Selling insurance is personal business. Clients share private details such as their medical history, savings and plans for the future. And today, client service is more important than ever as clients and prospects face an uncertain retirement, stretched budgets and new confusing healthcare and financial regulations. As an agent, people need to trust me and feel confident that I’m always there to address concerns or questions at any time. But, like all of us, I’m a busy person. Naming the business after myself seemed like a good idea, but every client expects my personal attention. With a full caseload as well as a private family life that requires attention, I needed to find a way to make myself appear to be everywhere … all the time.
For some time, I thought I could manage by using mobile devices – my laptop, my smartphone and a briefcase full of files. But that was a lot to carry around and my clients still knew when I wasn’t in the office. If they tried to call me at my desk, I wasn’t there. If I called back after retrieving their voicemail, they knew I was on a mobile phone. Over time, I found that many clients didn’t feel like they were getting the attention they deserved.
As cloning is still not a viable option, I had to find another solution. My answer to enhancing client service came from an unexpected (some might say mundane) place – my business telephone!
Since the vast majority of my business is done over the phone, I decided to see if there was a better communications system to suit my business and lifestyle. After doing some research on my own, I thought I found the solution with a hosted IP (Internet Protocol) system. But after four months, we didn’t see any improvements. At that point, I decided to get some advice from an expert. I contacted my local business communications provider, and he recommended that I install a communications system which offers a multitude of features that would accommodate my mobile life.
When I’m out of the office
A mobile extension feature allows calls made into my office phone to ring automatically on up to five additional lines, such as my cellphone and home, as well as my assistant’s desk, who can reach me at any time. This allows me to answer calls wherever I am as if I were in the office, and my clients don’t realize that I’m not sitting at my desk.
I also decided to add an email and fax gateway as part of the system, so that when a new voicemail or fax arrives at the office, it is automatically delivered as an audio or PDF file to my Microsoft Outlook inbox, which I can also access on my smartphone. With this application, I do not need to wait for the office to let me know a fax arrived for me, and I don’t have to remember to check my office voicemail every so often. Instead I can immediately get and return calls as needed.
When I’m visiting a satellite office
I spend most of my time in our headquarters in Hampton, Va., but I do visit our two satellite offices in Williamsburg and downtown Hampton every week. The addition of Session Initiation Protocol trunks, or virtual phone lines that utilize broadband connection for access, allows us to control the outbound caller ID from each phone so that calls appear to be coming from the recipient’s local area code. As an added bonus, SIP trunks also save us $400 per month on our phone bills.
The new communications system also allowed me to install VoIP phones in our two satellite offices, making it easy to transfer calls from one site to another with a simple three digit extension, ultimately helping to more efficiently handle client requests and collaborate internally.
When I’m at my office but not available
There are times when I am in the office but temporarily unavailable to talk on the phone, such as when I’m meeting with a client. Two features on the new system really help to improve connectivity in these situations. The first – an inter-office intercom – is extremely useful for emergency calls.
Call forwarding/no answer features allow calls that go unanswered after four rings to be forwarded directly through overflow to another desk. That way instead of leaving me a voicemail, clients get another member of my staff who often is able to provide an immediate answer to their question. Even if I’m ultimately needed, our client still received personalized attention from our team. This overflow feature is also used to provide backup for satellite offices with less staff. If they’re unable to answer the phone, it gets routed to headquarters with the caller ID displaying where the call originated.
Honestly, I never thought something as simple as a communications system could make such a difference in our daily operations. I’ve already noted an improvement in my clients’ ability to reach me, and in their overall satisfaction with the attentive service provided. In today’s economic climate, any small advantage can provide a significant competitive edge. And the best part is that the system was a surprisingly affordable investment, and has already paid for itself in dollar savings and overall office efficiencies. Insurance is a client service business. Are you doing all you can to provide superior service over the phone?
The author’s Seal Financial Group is an Allstate agency specializing in retirement, life and commercial insurances.