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.
Please consider sharing this message by clicking the appropriate social media button below.
Latest posts by Bill Wilson (see all)
- Free Articles You Can Reprint - August 30, 2022
- How Much PAP Loss of Use Coverage Do I Need? The Newest Reason to Buy the Rental Car LDW? - August 30, 2022
- Maintaining AI Status After Completion of Work - August 30, 2022
Thanks. It may be an over-simplification, but I believe that customer loyalty arises first and foremost from caring and empathy and the perception of your customers that such caring and empathy is genuine.
Think about the agent standing in the front yard of a customer’s burning home at 3 a.m. THAT’S what creates a bond that is hard to break. And when you forge a link of that kind of thing repeatedly, soon you have a loyalty chain that cannot be broken.
This can work with employees as well, as it does for one insurance company:
Bill, your story brings a tear to my eye. I have a similar story for why I’ve stuck with my agent, albeit not nearly as emotion provoking. Thanks for sharing yours.
John, if you have the time, feel free to share your story. I think the best way to combat all of the price-focused funny/silly advertising is to tell success stories that appeal emotionally to consumers. However, other than a few web sites or social media videos every now and then, who’s doing that? I understand that the purpose of TV advertising is to grab someone’s attention ASAP and leave a memorable impression that they’ll recollect at renewal time. However, I think a much more powerful trigger would be something emotionally inspiring. And the added bonus is that it impresses on the public how seriously they should take identifying and protecting their exposures to loss.
My story is nowhere near as compelling as Bill’s. It’s probably more commentary on blind loyalty than real customer loyalty.
25 years ago I moved to Minnesota as a recently divorced 40 something male. Never thought finding Auto and Homeowners insurance would be a problem. After calls to several different Agencies, including the one I work for now, I realized otherwise.
On a whim one day, I stopped in the State Farm agent’s office that was on my way home. Not only did he welcome me, but he gave me a quote which we bound on the spot. Got me out of a jam and am grateful to him to this day.
Have had suggestions from various people over the years that State Farm’s coverage is not that robust and I could do much better elsewhere. Truth be told in hindsight, I wasn’t that good a risk being single in a new city, but the risk State Farm (and my Agent) took 25 years ago has paid off for both of us. Two minor fender benders (one mine and one my new wife’s) over the years were handled without flaw by State Farm’s claims adjusters helped cement the relationship. They also give me confidence that should anything major happen, State Farm will be there to make me whole.
On second thought, maybe this is more about State Farm than it’s about blind loyalty.
What a wonderful and heart-warming story. It definitely pays to make that connection with people, whether it’s your employees or your customers. After working for State Farm for 2 1/2 years, I took a position at an independent agency. The week after I started my new position, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic and liver cancer. It was difficult for me to share this with my new co-workers, whom I barely knew, so I shared it with my old co-workers, thinking it would matter to them, and sadly, it didn’t. My mother-in-law also had her auto insurance with that State Farm office and any time a family member went in or called to make a change to her policy or make a payment, we were not greeted with any warmth whatsoever, even though my old co-workers knew me and my husband and some of our other family members. It definitely turned me off from the agency I had been a part of for so long. In comparison, when my mother-in-law passed away a mere four months after starting my new job, my boss sent flowers to the funeral and made a donation to the hospice center where she had spent the last week of her life. There’s no doubt where my allegiance will be going forward, that’s for sure.
“When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” – Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), Polish Jewish leader
BTW, I ran this by my millennial son just in case the value of a phone app in creating customer loyalty was greater than I thought and he responded:
“I think it is spot on. That sentiment transcends any generation. Where the disconnect probably exists is that ‘mom and pop’ stores of yesterday are gone, but family-owned entities still exist. In fact, small business is doing better than it ever has in America, mostly because of the ‘green movement,’ where hipsters run local coffee shops, organic restaurants and grocers, and craft beer joints.
“Part of why people like those places is because you know the people that work there, and you know they work there because they WANT to work there. I go to the same restaurant every Tuesday, partly because they have $2 specials on that day, but mostly because I like the people that work there.
“Chickfila is the best example. Their food is great, but really it’s the fact that I’ve been there probably over 100 times and I’ve never had an order messed up. They give me all the sauces I want without charging me extra, and if you are dining inside they come around and refill your drinks for you and stuff like that. It’s unrivaled in the fast food industry.”