My personal lines account has been with the same insurance agency since 1973, almost 44 years as of this blog post. How I initially connected with them was through my mother who was employed at Al Phillips Insurance Agency in Nashville (now a part of Brown & Brown).
So, why have I been with the same agency across five decades? Do I stay because they’re the cheapest? Do I stay because they are the best? Because they’re easiest to do business with? Because they have a nifty phone app? What is the source of my fierce loyalty? Let me tell you a short story…
Just over 35 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma, a very rare and aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. She bravely fought this disease for over a year through debilitating chemotherapy and surgery until she lost her battle on May 13, 1981. So, what does this have to do with customer loyalty and insurance agencies?
During the period my mother was dealing with her health issues, she could only occasionally work at the Al Phillips agency. She would go months without being able to work, then might be able to go in for a half day a few days a week, then back home to recuperate from more tests, chemo and surgery. She was unable to work far more often than she was able to go into the office.
So, what did Al Phillips do? He mailed her full paycheck every two weeks, regardless of whether she was able to work or not. And her co-workers? They picked up the slack and took over most of her work, visited, brought food that she could tolerate, and otherwise took her mind off work and her condition.
I got a call not long after midnight on May 13 that my mother was being rushed to the hospital and that I needed to get there as quickly and safely as possible. I was with her when she took her last breath. And who was at the hospital when I got there in the dark wee hours of the morning? Al Phillips and his wife Jeri, weeping as hard as I was.
This is why I’ve been a lifetime customer of the Al Phillips Insurance Agency. Maybe my experience is unique and/or extreme, but I believe it’s what customer loyalty is all about. Customer loyalty is not about price. It’s not about convenience. It’s not about ease of doing business. It’s not about “brand.”
Real customer loyalty is all about emotional connections and relationships. It’s about an organizational culture that is palpably familial. My story is just one example of how such emotional connections can be created. I’m sure there are many other ways, some big, some small, but cumulatively powerful. The key is the people, their individual and collective character, and the organization’s culture that puts the welfare of employees and customers first. Always.
Does your organization create such emotional connections, on some scale, internally and externally at every opportunity? It’s really not difficult. Character and culture are like a steel cable…you weave a strand of it every day on every occasion and soon it cannot be broken. Neither can the emotional bonds you create with your staff and the people you serve.
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