your agency’s website to handle the most common customer service issues? If not it’s time to call your web guy or get an insurance website you can update yourself.

32) Give Referrals to Your Clients

If you’re a regular source of referrals for clients that own small businesses or work in sales, they’ll never leave you.

When you can control connections of people within your community you’re offering an amazingly valuable service on top of insurance advice.

Make sure you get credit for every referral you give and consider making a table or bulletin board in your office somewhere for client promotional materials.

Just thinking they might get yanked off your “Wall of Recommended Businesses” could be enough to keep many people from leaving.

33) Promote Your Most Loyal Customers.

Social proof is a sales tool that involves showing prospects other customers who bought from you and are happy.

Video testimonials can be a great for new sales but they can also be used as a retention tool.

For example, get a video testimonial from one of your most loyal customers and find ways to show it to your current customers. Post it to Facebook, email it to your “flight risk” clients, play it on a monitor in your waiting room, etc.

34) Don’t Sell Only on Price

stop-selling-insurance-on-price-for-better-retentionIt’s tempting to sell on price, especially when you’ve got the lowest one.

Selling on price may work today but it kills retention.

If you can save a prospect money and you have the cheapest rate, move on to all the other benefits of your agency.

They won’t forget the savings, I promise.

In the insurance business, no honest company can have the cheapest rates forever.

Here’s What To Do Next

First - Click the Like button on this page so I know you want more content like this.

Second -  Share a link to this article with an agent or sales manager you trust and discuss the ideas that will work best for you.

Third - Develop a plan of attack for boosting retention and take action by the beginning of next week.

Retention is necessary to build and maintain a successful insurance agency.

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John F. Carroll

John F. Carroll is the founder and CEO of InsuranceSplash. For years, John has consulted insurance agencies with internet marketing and sales strategy and he is dedicated to making insurance marketing easy and effective for all insurance agents. If you're an agent, connect with John on LinkedIn, he wants to connect with you!

Comments (19)

  • Michael Walker

    |

    John,

    What an excellent post. At Auton Insurance, We have been systematically implementing and improving many of the above point of emphasis for years. As we do, we do indeed continue to see improvement in retention. Ultimately I think it boils down to doing even more for your clients to set yourself apart, and to build and strength relationships.

    Thanks!

    Reply

  • GaryPaulson

    |

    Great ideas! Look forward to reading more like this. Just found your site.

    Gary Paulson
    Mid-Columbia Insurance
    Eastern Washington State

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

      |

      You’re very welcome Mr. Paulson.

      Thank you!
      John

      Reply

  • M B VENUGOPAL

    |

    John sir, your insurance articles are gave high view in this sector &produce BEST PROFESSIONAL AGENT
    M B VENUGOPAL
    RLIC.LIFE INSURANCE
    INDIA.

    Reply

  • Yen

    |

    Great article for enhancing my CRM dept.
    Hope to hear more of it in future from you john.

    Yen
    Allianz life Malaysia.

    Reply

  • Raj

    |

    Great article John!! Thanks a ton!!

    Reply

  • Mike Harris

    |

    John, I enjoy the articles and would like to receive them each month. Thank You, Mike Harris, Harris Insurance Agency

    Reply

  • Jill

    |

    John,

    Let me just tell you how much I love and enjoy reading all your articles on Insurance Splash!
    My producers and CSRs here at RiverHawk Insurance Brokers, a Bay Area and Sacramento, CA based agency are learning lots of useful tips which serve as reminders for us to do better and be on top of things.
    Love! Love! Love! :)
    Keep up the awesome work John!
    Thanks for sharing! We do appreciate it.
    More power to you and your business!

    Jill Hernandez
    CEO/President
    RiverHawk Insurance Brokers, Inc.

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

      |

      I’m so incredibly humbled by your kind words and I’m very glad to hear I could help keep you guys sharp! Thank you!

      Reply

  • Chris Gardella

    |

    Having a father that’s been with Allstate for 48 years, the importance of retention has always been a top priority. This article has the solid basics, mixed with some great new ideas. I will be highlighting some new ideas, and reminding some of the small points that make a big difference. I look forward to future information. Thanks for the great read.

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

      |

      You’re very welcome Chris. It’s never too late to try something new, right?

      Reply

  • Chandra

    |

    Great article. But many of the insurers are already following these strategies…

    Reply

  • Terri Powell

    |

    John –

    This link has been sitting on my phone web for several weeks…just waiting for me!

    I’ve been an agent for almost two years and love the biz! This article is exactly perfect for me to implement a concise system. I have been do bits and pieces, now I have direction.

    Thanks so much!

    Terri

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

      |

      You are very welcome. Glad to help and I think you’re right about baby steps. Thanks!

      Reply

  • Yanga Duma

    |

    Great insights John

    We always in the chase for new sales yet others are living us without notice. I would like more of your articles. I could not connect with you on LinkedIn.

    Many thanks

    Reply

  • Marcelo Ortega

    |

    Great article John! I can’t wait to implement some of these ideas in our office.

    Reply

  • Brian James

    |

    All sound ideas John-but #19..Exxagerate=LYING

    Reply

    • John F. Carroll

      |

      Fair point… But I personally think saying that ALL exaggeration is equal to lying is an exaggeration. ;)

      Reply

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