A 38-year-old marketing consultant just bought a book and some music CDs at a popular online retail site. Taking less than 10 minutes to search for and buy exactly what he wanted, this guy had a great online shopping experience. Now, hes headed to your agencys site to purchase insurance.
This is good news, except for one thing: He probably expects a similar experience to the one he just had, and hasnt considered that comparing apples to mangos may not be fair. All he cares about is getting clear and concise information, and the opportunity to buy coverage in an expedient manner.
He is todays typical online consumer, who is motivated, impatient and often unforgiving.
You are an extension of your online customers service experience. How your company communicates and facilitates the process will greatly impact your ability to close business. Its important to leverage your current business practices, and combine them with new components without compromising the speed at which you serve your customer. Anything short of this may erode your online customers expectations and result in a significantly smaller close rate for the division of your operation that is focused on Internet-influenced sales.
Keeping in mind that many online insurance shoppers want to bind offline, heres a basic example of how an efficient online-offline system can work in todays environment.
Your online customer takes approximately 10 or 15 minutes to input initial information, and two minutes to review quotes and submit a request for coverage. The agent receives the customers request and, within eight minutes, replies via automated e-mail to the customer. Following the e-mail letters instructions, the customer phones the agent to confirm all the data. Fifteen to 20 minutes later, the agent has validated the information, retrieved a motor vehicle report, credit score and Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report, bound coverage, accepted payment for the policy, and faxed a proof-of-coverage certificate and, in this case, a vehicle ID card to your new customer.
To enhance your ability to succeed online, consider these four important factors: responsiveness, expectation management, online-messaging, and effective selling.
The Internet has redefined access to information, and customer service is now measured in hours and seconds. Since the online consumer wants instant gratification, its critical that response mechanisms are in place to distribute information quickly.
Whether youre quoting or simply acknowledging requests for coverage, responding within seconds is critical to meeting your customers expectation that your service is fast and interactive. Unless otherwise specified, the successful, physical-world practice of initiating your response during evening hours is not an effective tactic with your online customer. In fact, many are online from late morning to early afternoon.
On the technology side, enable your system to fully accept customer data so that inbound sales calls and real-time e-mail responses can be easily performed. Also, avoid having to re-capture data by making sure that all current and historical records are accessible to your agents. Redundant conversations about previously submitted information can frustrate your online customer.
In your online communications, set clear expectations and state specifically what your customer needs to do to complete the policy-buying process. Buying insurance online is new for many consumers, and, due to the offline components of the process, its important to explain precisely what needs to happen to complete the transaction. This may include a reminder to retrieve essential informationsuch as VIN, drivers license number, odometer reading, lien holder records, and credit-card numberin order to expedite an upcoming sales call. Help your customer anticipate and be prepared for each step in the process.
E-mail is efficient and productive, but no one wants to read too much text. So keep your instructions simple and to the point, and use a subject line that clearly identifies your purpose.