Michigan’s Peter Vitale On Modern Customer Service in a Digital Era

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(Newswire.net — April 28, 2021) —


Good customer service has always been an important part of a company’s success. However, it’s more essential than ever in this digital age, where many business transactions are completed without ever meeting the customer face to face. As Michigan-based insurance consultant Peter Vitale points out, good customer service has taken the place of the handshake and chatting with your customer in the local diner or grocery store line.

You’ve probably heard these statistics, like that it takes 12 good customer contacts to make up for one bad contact, or that 89 percent of the buying public will take their business elsewhere after they experienced poor customer service. Plus, in today’s age of review sites and social media forums, a single bad customer service incident can reach a huge audience. For business owners and managers, this can be frightening stuff.

This need for stellar customer service is especially true in the insurance business, but the concept really applies to any business that sells products or services to consumers or other businesses. With insurance, you’re dealing with a complex product. Many businesses and individuals know that they need insurance, but are at a loss when it comes to choosing the right coverages for their situation. That’s where good customer service is crucial. It helps customers feel confident that they are getting the insurance products they need without paying for coverages that don’t apply to them.

Ways To Ramp Up Customer Service in Today’s Digital Age

If you’d like to ramp up your customer service efforts–and you should, you don’t have to spend a lot of time and money. Putting these seven ideas in place can make a big difference in your customer service and, ultimately, in your bottom line. According to insurance consultant Peter Vitale, these modern methods are crucial for remaining innovative in the insurance industry.

1. Make sure that your service is available on mobile devices.

Nearly half of all consumers consult their smartphones before they make a purchasing decision, even when they end up purchasing the item in person. If your company’s digital pages aren’t easily accessible from a mobile device, then you’re losing business to your more tech-savvy competitors. Simply having a website isn’t enough to compete in this digital environment. Your pages need to be flexible enough to be viewed easily on a variety of screen sizes. Chatbots are also a great addition to customer service. While AI-powered bots will never replace the human element, they can answer a variety of commonly-asked questions. In the insurance business, we use them to help customers check the status of their claims 24/7.

2. Use data available to make working with your company easier.

Internet of things (IoT) devices compile a huge amount of data about your customers. Why not use this data to streamline your interactions with your customers? For example, insurance tends to be a very data-heavy industry. Traditionally, it would take an agent and customer at least 30-45 minutes to complete a standard homeowners insurance application. Today, we already have most of that information. We can get information on the dwelling via public sources and information on the customer from his or her other policies or credit report. Using the information that’s already available to us has allowed our company to take that 30-45 minute application down to around 15 minutes. That’s just how one industry is using data; however, this practice can be adapted to any consumer industry.

3. Use social media to augment your customer service.

If you think that social media is just a place to post your latest menu or share photos of your recent customer appreciation event, it’s time to think again. According to Michigan’s Peter Vitale, a leading insurance expert, social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great places to interact with your customers, answer their questions in a public forum and address any concerns they might have. Prompt responses to questions and concerns are one of the best ways you can show your good customer service skills. (Conversely, questions, and concerns that languish on social media posts unanswered sent the wrong message to potential customers.)

4. Communicate with your customers in their preferred mode.

Do some of your friends hate to talk on the phone and others hate the intrusiveness of Facebook Messenger? Your customers are like that also. Learn to use their preferred method of communication and you’ve already entered their “good graces” or, at least, not annoyed them before you even spoke (or typed) your message. This also reduces or eliminates common communication issues such as customers being contacted by multiple people from your company with the same message and customers being put on hold for long periods. Add a line to your customer profiles and ask them how they prefer to be contacted. You’d be surprised how far this one small act will go in strengthening your customer service.

5. Train employees in good customer service techniques.

Sometimes, I think that business managers and owners think that their employees should know intuitively how to treat other people. That’s probably why only 65 percent of companies provide some type of effective customer service training. However, treating people like you’d want to be treated (or better yet how they want to be treated) is a learned skill, just like typing or sales. Frankly, it’s not realistic to expect employees to do something that you’ve not trained them how to do. Good customer service training is well worth the time and resources and will almost inevitably pay back in multiples in sales, in customer retention, and in improved employee morale.

6. Offer your customers as much information as possible.

Customers want to feel like they’re in control, even when they aren’t. That means they want to know that their order was received, when their order was shipped and when it’s expected to arrive. In insurance, we try to communicate regularly about where customers are in the application process and what the status of their claim is. Not only does this keep the customer happier and feeling more “in control,” but it also reduces the number of telephone calls, texts, and emails that our staff has to answer.

Our good way to increase communication channels with your customers is to post an easy-to-find FAQ page on your website that answers the most commonly-asked questions your office receives. You can also use enhanced communication channels to make customers aware of upcoming sales and “VIP” offers.

7. Personalize your communication with your customers.

Customer relationship management software makes it very easy to divide your customer base into demographic and other groups and target your communications directly to the needs of the particular segment of your customers. For example, in the insurance business, personal liability policies are a hot item. In this increasingly litigious society of ours, having protection against lawsuits is no longer a luxury. However, most people fail to realize that their homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover them when they are doing things like coaching little leagues or selling crafts at a neighborhood market. We looked at what the people who were doing these outside activities had in common. For the most part, they were adults of both sexes between 35 and 55 who lived in single-family homes. We targeted this narrow segment of our customer base and pitched the need for personal liability coverage with surprising success. This way we didn’t bore customers who didn’t need this coverage, nor did we waste resources of mass communication to the entire customer base.

About Peter Vitale

Peter Vitale is an insurance consultant in Southeast Michigan and the owner of the Bloomfield Insurance Group. In his consulting role, Peter Vitale helps owners of small and medium-sized insurance businesses be successful. Vitale is a graduate of Michigan’s Oakland University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Vitale lives in Oakland County, Michigan, and is very involved with the local business community. He sits on the board of the Eastern Michigan Better Business Bureau.