On this week’s Relationship Marketing Weekly, Relationship Marketing Expert Kody Bateman interviews Insurance professional Bret Weston! Bret explains how he created a 90% referral based business and maintain a 95% retention over the past five years. It’s an amazing story that I know you’ll enjoy!
Kody Bateman: Welcome to our Weekly Relationship Marketing Show. We’re really excited today. We have an incredible guest on the show today. I’ve had a chance to have a pre-meeting with him and well, I will tell you. Some of the information he’s going to share today is just going to blow your mind.
We have with us on the show today Bret Weston. He is an insurance agency owner based out of Kaysville, Utah. Bret welcome to the call. I appreciate you being with us.
Bret Weston: Hey Kody. Thanks for having me on. with you in Island Park, I guess.
Kody: Yeah. I will tell you what. It’s sure nice up here. We’re going to go to the Idaho State Fair tonight. So once a year, we get the chance to be country bumpkins I guess. That’s what we’re going to do tonight, Jodi and I.
Kody: But listen, we’re excited. There are a lot of people that are going to be tuning in to this show either live now or a little bit later on today and throughout the week. Very excited to learn from you, Bret. I’ve already learned a lot from you and hopefully we could share some of that with our guests here today. Again, Bret Weston from the insurance agency owner perspective of how to build relationships with people and with business.
So Bret, first of all, can you just tell us a little bit about your agency, the type of business you do, that kind of thing?
Bret: So we do everything insurance whether that’s your auto, home, life insurance. Pretty much everything about health insurance. That in itself is on there. Been in the business for about 8.5 years now. I had the great opportunity to go independent and took that leap of faith and haven’t looked back since.
Kody: Excellent. Well, congratulations. It looks like you work out of your home.
Bret: I’m in my office in Kaysville. So my home is in Ogden, Utah but I make a short commute to Kaysville to the office here. So …
Kody: Excellent. Well, there are a lot of people that are on this show today that are going to want to learn from you. You’ve got some incredible stories and some incredible numbers. I mean we’re going to share some of your stats here in a minute. But first of all, one of the things I was really impressed about by you is your desire to elevate your profession and we were talking earlier when you made that commenting to me, I instantly thought of the question. In order for you to elevate your entire profession, what is the biggest need in the insurance industry to elevate the reputation of the industry as a whole?
Bret: I work with insurance agents across – you know, all across United States. We’re in a group. Shout out to my IA or IOA, AO members. But the common theme is really the customer’s experience, the relationships that are developed and really establishing that elevation of the standard of the insurance agent.
We’re really trying to find a way to separate ourselves from the 1800 call numbers, the Progressives, the GEICOs, all those people and really the one way we’ve done that is to develop the customer experience with that relationship with our clients through different facets and hopefully talk to a few of those, about those today on this chat.
Kody: Yeah. So it’s interesting. As a consumer of insurance, as you mentioned there, that has got to be – kind of a big deal because in the last – I don’t know what. Four, five years, this big onset of the 1800 number insurance companies but I do see that you probably – that at least if you do the right things, you could probably have an advantage in creating better relationships I would think than the big carriers like that.
Bret: Yeah, there’s a real need for the insurance agent. You know, the perspective is it’s – there’s no value in the insurance agent and really if the insurance agent is really invested in the insurance or invested in the client, there’s a way to show the client that you care, show the insured that you really are invested in the community and invested in the success and protection of that person.
So there’s a real opportunity. There’s a huge void and more and more people – in my experience, I see usually the 20 to 25-year-olds with the GEICOs and Progressives. As they get older, the more knowledgeable they get and more assets they get.
Then they turn and look for the advice, look for the relationship. So I do think there is that void there. It’s going to really separate. In my opinion, you’re going to have the agents that haven’t elevated their standards. They’re going to be the ones that fall off and it’s – insurance right now is moving at an extreme pace. Insurance is known for its slow pace of movement. But right now, when you got Lemonade, you got Progressive, you got all these other carriers, artificial intelligence coming out, that’s going to change the way insurance is given to or interacts with the client.
So if the agent isn’t up to speed or the independent agent isn’t – or whatever agent isn’t up to speed with that relationship or offering value, then they’re going to get left in the dust.
