A hard insurance market is bittersweet. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to grow commissions simply by renewing accounts. On the other hand, renewing those clients becomes a lot harder thanks to tighter underwriting guidelines and rate increases.
So how can insurance agents position themselves to win in a hard market?
Here are several strategies to help you keep more business during a hard insurance market.
Prepare Your Customers For What’s Coming
I don’t know about you, but I prefer to get bad news early, so I can prepare for what’s coming. Now, I’m not suggesting you turn into Chicken Little in front of your clients. That will most certainly send them running into the comforting arms of another agent.
But, having a frank discussion with them about the likelihood of rising insurance cost and possible cancellation by their current carrier will help them not to panic when those things happen at their next policy expiration.
Prepping your clients prior to their renewal gives you more control over the situation and allows you an opportunity to map out your game plan for them, putting their mind more at ease.
Don’t go visit your client to deliver the news cold, by the way. Just like you’re about to prep them, do some preparation yourself.
Use some of your super sexy digital-age insurance agent tricks and put your renewal strategy in a short presentation on your iPad. Without making a big deal about the iPad, just start going through the plan with your client. They might not say it, but they’ll feel more confident knowing you’re using modern tools to help them.
People tend to gravitate toward forward thinking people, so use technology to your advantage whenever you can.
Don’t Throw Your Current Carrier Under The Bus
For many producers, I think the knee jerk reaction to a significant price increase is to shop coverage elsewhere. Because that’s certainly what your client will expect you to do, right?
You can still shop coverage, and in many cases, that’s the responsible thing to do for your client. But, while you’re doing your due diligence, don’t be too quick to count your current carrier out of the game. You may be able to work something out.
Theron Mathis wrote a great article called Insurance Customer Retention: A Tale Of Two Agencies. Theron does a wonderful job of illustrating what makes for good customer retention and what doesn’t. He suggests that while walking customers through a premium increase, you should do everything possible to avoid shopping policies first.
Using a checklist of things to try before shopping a customer’s policy can save producers, client service reps and underwriters a lot of time on the front end.
Before ditching your client’s current carrier, take a look at:
- replacement values
- additional coverages that add more value for the client for minimal cost
- and most importantly…discussing with your underwriter all other options to reverse the increase
Take Inventory Of Your Carriers And Their Appetites
Rate increases and policy non-renewals are often followed by a mad rush of submissions to your most familiar carriers. That’s understandable.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a number of markets, though, revisit the ones you don’t use that often.
As with life itself, when chaos ensues, sometimes the best thing is to stop what you’re doing and take a step back to evaluate your options. In a hard insurance market, take the time to get reacquainted with your market’s appetites. You might be surprised at what’s available for your clients, both price and coverage.
Offer Your Clients Proof Of Your Marketing Efforts
Normally, this goes against typical producer behavior. Playing your cards close to your vest usually protects the markets you’re using, lest your client tell another agent, and then…BAM!…BOR letter.
But in a hard market, when your customer is already frustrated with increased price and possibly decreased coverage, they want to know that you’re actually working for them.
You must prove to your clients that you’ve gone to battle for them.
Failing to do so could very well push them to find an agent who does appear to work hard to earn their business.
If you’re still skittish about showing your cards, be upfront with them about why. They’ll respect your integrity and your tenacity to win their business. Offer to show them all the quotes you secured with the carrier names whited out. In place of the names, you might consider writing in each carrier’s A.M. Best rating to prove that these are reputable markets.
Develop Better Rapport Throughout The Year
This holds true for normal or soft markets, too. You may think you have a good working relationship with your client. But if you don’t stay in front of them on a regular basis, you’re leaving yourself open for a future breakup.
I’m not saying you need to be in their office every week or even every month. Face time is great, but there are so many ways you can develop rapport using social media these days. Using these tools will allow you more time to get out there and develop new relationships…..with prospects!
Are You Positioned To Win During A Hard Insurance Market?
Although hard markets make it challenging for insurance agents to renew their clients, there are plenty of ways to hold your ground. Most importantly, don’t panic! Take a step back. Assess your threats and opportunities. And then fight hard for every client you have!
What strategies do you use in a hard insurance market to keep your clients on the books?