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Monday, December 03 2018

Why Online Reviews are Essential for Insurance Agents (and How to Get More)

In our new digital world, the research is clear, online reviews have become essential for today's insurance agent. More and more clients begin their search for insurance products online. In a hyper-competitive market, even those who are referred by current customers are likely to check out your online reputation before even committing to a conversation.

What do consumers see when they look for you online? Are they viewing multiple, current, five-star reviews with helpful comments? If not, keep reading.

Online reviews are not something that insurance agents can ignore. In fact, they need to be embraced as they are the key to building business now and into the future. Attending to them will require a pro-active approach to soliciting, managing, and monitoring reviews. This approach needs to become an integral part of selling and customer care. Due to the time and effort required to see consistent, positive reviews some may choose to seek a professional partner to guide and assist them in their effort. 

Why Online Reviews Are So Important

People are becoming accustomed to looking to online reviews to guide purchasing decisions.

We are a nation of online consumers. We have become trained to read reviews before buying a book, a refrigerator, or even a car. Even when our purchase decision is offline, we seek information and assurance online. 

According to multiple studies, the clear majority of potential customers will look at online reviews before ever picking up the phone, visiting an office, or even sending an inquiry email. When you meet a new customer online or in your office, there is an excellent chance that they have already researched you online.

People trust reviews from third-party sites.

People trust online reviews from sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp nearly as much as they trust recommendations from family and friends. They also expect to see current reviews and will react negatively to long time spans with no reviews. Some people won't even consider doing business with someone without current four and five-star reviews.

Online reviews impact your overall online footprint.

As you will see, online reviews impact your appearance in search engines. This increases your chances of being found by those searching for your services and creates a more favorable impression for those who find you.

The Most Important Sites for Online Reviews

There are numerous websites that people turn to for online reviews.  The two most important sites for turning reviews into new customers are Google and Facebook. Why? Because Google and Facebook reviews are both indexed and features by the world's biggest search engine, Google. Google has become the verb people use for searching as it has also gained over 60% of the share of web searches in the United States.

With so many people searching with Google, it is important to know that the search engine takes its own reviews into account when calculating search results. That means agencies with more and better reviews will appear higher in search results. High-ranking search results not only increase your visibility, but there is also a certain authority granted to businesses who show up at the top of the list.

There's more. When Google returns search results for a business, it often shows Google and Facebook reviews in a box on the right side.

Facebook also offers some other unique advantages. The average Facebook user in the U.S. is around 40 years old, so you already have a platform full of people who need insurance. Facebook is also social. That means that if someone writes a positive review for your agency, it will likely be seen by his or her friends. What is more powerful than a positive online review? A positive online review from someone you know!

That doesn't mean that you should ignore other review sites like Yelp, Bing, and Yahoo. Just know that the most significant impact will likely come from Google and Facebook. That makes it a smart move to focus your energies there.

How to Begin

Many agents struggle with how to get started. This is new territory even for seasoned agents. How can an agency consistently score high-quality positive reviews on the major review sites? The short answer is straightforward: ask.

Successful agents are adept at asking clients for business and asking them to refer their friends, family, and co-workers. However, asking for a review allows satisfied customers to make a recommendation, even if they don't have a specific customer in mind. Their words of satisfaction can also have a much broader reach and impact when they are shared online.

However, merely asking is not enough. Even the most satisfied customer may forget the moment they walk out the door. Even those who are excited to share their experience may be overwhelmed by the process of leaving a review or deciding on the best place to post their experience. So help them.

The most effective time to ask for a review is right at the point of sale. If a customer is happy, there is nothing wrong with asking them right in the office. You can offer them a chance to post a review right then and there. Once you explain how important reviews are and offer to help them, you can have a quality review posted before they ever leave the office. Just make sure that you are comfortable with the process and can make it easy for them. This may mean investing some time in getting to know how the review sites work.

Asking for a review at the point of sale may be as simple as turning a laptop to face the client and letting them write it at your desk. It could also be as elaborate as a dedicated workspace for this purpose. This could include a computer with a web browser already loaded, surrounded by positive reviews from other satisfied customers and posted instructions on how to write and publish a review to the popular review sites.

If completing a review at the point of sale is impractical, make sure that clients are given a clear guide on how to leave a review. Whether this is a printed piece that leaves the office with them or part of an email that goes out to new customers, be sure to make the process clear and straightforward. Be sure the guide names the sites on which you are hoping to field reviews, shows how to find your agency, and clearly explains the steps for leaving the review.

