Unless you’ve been living and working in a vacuum, you have heard and read quite a bit about customer experience, customer-centric selling and user experience. In the age of technology, we tend to think of these terms in the context of selling, customer service behaviors and technology. In fact, user experience is so often referenced in today’s technology-driven business environment that most people simply refer to it as UX, and an industry has been built around making the digital experience seamless and “perfect” for customers.
Incorporating technology into your agency and having a website that operates by today’s standards are key investments every independent agent should continue to make, but if your physical location is tired, and does not reflect the image you hope to convey, you have no idea how much that is costing you; the people who matter have already gone somewhere else and all the marketing dollars in the world are not going to bring their business to you if you don’t consider the impact of your agency’s physical environment (which is part of your brand, by the way).
But does it matter? You bet.
Let’s contrast the independent agent with a captive agent. Allstate, Nationwide, State Farm and other exclusive agents derive value and competitive advantage from the national brand of the company they represent. These brands are strong, recognizable and despite offering less options, many consumers who opt for a local office over online options, believe they know and trust these brands and give them their business.
The independent agent has to build brand and reputation from the ground up.
This requires thinking harder and smarter about what people see and think as they drive, walk or pedal by their local agency. Does your physical appearance pass muster? Think like a retailer or a restaurant owner. Is your outside appearance inviting? Or is it cluttered, tired, and lacking professionalism? What do people see as they look at and in the windows?
Next, let’s contrast the independent agent with direct writers and other online sources of insurance. The future of the independent channel hinges on (among other things) the perceived value of a professional consultative relationship and the promise of an agent who is representing their clients’ best interests.
Perceived value is key. If your clients and prospects don’t believe it, it doesn’t exist. Let’s go deeper into your agency, and in through the front door. Does your agency environment reflect the value-add of a professional, consultative relationship? Take a hard objective look at the physical space– the office layout, the furniture, the tables and desks, the displays. Then consider the experience one has with you or your staff. Does it reflect the value and regard with which you hold your customers and clients, or does it need a bit of polish and training?
First impressions matter. Every impression matters. Could you do better?