September 15, 2015

We talk a lot about trust and trusted relationships to the point that I think we many times take them for granted. Most of us see trust as one of our most valuable assets. We want to do business with people we trust, and insurance agents view trust as core to the relationship they have with their customers.

Yet too often there is an assumption that trust exists just by the fact that someone is doing business with us. But does it? Do customers trust their insurance agent? How important is it for an agency to have a trusted relationship with its customers?

Clearly, a trusted relationship has many benefits including:

  • You become influential — your customers trust your opinion and advice.
  • You get information — your customers trust you with their personal and financial information.
  • You can serve your clients more effectively.
  • You get more business – your customers will be more likely to refer you to their family and friends.

Is it possible that agency (and carrier) customers are placed in a position where they have no choice but to trust? After all, they don’t even know if the price is right or if the outcome of their trust is going to be good until after they have a claim.

A recent Insurance Journal article reported on an IBM survey in which more than half of the respondents indicated they did not trust their insurance carrier. While I would hope and expect that there is a stronger trust relationship with an agent, I also have to believe that some of the negative feelings toward carriers rub off on the agents who represent them.

The lesson: Give up earning trust as a company. Instead get real people — your employees and current customers — to act as your proxies. This is where the concept of transparency comes in.

Here is the deal — building trust involves more than a “trust fall.” It takes time and a lot of hard work. Yes, you must be good at what you do. Of course you must provide a consistent and customer-centric experience at every stage of the customer’s insurance journey. But perhaps most importantly, success depends on your being transparent.

Transparency reassures employees and customers alike. In today’s digital society, the need to be transparent is more important than ever. Customers, potential customers and employees all want to know who you are and what you stand for. They want to know what you value and how you live your life. For boomers, this can be very uncomfortable. Millennials seem more at ease with this level of transparency.

Transparency online or off line is how people get to know you and how relationships get built and strengthened. The greater the transparency — the greater the trust and the stronger the relationship.

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