Follow Up

The more time that passes, the lower the likelihood of getting a review. A short email can be all it takes to nudge someone into posting that review. Please don't forget to include all the information they will need to get started.

Automate the Process

Because online reviews are essential to a modern business strategy, the process for asking and reminding needs to become an automatic part of the selling process. Whether you are using automated tools to track leads and follow up with customers or you have a manual checklist in place or onboarding, be sure that asking for reviews is part of the process.

Respond to Your Reviews (Good and Bad)

When people are shopping for a new agent, they are looking for someone who will be responsive to their needs. Demonstrate that you are attentive to the needs of your clients by responding to your reviews. If the review is positive, thank them for taking the time to post it and for being a customer. 

For negative reviews, the first step is to take a breath. It is easy to take these personally and try to defend your business. Instead, remember that this is a public conversation and use this as an opportunity to demonstrate what type of business you run. Thank them for their input, rectify the situation (when possible), explain what you are doing to fix the issue or avoid it in the future. You have an opportunity to possibly win a client back and show others how you deal with the occasional dissatisfied customer.

Keep Them Coming

Remember, this is not a one-time effort. Until something radically changes, online reviews will remain a powerful part of reaching new people. Reviews from 2 years ago, or even six months ago, are not enough. You need a steady stream of fresh reviews to show potential clients that you are still in business and still creating happy customers.

Get Help

Honestly, many agents simply don't have the time to seek out, follow up on, track, and monitor their online reviews. Fortunately, there are ways to automate the entire process. Not only are these systems more effective, but they also free up time for you to focus on your clients.

As you can likely tell from reading this post, a lot goes into continually receiving positive, high-quality online reviews. As websites and search engines are constantly changing their policies and criteria, it can be helpful to have a partner who keeps up with the latest trends. 

A professional can also help put the entire process of soliciting, reminding, and monitoring nearly on autopilot. They can also drastically increase the number of reviews you receive and help you maximize the number of people who see those reviews.

This is a great video by Jason Everett

A Couple of "Don'ts"

There are a couple of critical mistakes that can get you off track before you even start.

Avoid numerous reviews at once.

It might be tempting, after reading about the importance of reviews, to ask all your present clients to go online and offer a review. This would be a mistake. Most review sites have filters in place to block out suspicious behavior. A considerable number of reviews at one time might be seen as an attempt to game the system. This could get you penalized on the site and could even lead to some of your customers getting locked out of their accounts.

Don't fake it.

It might be tempting to get the ball rolling by posting your own review or asking a friend or family to do it. Don't do it. Consumers are incredibly savvy. Even the best attempt to make it look real can be spotted in an instant by a discerning reader.

Next Steps:

So, are you ready? The first step is to decide if you are going to do the work on your own or find a partner. If you decide to work with a professional, they will walk you through all the steps to get started.

If you are going to try things on your own, here are some initial steps to follow:

  1. Check your online presence
    In order to leave a review, people will need to be able to find you online. You will also need to have access to respond to posted reviews. If you haven't already, set up a Facebook Business Page. Also, be sure to claim your business on Google and Yelp.
     
  2. Create a guide 
    Have an easy to follow set of steps available in print and electronically that walks your client through the steps of leaving an online review. Show them the best places to leave reviews and how to find you on those sites. Explain any specific steps they need to follow to leave a review. (As a client of Insurance Web Designs - send an email to me (Andrea) and I will create a printable guide just for you!) 
     
  3. Set a goal 
    To keep yourself mindful of how you are doing, set a goal for how many reviews you hope to receive each month. Be realistic but give yourself something to reach for.
     
  4. Start asking
    Decide how and when you will ask clients for a review. Make it part of your sales or onboarding process. Make a plan for following up. You will be surprised how many people happily say "yes!"

    via GIPHY

     
  5. Review your process regularly
    Schedule check-ins on a regular basis to check your progress. If things are going well, stick to it. If you aren't getting the results you were hoping for, make some adjustments and try again, or it may be time to call in a professional partner.

 

Posted by: Andrea Shepherd AT 08:27 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

Watch a short three minute video to see how other business owners are using this system to get more referrals!

You will also be able to send a free card (on me!) to test drive exactly how easy the system is to use.