Building an effective client handling team

When considering a purchase

How to build an effective client handling team

Ken Baker, Training and Development Director at 1st Choice Insurance, a leading independent commercial insurance broker based in the Midlands, discusses how to build a client handling team that can effectively meet your business needs.

When considering a purchase, especially an important one, today’s discerning consumer will generally look to the internet to research the product options available to them. They will also look at feedback on the products, and people opinion of the companies offering them. As a result, they become well-informed and educate themselves on what they need and what matches their buying criteria. Hence, they approach suppliers at an advanced stage in the buying cycle.

Potential customers then look to see how easy it is contact suppliers. How informative and helpful are their websites? How easy is it to speak to someone, mail the correct person, or to trade online if appropriate? At this stage the vendor is one of several suppliers. What both consumers and suppliers are really looking for trusted relationships that result in mutually beneficial added-value.

A shift towards customer experience

Buyers are looking for a great experience. They want their expectations to be met and exceeded. Does the potential supplier/partner inspire confidence? Do they deliver on their promises of a fantastic initial buying experience? It’s easy to say you will deliver a brilliant service now and in the future, but is there a genuine capacity to do this? Price is what one pays to acquire a service; the true cost is ongoing use of the service. Get this right and real value raises its head.

So, how does a company gear up to offering a premium customer service experience? As mentioned earlier, a great “Omni Channel “communication capability can be key. This means that customers need to be able to use all convenient methods to communicate with you. This then needs to be backed by a company structure that makes it easy and convenient to deal with. The team needs to be fast and flexible, with great customer feedback with regards to the purchasing and after-care service.

It’s time to invest in people!

Time to mention the key ingredient here: the people that make up your business. Companies can provide the best CRM systems and tools to offer sales advice and customer service, but it is the culture of individuals and teams within the business that is the big differentiating factor. How does one build and develop a truly customer-centric team- an effective and helpful team that consistently delights their clients from order to renewal? The key is proactive account management and development, sharing the same journey.

I wanted to focus here on the cultural aspect of the team here. Lighting a fire in one’s colleagues to go the extra mile. Here are some areas that I think are crucial:

1.  Making sure that team members are correctly trained to do their job. They need to understand their products, services and Industry. They must have Personal Development Plans that underpin their roles and responsibilities, goals and aspirations. They are therefore in an environment where they feel empowered and motivated.

2. They understand the real benefits of what they offer and how important these are to customers. They deliver the solution to the ongoing WIFM requirement. Customers will always review the value of “what’s in it for them”. Why wouldn’t they as they are paying for a service that they expect you to deliver on!

3. Have the capability to “Walk a Mile” in the client’s shoes. This develops empathy and a real understanding of customer’s needs.

4. Put key performance indicators in place that really help team members understand what is expected from them and where they should focus. Clear agreed SMART objectives. Ensure these are measured and are the basis for regular coaching and development.

5. Make sure your team has a Vision and Mission underpinned by a clear picture of what “Great” Customer Service looks like.

6. Incentivise great performance. This doesn’t necessarily have to be financial. Relate incentives to individual motivations.

7. Really listen to your customers. Listen to their needs and feedback. Respond with change where beneficial.

8. Do What You Say You Will. Don’t over-promise. Be open, honest and flexible. If in doubt, over-communicate. Keep clients well informed. If there are issues let them know what you are doing to fix them and the timescales. Clients understand that sometimes things go wrong.

9. Keep accurate customer records and if applicable, Account Plans. These plans can reflect a common set of objectives to ensure product and service updates and improvements are communicated. The full needs of the client are met, and the full capabilities of your company are understood.

10. Share the love. Share the passion. Share your firm’s best practice.

Working within a company with loyal happy customers is such a positive and enjoyable experience. It’s a two-way experience and creates a leading edge to your brand and will drive growth. I am committed to this approach with 1st Choice Insurance. It’s on the top of my agenda in my role of Training and Business Development Director.