Independent Agents: How to Leverage Online Reviews to Grow Your Business

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    Having a positive reputation is a must for independent insurance agents. It’s your ticket to generating new leads, building trust and ultimately landing more customers.

    One of the top ways to earn a positive reputation these days is through online reviews. The RevLocal team reports that 92 percent of consumers read online reviews when searching for a local business. What’s more, two-thirds of consumers form an opinion about a business after reading only a handful of reviews.
    Craig Bloem at Inc adds that 84 percent of people even trust online reviews from strangers as much as friends. Needless to say, having existing customers say good things about your company is important. This tends to create a virtuous cycle that’s highly beneficial for business growth.

    Here are some best practices for handling online reviews and making them work for your business.


    First Things First: Get Listed on Top Review Sites

    There are several platforms that feature online reviews. But you could argue that Google’s My Business is the most important.

    Why? Because Google receives the lion’s share of search engine traffic. In fact, Pat Ahern mentions in Junto that Google had 80.5 percent of the total search engine market share in 2018—up 15 percent from 2016. That means four in five web searches in America go through Google.

    It’s also one of the most trusted review sites. The ReviewTrackers team says that 63.6 percent of consumers are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business. So, having a listing for your insurance company on Google My Business is a critical first step for getting reviews.

    Sherry Bonelli writes at Moz that to get set up you’ll first need to claim and verify your listing and then complete all of the information that Google asks for including:

    • Your company name
    • Address
    • Contact info
    • Website

    This can help you get featured in search results whenever someone looks for insurance companies in your area. It also gives people the chance to leave reviews as well as read reviews that others have written.

    While Google My Business is at the top of the totem pole when it comes to review sites, there are certainly others you’ll want to be aware of. Lindsay Kolowich at HubSpot recommends looking into Yelp, Angie’s List and Yahoo! Local Listings, too.

    It’s also smart to get your company listed on Agent Review, a review site that’s specifically geared toward connecting customers with professional insurance agents. You can register for free and set up a profile so prospects can find you.

    From there, people can conveniently leave reviews and read reviews just as on the aforementioned sites.



    Encourage Customers to Give Reviews

    Now that you know some of the top places for getting your business listed, the next (and most important) step is to actually get reviews.

    Brian Patterson at Marketing Land discusses one of the most simple yet effective techniques for doing this: asking in person. “The person-to-person request is incredibly effective, particularly if the requester has spent a lot of time with the customer,” Patterson writes. “We’ve found that asking in person can garner you seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email.”

    Just think about it. After offering a customer with guidance on the optimal insurance coverage and providing a positive experience, there’s a great chance they’ll be willing to give you a review right there on the spot.

    The key is to seek reviews after every positive interaction.  


    Other Techniques for Getting Reviews

    Padraig O’Connor at Capterra points out some other viable techniques for obtaining online reviews. Some of those include:

    • Adding a link to a review page on your website
    • Using a call-to-action at the end of blog posts
    • Asking your followers on social media
    • Asking your email subscribers (He notes that a simple email with a short ask works best)

    Kyle Harris at DAC Group also recommends including links to review sites in your email signature.


    Get Your Employees on Board

    Because you may not interact directly with every single customer, it’s essential that your employees understand the importance of obtaining reviews. Nellie Akalp writes at Forbes that you’ll want to get all of your employees in the habit of soliciting reviews from the customers they speak with.  

    She says that she accomplished this at her business by creating an incentive program where employees earned a cash bonus for the reviews they received. While this may not always be feasible, it’s nice to provide some type of motivation, even if it’s something small like congratulating them for a job well done.


    Keep Track of Your Reviews

    Kathleen Fealy at Practical Ecommerce makes a great point about monitoring your reputation online. “Just like large brands, your small business can be the subject of news stories, blog posts, social media comments or consumer reviews,” she writes.

    Monitoring what’s being said about your business helps you keep track of your online reputation, respond to comments in a timely manner and improve your products, services and customer experience based on the feedback you receive.”

    The bottom line is you want to keep track of your reviews and what people are saying about your business in general. This way, you’ll know how well your initiatives to earn comments is working, what the overall perception of your company is and when negative comments get made (which we’ll talk about more in just a moment).

    Most platforms like Google My Business allow you to turn on notifications so you’ll be alerted any time someone leaves a review. On top of that, you may want to use free tools like Google Alerts or Social Mention to be notified whenever your company is mentioned online.


    Respond to Reviews

    It’s a good idea to respond to at least a percentage of your reviews. The BrightLocal team argues that being responsive to reviews is becoming increasingly important to consumers. Nearly a third of consumers, BrightLocal found, say that a business’ willingness to respond to reviews plays a key role in how they judge those businesses.

    While it’s probably not feasible (or even logical) to respond to every single review, you should make an attempt to respond to a portion, as this shows that you’re engaged and value what your customers have to say.



    How to Turn a Negative Review Into Something Positive

    As in independent insurance agent, you’ll encounter a wide variety of customers. Some of them will be incredibly happy with their experience, and some not so much. Whenever you (inevitably) receive a negative review, it’s critical that you know how to properly address and defuse the situation.

    Even better, you can actually turn this into a positive.

    The Vendasta Marketing team says to first acknowledge your customer’s concerns and apologize for the bad experience (even they’re unfounded). They recommend keeping your response short and sweet, then offering to move the conversation offline so the customer can discuss their problem in person.

    Andrew Macarthy provides a nice example response template at Social Media Today:

    [Customer Name],

    Thank you for your comments. I’m very sorry to hear about your experience. This is definitely not the standard of service our customers have come to expect from us, [share what normally happens]. Please contact me, as I would like to make up for your disappointment. [Name, Job Title, Email Address and/or Phone Number]

    Why is this so important? Two reasons.

    First, it shows the disgruntled customer that you’re dialed in genuinely care about their opinion. In this case, you want to right a wrong and do your best to ensure they walk away happy. This tends to calm and assuage any negative feelings.  

    Second, it shows any prospects who are reading your reviews that you’re a professional and value the opinions of your customers. The team at Mad Mouse Creative also points out that this lets other readers know that you’re responsive to feedback, which in turn boosts your credibility.

    So, rather than a negative review hurting your business, it can actually be turned into something positive.  

    Also note that a few bad reviews can sometimes be a good thing. Hannah Murray-Sykes writes at Reevoo that nothing but good reviews can be damaging to your business because it may raise skepticism. People are likely to get suspicious when there are no bad reviews at all. In fact, “68 percent of people trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores,” she writes.


    Making Online Reviews Work for You

    Online reviews play a huge role in the ability of independent insurance agencies to generate new leads and bring in more customers. BJC Branding even found that a whopping 97 percent of consumers read online reviews prior to making a purchasing decision in 2017.

    That’s why you’ll want to put plenty of effort into obtaining online reviews. The points mentioned here should serve as a general outline of best practices and should help you expedite and improve this process.

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