Kody: So relationship, one on one, interpersonal relationship is becoming more and more and more important in your industry. Yeah. So I will tell you. You have some very impressive numbers Brent. I mean you – it’s just amazing to me and a couple of things that you mentioned earlier and we actually mentioned it when we promoted this show is that two big things in insurance is loyalty and referrals. So anything to do with increasing retention and increasing referral business are two big huge, huge things that your industry and people that are in your line of work go after for obvious reasons. Can you share with us a little bit what your retention numbers look like?
Bret: Yeah. So when I first started in the business, I didn’t realize how valuable these numbers are to track. So five years ago, I started tracking my retention ratio. So over the last five years, I’ve averaged a 95 percent retention ratio and a whole bunch of different puzzle pieces to what makes that happen. But in my opinion, I think that’s a great achievement not only on me but also my staff and everyone that we work with.
Kody: That’s amazing and again, it all comes back to relationships that you’ve been able to develop. Obviously you’ve had a lot to do with that number. The other thing is referrals. We were talking a little bit about each year you put on a new book of business every year and let’s just take this year for an example. 2017 is not over yet but we’ve gone through seven or eight months now. How much new business that you put on this year has come – you think come from referrals?
Bret: So we’re averaging about 1.5 policies per week from a referral basis. So that’s – in comparison, I think that’s a great number. Again that’s about – close to 90 percent of all of our business. It really does come from the referral base. Again it starts with just that customer experience where our customers experience really what we’re – the value we’re able to offer them and then they want to share it with them, either with their friends or families or a lot of people that we – or insure our real estate agents. So they’re out there spreading the word with their clients and the people they do business with as well.
Kody: So I just ran a calculator real quick. So that means that if I get this right, this year you’ve written about 45 or 46 new policies from referrals just this year. Does that sound about right?
Bret: That’s about right, yeah. We’re a total – let’s see. A total this year – so we’re about 76 total policies this year. So we’re a little less than 90 but overall, collectively, it’s a huge part of our business.
Kody: Fantastic. I think anybody listening to this, if they can write 50 new policies all from referrals, they’re going to want to know what you’re doing to get that referral – first of all, to get your retention up the way it is and to get referral business the way it is. Obviously people are going to want to know the types of things that you’re doing.
You’ve already mentioned that creating the relationship, being more one on one with people, more intimate with them, being available by the cell phone or whatever at any time of the day, you mentioned those kinds of things. In our pre-show, you talked a little bit about key times. There are some key times to reach out to a new customer. You mentioned when they come on for the first time, you call it onboarding. So when they come on for the first time, you do some things then. Anniversary dates, you reach out to them and when a claim – this is interesting to me. Anytime a claim is made, you reach out to them in a unique way.
When you screw up – this is what I thought was interesting is when you have errors, when your office has errors, you reach out to them. Can you share with us those key touch points? What are the kinds of things that you do to reach out during those key touch points starting with when you bring on a brand new customer?
Bret: Yeah. I’m really – in this time, the environment we’re in right now is where meeting face to face with a client is very rare, at least from my experience. So it starts right off with giving them a video quote where they can see my face. They can hear my voice and me explaining the difference in the coverages that we’re proposing to them. So it begins right from the very beginning, the first interaction with a client.
Then when they do become a client, we send out a welcome packet. We send out a letter basically explaining our involvement in the community, what we’re there to offer them, the services that we provide, how to process the claim, our process and procedures on that. It then goes to the – like I said, the onboarding where they get a thank you card from us with a little treat, a brownie. It’s just – I do a two-week follow-up call after that to make sure everything is good and they have no questions or concerns and most often I get a thank you not for saving them 250 bucks, but I get a thank you for the two brownies that cost me a few bucks.
Kody: So you get the thank you for the thank you. Yeah.
Bret: Yeah, exactly. Then moving from there, the interaction of a claim. That’s a huge time for people. It’s where they’re kind of confused. They’re kind of lost. They’re kind of feeling not all alone. But in a sense, kind of disconnected, not knowing what’s going on. So we send them a card reassuring them that we have their back. We send them the one with the lady bent over backwards from SendOutCards which again with some gummy bears. We try to keep it light-hearted, not really serious. Then from there, we follow up with a call with them usually on a weekly basis after that card gets sent out.
