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The Burning Question

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Is it a bird?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against Superman or Spiderman – they are superheroes at the very top of their game. But, I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for Batman and Robin because I think caped crusaders are more effective when they travel in twos.

It’s a little known fact but insurance brokers have their very own deadly duo: Trust and Goodwill. But, these particular superheroes struggle to be taken seriously. They lack a Commissioner Gordon type, someone who can champion their remarkable abilities.

So, for the purposes of this article I’m donning a Gotham police hat and adopting an appallingly stereotypical Irish accent – so I am, to be sure.

What is trust and goodwill? We need a definition, shouldn’t be hard. Yes, a definition would be a good place to start.

Well no, not really because we need your customers’ definitions, and I can tell you now they will all be different.

Don’t bother trying to define T&G it’s a waste of time. Instead concentrate on its more important constituent parts. Write down three occasions when you personally received a service or product that exceeded your expectations. Struggling? But you know when it happens because it makes you happy.

Happiness is a common theme among contented customers (a great side effect of being happy is you want to tell other people why – truly effective word of mouth advertising). This is the single most important ingredient of T&G: happiness.

Now think of an occasion when you received a service that you weren’t expecting. Tricky?

I once stayed in a hotel where the chambermaid bought in homemade cakes for the guests she cleaned for – it was a wonderfully unexpected gesture. We now have a second ingredient: surprise (although it must be a nice one).

Simple then, this T&G lark: do something your customers don’t expect and fill them full of bonhomie. How about a happy hour? 10% off every new policy on Wednesdays between 4pm and 5pm. What’s stopping you?

Well, another very important ingredient I hope: sincerity. Customers see gimmicks for what they are – second rate Jokers. So, the key ingredients needed to create trust and goodwill: happiness, surprise and sincerity.

The big question is now: how do you present them to customers? Let’s consider what you do already, shall we? Answer the phone quickly? Well done. Send out your renewals three weeks before renewal date? Can’t fault that. Have a pretty website with pictures of the Directors on it? That’ll help.

But, as you already know, I think, these things don’t make your customers look up to the sky for something more exciting than a bird or a plane. Insurance, if we’re brutally honest, is a pretty boring product, or at least it is if you look at it through your customers’ eyes. They can’t polish it and it’s not going to take up shelf space above the fire.

The very best you can hope for is that your insurance products meet expectations. And as customers expect insurance to be boring, meeting expectations, logically, means you’ve successfully bored them.

I can hear collective brains whirring now. It’s fine prattling on about some ethereal concept, but where is the practical application. Insurance is, after all, practical.

Happiness – you don’t have to dress up in oversized shoes and drive an exploding car, but never underestimate the power of putting a smile on customers’ faces. Why not set aside some space on renewal letters specifically for making customers grin? One sentence could be enough.

Surprise – Provide something extra for no other reason than it makes customers lives a little easier. Why not include money saving tips on motoring for your car insurance clients – a website displaying the cheapest petrol prices locally, for example. This doesn’t cost you anything more than a little time and effort.

Integrity – In my view independent insurance brokers have this elusive quality is spades. It underpins almost everything they do. In fact it’s so ingrained they assume their customers know about it. Take the opportunity to gently remind them – communicate regularly. Newsletters can do this but they must be written in your customers’ language – treatises on mitigating losses are best avoided.

OK, but where is the commercial pay off? Well, not only will you retain more customers you’ll turn them into advocates. And when that happens you’ll have recruited an extremely effective sales force. An army of superheroes you could say.

This article was written by Mike Millard, one of our Directors, and originally appeared in Brokers’ Monthly in 2009.