“We are founded on the principles of HONESTY and INTEGRITY with an unmatched commitment to help our customers manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize dreams focused on building lifelong relationships and supporting the success and growth of the community.” – James Pearson, State Farm Insurance Agent (emphasis added)
“Realize dreams”; “lifelong relationships”. Those are bold words leading to high expectations.
State Farm is not the cheapest insurance company out there. We’ve all seen the ads that promise savings if you switch from the other guys. That (being the cheapest) is often the biggest push for several large insurance companies. Yes, it is one common competitive advantage according to basic marketing, but is that really what people want?
Point being, they may not be the cheapest, but State Farm is, however, the largest casualty insurance company in the United States. If money is not the ultimate incentive for the average American, then what is it that makes State Farm so successful?
Two words: customer service.
Now, that’s a widely overused word in business today, so it needs some clarification.
The insurance industry has been around for a long time and is quite competitive. While price plays a large role in how people choose an insurance company, it is not longer the most important determining factor towards long-term business success. State Farm is the largest insurance company in the United States because they understand the ultimate competitive advantage: happy, loyal customers.
Many other companies in other industries have figured this out as well. People will pay premium prices if they are met with exceptional care.
With that being said, here are 3 simple, yet powerful ways you can guarantee success by focusing on your customers.
Customer service starts with setting a standard of clear expectations between the business and the customer. If a customer has high expectations and you don’t meet them, they will not find it difficult to cut ties with your business in favor of a competitor.
These expectations are centered around the product and the service behind it. Ultimately, if the product is comparable to competitors, customer service will win out. In fact, even if your product is more expensive, many people will still choose you if you provide better service.
In the end, customer service is all about expectations. Be clear about them and meet them every time.
There are satisfied customers, and then there are “wowed” customers. Treat each customer as if they are your best customer. Think of ways to surprise them. Go above and beyond what is expected.
Here’s an actual review for James Pearson, a State Farm Insurance agent in Texas:
“Today much to our surprise, as we were booking our hotel for a family vacation, the manager asked if we had State Farm insurance, which we replied with ‘YES!” She said by just having State Farm insurance we got $30 a night knocked off of our bill! We just have to bring proof of current insurance coverage from State Farm when we check in! So a huge heartfelt THANK YOU to Amanda Bryant and James Pearson State Farm for saving us money in so many ways!!”
That is what you call a surprise. It wasn’t expected and it wasn’t required. In fact, it’s a benefit that this family might not have ever discovered, but it’s still there, waiting for State Farm Customers to discover it.
One customer service story that went viral is that of Josie the Giraffe. A small stuffed animal was left at a Ritz-Carlton hotel. The father of the boy who left it emailed the hotel asking to send it to them. What happened next is nothing short of legendary customer service. Read about it here.
According to Agency Revolution, financial success for an insurance agency is directly related to customer retention rates. That means if a company that has been around for a while is consistently maintaining the lead in market share, then a large part of their success can be attributed to loyal customers. Customers are loyal because they are happy. They are happy because they are cared for – more than is minimally required.
The only way that works is if you do things as a business that benefit the customer before they benefit the company. That doesn’t mean you just make your products cheaper than everyone else. It means you make your service so good that price is not the determining factor. People want to feel safe and well cared for by you. Money is important, but it is secondary.
Excellent customer service – more than is expected – will just about guarantee your business succeeds.