Again, my customer service manager, she has full access to SendOutCards and her ability to establish that relationship of hey, we made a mistake. Here’s a little treat or a goodie. We apologize. Please let us know if there’s anything else we can do.
So really just a great way of softening them up for our phone call or our apologies and stuff like that. But then the anniversary card is definitely the most popular. We get comments all the time from people’s spouses of hey, you’re sending my spouse some anniversary card and it’s usually really – again really light-hearted, something like, “Hey, sweetheart. We’re glad we’re still married to you.” It’s the anniversary of when they became a client of ours.
So it’s a very popular card. We usually send brownies or chocolates or caramels or whatever we kind of feel like we want to send out there, so yeah.
Kody: So incredible stuff. Like I say, you get thanked more for thanking them than anything else and it sounds like you do it in a lot of creative ways. You use the SendOutCards service to do it which is – makes it easy for you to do these kinds of things.
I got to ask you. So – because I find a common theme in all industries. There’s something about sending a thank you card and a gift. I’m trying to get you to maybe elaborate on this. When you start sending a thank you card with some genuine message in it, really thanking them for the business, it’s from the heart. You’re thanking for the business. You give them brownies with it. When you do that, it seems to me across the board that it changes your mindset to where you want to elevate your level of service to a higher level. Are you following what I’m saying? Can you kind of elaborate on that a little bit?
Bret: Yeah. I think it reestablishes both ways, right? I think they’re – establish the relationship with them to us and establishes the relationship from us to them. It’s not cheap to send out cards. But again my agency focus and my focus is to keep that retention ratio as high as possible. If it costs me a few bucks a year every time something happens or a claim comes up or an anniversary, whatever it is, I’m sending them something in return. For me, it’s worth every penny of it and it established that – invest me into that client. It’s kind of what I’m trying to say. I’m invested in that client’s success, their protection, their well-being and again, it’s – I’m more known for the guy that sends the brownies or the thank you card than I am their insurance agent. So it’s just –
Kody: Yeah, it’s a mindset. I like how you say that you’re invested in your client. I love that. You’re invested in your client. My point is, is that when there’s something magical about sending the card and the brownies on their anniversary date, on their start date, than when a claim is made, when you do that, it just initiates more of that investment into their well-being and their success with the relationship that you have with them.
It all just kind of goes hand in hand and I find that with everybody I’ve interviewed, is they always comment on the fact that it changes my mindset. I want to be better. After sending the card, I want to be better at servicing my client because I really do care about the relationship.
By the way, that takes us full circle back to how you started this show. That’s what’s separates you from the 1800 numbers, the GEICOs, the others. I guess we shouldn’t mention actual names. But the big providers versus you, the independent agent.
So it’s really, really good stuff. So any final words of wisdom? Anything else you would like to share with the group before we exit off today, Bret?
Bret: Again, it’s just reiterating the value of the insurance industry. My goal on coming on here is just to explain the value of an insurance agent and maybe how as an industry we can elevate our standards and I think I’ve done that and I know you said not to brag on SendOutCards. But it has been an awesome facet in my business, a huge piece. I started out from the very beginning using it and it’s a huge credit to – I credit a huge amount to my success in my industry.
Kody: Well, Bret, thank you so much. I know you’re very, very busy taking care of all those clients of yours. We really appreciate the time you’ve taken and the value-add that you have brought to many business owners and insurance people that are going to be tuning in to this show. So thanks again for being with us. I appreciate it.
Tune in next week. By the way, if you want to know more about how Bret does what he does, just get back with the person that got – that sent you this link or that reminded you of this show. They can share more with you about how you can implement the things that Bret is doing in his business.
Next week, we got a great show next week. We are going to have a guest from the real estate investment industry. We’ve had some real estate agents on the show before. But this guy is coming from the real estate investment industry. A very unique angle, very unique approach to some of the things that he does. Beyond Wynn is his name, a 17-year veteran from the real estate investment industry. He will be with us next Wednesday. So make sure you tune in for that. Thanks everybody. Take care. We will see you next time.