If you watch Food Network, Travel Channel, or other similar channels, you have probably seen one of the shows where there is a struggling business, often times a restaurant, bar or hotel, and an expert is brought in to fix the problems and turnaround the business.
When I watch these business makeover shows, I always notice a common theme on why they are failing. Week after week, show after show, the problems are always the same. These businesses always seemed to lack the same things: Leadership, consistent processes, and marketing. These businesses struggle with low revenue, which are exasperated by poor customer satisfaction and employee morale. Not too different from real life. Think of the businesses you avoid going to. What do they have in common?
Poor customer service?
Bad service or products?
The business is just "meh," and doesn’t stand out?
Who is to blame for the business’s failure? Is it the staff?
Although the shows often depict one or two bad apples that are on the staff, the truth is they are often not the blame. In reality, this all comes back to poor leadership by the owners. If indeed there truly was a bad employee on the team, who has allowed for this employee to continue his/her ways? Of course, the owners.
On the flip side, let's take a look at the top franchises or chains and why they succeed. For example, let’s take a look at Subway sandwiches. They have climbed to the #3 position in the US for fast food franchises in the last two decades, surpassing long-standing burger chains. They have a clear message to their target market, fresh, "healthy" sandwiches made right in front of you all for only 5 dollars(ish). We may all know deep down that processed meat covered by 6 or 12 inches of gluten rich bread isn't exactly healthy, but the market has bought into their clear message.
In terms of process and procedures, no matter which Subway you walk into, the assembly line looks the same and the sandwiches taste the same. The same goes for Starbucks chains. You can get an above average overpriced macchiato that tastes virtually the same whether you are in San Francisco or San Antonio. Like all great franchises and chains, you can expect the same product no matter when and where you go.
So, what does this have to do with your insurance agency?
What can you learn from the bad examples from TV shows and successful franchise concepts like Subway?
Let's first look at identity. Most of the hotels and restaurants that are "fixed" on the show receive a feature or signature item. For example, the celebrity chef helps the restaurant develop a signature dish that will draw customers to the restaurants. The hotel consultant helps the hotel identify key property features, or develop feature attractions for the hotel to draw people to stay at the property.
While there’s no such thing as a “signature dish” or property feature for an insurance agency, the key here is your unique value proposition/unique selling proposition or UVP/USP.
What is your unique value proposition? Essentially, what separates you from your competition?
If there’s nothing different between you and “Joe’s Insurance Agency” next door, why would a new prospect want to work with you instead of Joe? Or Why would a client stay with you instead of going to Joe?
We know in the insurance industry, there may be little differentiation between carriers and products, at least to the client. The choice of which agency a client works with comes down to the differentiation you provide?
So what is your signature dish? How do you serve your clients better than your competition? In a previous blog, “How to Win the Sale…,” we dive deeper into the questions sets on how to develop your UVP. Utilize the checklist to develop or enhance your your UVP.
Once you’ve developed your UVP, how do you deliver it?
How do you reinforce it?
Why is it that every great franchise is so consistent?
“Inspect what you expect.”
The answer comes down to training, development and leadership. The “bad businesses” shown on these TV shows tend to have the same issues. The staff had no direction or training on how to do their jobs effectively. They lacked the tools, support and direction to be successful at their jobs.
The owners were often disconnected with the staff and customer experience. They didn’t train the staff, set expectations or inspect the process to ensure implementation and proper execution.
On the flip side, the reason why the aforementioned franchises and chains are so consistent, is because the staff is trained and developed the same way. They are taught to make a drink, a sandwich a certain way. They were trained on how to greet customers and handle complaints. The managers are trained to inspect consistently to ensure procedures are followed and that each store is run according to corporate expectations.
What does this all mean for your business? Hopefully your agency will never be like the businesses featured on these TV shows. However, we can all learn from their failures and the successes of top franchises and chains.
Be your own “expert” consultant and inspect your agency.
What is your Unique Selling Proposition or signature dish? Do you have one?
How well is your staff selected and trained? How well are you trained to lead your staff? Do you have clear cut procedures and expectations for your business process and staff? Do you inspect your expectations regularly?
If you are unclear or unsure on any of these items, then your customers are feeling the effects. They will receive inconsistent results from you and your staff, which translates to no repeat business and no referrals.
By becoming your own Insurance Agency Impossible host/expert and consistently challenging yourself and your staff to the questions above, you can ensure your agency is on track to hit the goals you’ve set for it.