Interview: Developing a Client Retention Mindset

By now, you surely know the importance of creating lasting client relationships and avoiding customer churn. It’s what every insurance agent wants, but how do we foster the client agent relationship to keep our clients happy and coming back for more?

Our ASG podcast host, Sarah J. Rueppel, sat down with Blake Amos, Medicare Customer Retention Leader at Cigna Healthcare, to speak about how agents can elevate their current retention efforts and really take their business to the next level.

To learn more about client retention, listen to the full episode:

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Let’s talk about a brief definition of what exactly is client retention. What are we referring to when we say that?

First and foremost, it’s building relationships with customers that drives loyalty and trust. You know, I think at the end of the day, it’s the difference between transactional and relational.

If you think about the customer journey for Medicare customers, health care decisions can be very emotional. It’s important for customers to have someone that they can trust throughout that process, that they know is looking out for their best interest.

I think retention efforts start at the shopping experience and at that point of sale. It’s listening and understanding customer needs. It’s continuing throughout the life cycle, trying to provide that personalized guidance and knowing that customer needs are going to change over time. It’s understanding the pain points that customers are going through. What are the different steps in the customer journey? And then, driving initiatives to improve the overall customer experience. I think … client retention is doing what’s best for the customer.

Any other things that you would like to highlight as far as why you believe retention is so important?

Retention can be a win, win, win for the health plan, the broker, and most importantly, the customer — really starting with the customer.

Health care is really complex. You’re coming into a new plan. You’ve got to learn a new portal. You need to figure out all of the different supplemental benefits, who to call for what … who’s in the network, who’s out of the network, all the formulary type of stuff. The customers that are switching plans every year, I feel like is really a disservice to themselves.

As the health plan, it’s really important that we keep customers with us, because the more information that we have about the customer, the better we’re able to understand their health needs, the more resources, clinical programs we’re able to put in place to help that customer stay healthy.

Then, for the broker as well, there’s obvious reasons … but it’s consistent income. It’s building a loyal base. That’s ultimately going to lead to referrals.

Let’s get into some of the retention resources that Cigna [Healthcare] has for your agents. How do you come alongside the agents and help them if they don’t have any experience at all?

One of the key resources that we have in place is our local broker sales managers. They really work to understand the types of customers. They can also really help on collaborative initiatives around business development and marketing … and they’re deeply trained on supplemental benefits. They understand all the vendor information and key customer experience initiatives that we have in place.

Also, I hear a lot from these resources when we’re not doing things right internally. If you’re experiencing pain points, or you wish we were doing something better, these resources are a great channel to raise that feedback through, because they make sure it gets to the right people and that we’re addressing that.

We also offer a lot of training and education programs. We do a lot of virtual retention trainings. We host 15-minute pop-ins [for agents] to learn about specific aspects of our plans. We also put out a five-part retention video series that [is] just short clips. Those five minutes are focused on key pieces of the customer journey and what agents should be highlighting with customers at different points.

We have a retention playbook out there. We try to make it as transparent as possible how your book is performing, especially around key metrics. For example, we’ll be measuring rapid disenrollment and sharing that information and working with agents where we identify opportunities.

If I am an agent just starting out with client retention … where would be the first place that you would suggest that I would start my efforts?

The point of sale is such an important piece of their attention journey. I know we talk a lot about the follow-ups, check ins, and everything beyond that, but so much of whether we’re going to be successful or not with a specific customer is based right there at the point of sale.

I would encourage agents to really focus on how we listen to customers, making sure we’re asking the right questions, and really helping find the best plan for them. That comprehensive needs assessment is so critical when making sure that we know all of the doctors that they’re going to, and we’re confirming that those doctors are in network, that we understand their drugs.

If you’re a senior, you’re receiving so much. Being able to cut through the noise is really important … It can be the little things, like collecting email addresses. If the plan has an email address, we can do a much better job at personalizing communications to customers, especially around some of those key supplemental benefits, like getting a PCP selection at the point of sale for HMO customers.

You want to get the customer activated and engaged with their health plan once they’re effective. Start utilizing their benefits. Seeing the value that they were sold on is really important. Those are some of the things I would recommend starting with as you’re focusing on customer attention and setting up customers to be successful.

Is there anything new and exciting in the world of client retention, new strategies, new technology? … Is there anything that you’re particularly excited about when it comes to client retention right now?

Yeah, that’s a great question. Maybe this starting point isn’t too exciting, but I think that we should expect continued pressure from a switching standpoint in the industry. With the rate notices and the financial pressure that a lot of carriers have come out publicly discussing, I think we’re going to see potential pullbacks in certain areas, and even the most minor pullbacks can cause customers to shop, which makes it even more important for them to have that trusted resource to walk them through that and understand what that really means for them…

Cigna [Healthcare] has made a lot of investments, and I think a lot of our distribution partners are making a lot of investments around data science and analytics. That’s critical to helping us understand customer behaviors, their needs throughout the process. And if we’re able to have that information at our fingertips, we can better tailor retention strategies for specific types of customers. I’m excited about those capabilities and what that opens up for us.

Overall, I think, the more that we can get personalized and improve our ability to tailor retention strategies based on the customer’s needs and desires, we’ll really be able to improve our retention performance. There’s a lot I’m excited about here, and I think that plans and agents are making the right investments and focusing in the right areas.

Is there anything else that you would like to add to our conversation today?

The way that I would close is really focus on doing what’s right for the customer, you know, have a relational mindset. Be empathetic to these customers and understand the importance of the decisions that they’re making, because these are very important decisions, and we should be respectful towards that. And if you truly care about doing what’s right for the customer, your retention is going to speak for itself. You’re going to see great growth in your book, both new customers and better retention of your existing customers.

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We hope these tips help guide the way you do business with clients and help create long-lasting relationships! If you want to learn more, listen to our full podcast episode! Also make sure to register with Ritter for free to access our easy-to-use tools and sales technology.

Editor’s Note: This post is based on an episode from our ASG Podcast. We have modified content from the original recording. To listen to the full episode, visit RitterIM.com/podcast

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