The End of the Landline: Phone Strategies to Modernize Your Agency

If your insurance agency still uses landline phones, it may be time to modernize. Why? Because the world is on the move and your communication systems have to keep up.

Modern customers expect instant service – either online or where they are. They don’t want to travel to your office for face-to-face meetings. Likewise, the next generation of insurance talent doesn’t want to work from your office – at least not every day. Employees want the freedom to work from home, vacation or a corner coffee shop.

 

Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: Internet telephony systems, also know as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). By using a telephony system, you can integrate call answering,routing and tracking with your employees’ smartphones to create a highly efficient communication strategy. My agency made the transition two years ago. I’m sharing my experience to make your transition easier.

 

Imagine Your Company Going Mobile

 

What does mobile look like? First you will eliminate traditional phones from employees’ desks and ask team members to work from their smartphones, while logged into a central communications app. When calls come in, the caller selects the reason for the call, and the call is routed to the most appropriate and available team member. When employees dial out, the caller ID displays your company name. During business hours, there is no need for voicemail or reception because the app routes callers to whoever is appropriate and available.

 

When you go mobile, you equip team members to communicate with customers via text, also within the scope of the centralized communication app. If you begin to ask your clients if they prefer to hear from you via phone, email or text, you’ll see a surprising trend: Most choose text.

 

You can also outfit your employees’ smartphones with a mobile dashboard and access to policy-level information so they can serve customers anywhere, anytime. Anything that can be done from a desktop can usually be accomplished from a smartphone.

 

Key Considerations

 

Before migrating,think about what you’re trying to accomplish and build those capabilities into your system. Here’s a list of capabilities to consider:

 

·       Cloud hosting. A good cloud-based system leaves nothing in the offices other than an internet connection. 

·       Equal call handling and routing. In some agencies, two to three workers handle the majority of call volume. Some systems can even out the workload. For example, if the top employees took 40 calls and the others took only 25, the next 15 calls would go to low-volume team members first. This works gloriously well.

·       Client prioritization. Want your existing clients to feel like they are more important than anyone else? Use a system that ties into a database to recognize them. Then, customers can get queued up with a welcome back greeting. Customers feel like family, not just a policy number.

·       Callback. Long hold times are inevitable, so offer clients a call-back option. The system automatically prioritizes callers by call time and places them in the same location as if they were on hold. Customers love this.

·       System integration. Many systems integrate with your AMS or CRM. If a client calls from a recognized number, the file is activated. This allows you to start the conversation with a personalized greeting.

·       Recording. A good mobile telephony platform will record all your conversations. This feature is perfect for E&O documentation.

·       Reporting.Reports show who is taking the most calls, who has the longest calls and who places clients on hold. This information helps pinpoint who needs additional training.

 

The Set Up

 

Most telephony systems today are turnkey. The vendor queues up the transfer of phone lines and sets up your business rules. For a small to mid-size agency, the actual changeover will only take about 10 to 15business days.

·       Distribute the app. Employees download the app to a mobile phone, laptop, iPad or desktop. Many will simply add the app to their existing smartphone. If they don’t want to use a personal smartphone, you can provide a work smartphone.

·       Establish clear guidelines for usage, call standards and benchmarks. For example, each call will be answered with the greeting of the month.

·       Provide training. You must provide communication and training before, during and after the migration. You cannot overcommunicate on a communications change!

·       Forward landline numbers. This is actually a very straightforward process. Your chosen vendor will assist you.

·       Remove landline phones from desks. If you want your team to universally adopt the new method, you have to cut off access to the old method.

 

Lessons Learned

 

Now that my agency has transitioned to mobile, my team members couldn’t go back to landlines if I paid them to do it. The technology provides a win-win-win. Everyone loves the reports. As a leadership team, we get the information we need for strategic staffing and growth. Best of all, hard workers love the validation they get, knowing they’re setting an example.

 

The call recordings are absolutely priceless.They have saved us countless times when there’s a disconnect between what clients say now and what they actually said during the call.

 

My only regret is that I should have communicated more during the transition process. There was some pain in getting the late adopters over the hump, but in the end, my entire team has embraced the new system.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

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