A Guide to Online Reviews and Reputation Management for Insurance Agents
Twenty years ago, everyone relied on phone books and personal referrals in order to find an insurance agent. In today's world, search engines and social media have become the modern versions of the phone book's business directory and reviews can be the online equivalent of a referral. If a customer looking for insurance cannot find anything about your agency online, they may be hesitant to buy a policy from you. However, there is more to creating an online presence for your insurance agency than just throwing up a simple social media page and leaving it alone.
The Importance of Having an Online Presence
How hard do customers have to look to find your agency's address and phone number? Probably not very hard. But what about your products, hours of operation, and other small details? These are things rarely found in the phonebook and consumers have come to expect these details when researching whom they choose to do business with. Without an online presence, you are unintentionally telling potential customers that you do not care if they can find information about your agency.
According to GE Capital Retail Bank's Major Purchase Shopper Study, more than eighty percent of consumers do research online before they make a major purchase. If the public can't find anything about your agency online when researching insurance, do you think they will contact you to handle their business? Probably not.
The truth is, the internet is a fantastic tool for both customers and business owners. Not only does it help match customers with the right business owners, but it also helps businesses advertise for little to nothing. Although you can spend money on advertising on social media or hiring a social media manager, it is entirely possible for you to create and operate your social media accounts without ever spending a dime. That's a pretty fantastic price for marketing.
How to Establish Your Online Presence and Manage Your Agency's Brand
If you get overwhelmed at the thought of creating and managing your online presence, do not worry. You can get started with one or two platforms and decide later on if you want to create and manage more. As a general rule of thumb, it's best to start with your website and setup your insurance agency's profile on social media and local business directories including sites like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and US Insurance Agents.
Your website can be more than just a place to provide basic information about your business. It can be a way to provide news and information, customer services and also a great marketing tool for your agency. You can utilize local SEO or paid advertising to attract visitors and increase sales leads. You may be able to pay a web developer to create your site or there may be a template already available through the insurance company where you work. Having a website for your agency allows you some control over what current and potential clients see and hear about you and your agency.
When you get ready to set up your first social media account, be sure to include as much information about your agency as you can and provide clear, professional-looking photos (not grainy, dark photos taken). Decide right away how often you will post to the account and stick to a schedule. If you are not able to do all the posting yourself, assign the task to someone you can rely on, or outsource it to a social media manager. Your social media posts should contain a good mixture of general information about your agency, facts about your products, and other helpful information for your customers and followers. Remember to keep the posts professional and avoid discussing controversial or offensive topics.
Claiming or creating your agency profile on local business directories is another way to help manage your online presence. These sites focus on providing useful and relevant information to their visitors. This means that they will list your profile and any other details (such as reviews) with or without your involvement. By claiming your profiles, you'll be given more power to protect and enhance your agency's reputation.
Tips to Manage Reviews
One of the biggest reasons businesses love social media and other exposure on the internet is because of the reviews. Sure it feels great when a customer tells you in person that they enjoy working with you, or thank you for helping them through a difficult situation, but it would be great if they could tell all your potential customers about their good experience. With online reviews, that is exactly what happens. However, you must learn how to manage not just the good reviews, but also the negative ones.
How to Encourage Good Reviews
Everyone loves good reviews, but not all customers immediately think to leave a positive review when they have a great experience. Fortunately, you can help increase the number of positive reviews on your social media accounts. Here are a few tips:
- Make it a daily business practice to ask every customer if they were satisfied with the customer service they received. If not, ask how it could be improved next time. When they say they did have a good experience, ask them if they would consider leaving a review on your social media account.
- Respond to positive reviews and thank them. People will be more likely to leave reviews when they see that their gratitude is being acknowledged.
- When a new customer takes out a policy and is happy about saving money from switching companies, ask them to tell their friends about you and leave a review on your social media account.
- After a claim has been settled favorably for a customer, follow up to see if they need anything else, and if they are satisfied with how things were handled, ask for a review
- Send hand-written thank you cards to customers who leave positive reviews. They may send more referrals your way.
- Setup your own review or testimonial section on your website to highlight happy customers.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
It would be fantastic if customers could only leave good reviews. Unfortunately, that is not how things work. Eventually, you will encounter one or several bad reviews. Don't panic; this happens to even the best business owner since it is not possible to make absolutely every customer happy in every situation. The important thing is all in how you handle the bad reviews.
- Act quickly. You should check your online agency profiles for messages and other customer interaction. Failure to respond in a timely manner could result in more attention being drawn to the initial review and result in a loss of future sales.
- Keep your cool. Whether the review is true or not, it is never a good idea to argue on the internet. Even though you are defending yourself, it makes you look bad. Reach out to the customer and offer to discuss the matter in person or by phone.
- Whenever possible, find a way to address and correct the reviewer's concerns. You may choose to do this in a public comment, private comment, or indirectly. Let's say you got a bad review about an employee treating a customer unfairly but you know the customer was really the problem. If you cannot reply directly, you might post on your website or social media account about how friendly your staff is. With luck, other customers may respond in agreement.
- When a customer leaves a negative review due to policy pricing, insurance rate increases, or other factors that you had no control over, try not to take it personally. On some review sites, you may be able to flag the review since it complains about a carrier issue, not an agency problem.
- When the option to reply directly to the reviewer is available, try to be as professional and calm as you would in person, address their concerns, and offer to meet with them again to resolve the issue in any way possible if they are interested.
- If a former employee leaves a negative review, there is not much more you can do in response than if it were coming from a disgruntled customer. However, keep an eye out for additional negative reviews that are false or multiple reviews from different users stating the same things. Some scorned ex-employees may create multiple user accounts or post several bad reviews in order to tarnish your agency's name and hurt your reputation. When these tactics are used, do your best to appeal to have these reviews deleted.
- Do not let negative reviews go unchecked. Yes, some customers may realize that a complaint about how a reviewer was treated by the company call center does not reflect poorly upon your agency, but others will simply note the number of negative reviews against your agency and choose another agent for their insurance needs. You may not be able to curb each and every bad review as soon as it is posted, but keeping them at bay on a regular basis is an absolute necessity.