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How to Put Your Agency on Autopilot

If someone were to ask me if they could do only one thing to change their business, I would reply that it would be to put their client service model on autopilot.

This has multiple benefits. First, clients quickly and easily get the level of service that you have committed to provide. In addition, you will have more time available for marketing and other tasks because you can free up the time you used to spend juggling appointments. Here is a simple process you can use to get started.

Step 1 – Segment your client base. Conventional wisdom dictates that 80 percent of your production comes from 20 percent of your clients. I find that, for about 95 percent of all agents, 80 percent of production actually comes from a range of anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their clients. Thus, you can create client segments based on which clients are most important to your practice. Typically, you would rank the 20 percent of your clients who have the most opportunity as your A clients. You would then rank the 20 percent of your clients who you least enjoy working with or with whom you have the least opportunity as C clients. The remaining 60 percent are your bread and butter clients and are ranked as your B clients. I have noticed many agents rank clients by current level of production, which is another strategy. However, I prefer focusing your top efforts on your top opportunities. The process of segmenting your practice could take a few hours or a few days, depending on how many clients you have. Once you have completed your segmentation, I would recommend exporting it to a spreadsheet format such as Excel.

Step 2 – After you have your clients segmented in a spreadsheet, you need to create your service model. In your spreadsheet, add a column for each month of the year. Next, take the first client and determine the months in which you want to contact him over the next year. An example might be to contact your A clients twice a year, your B clients once a year and your C clients as needed. Having your service model planned a year out is a key step in putting your business on autopilot.

Step 3 – Next, make a list of the products you are able to recommend. Make a column in your spreadsheet for each product. Now check off the product column in the row of each client who already owns that product. When you finish, you will be able to identify opportunities in a split second by reviewing your spreadsheet.
Step 4 – You now have a spreadsheet containing your client segmentation, your service model and your opportunities. The last step is to begin not just setting appointments but setting recurring appointments. An example of a recurring appointment might be every six months at 3 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. Once you have established recurring appointments with your clients, you will have put your service model on autopilot and given your clients peace of mind because they always know when they will meet with you again in advance.

All the agents I have worked with who have completed this process have found they have more appointments and more free time. That seems impossible, but you eliminate a lot of administrative work by implementing this model. By the way, what do you think happens to your income when you have more appointments? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that your income goes up!

Let me say that, on paper, this strategy looks pretty easy, just like following a recipe. Why don’t more agents put it into practice? I think agents sometimes like to operate in crisis mode. The theory is that if you “work harder” you will get more results. Well, sometimes “working smarter” is the answer.

Another issue is staff. If you rely on staff to set appointments, what happens if they blow it off? That means you have to go into overdrive and do it yourself. Another big fear agents have regarding this model is that they are afraid their clients aren’t capable of managing their calendars in advance. Guess what? They are capable. This is the Digital Age, not the Stone Age!

Think of what you have to look forward to once this model is in place. You get to walk into your office on Jan. 1 and know that you are pretty much booked solid in advance for the year. Clients have less anxiety because they already know when they will see you. Your staff can focus on more important tasks than setting appointments. You can focus on preparing for appointments in advance and getting more referrals.

Finally, let me give you a few tips on software. There are many great customer relationship management (CRM) tools available, but I prefer Microsoft Outlook simply because many clients use it as well. Send them a recurring appointment as an Outlook meeting notice and it is automatically created in their calendar after they accept it. Use a smartphone that syncs with your CRM software (and just about any brand of smartphone can sync with Outlook.)

This is the perfect time to segment your clients, set up your service model and identify opportunities. After you begin setting appointments, set them as recurring appointments and not one-time appointments. Finally, automate the entire process in your CRM tool such as Outlook.

Todd Colbeck, MBA, is owner of Colbeck Coaching Group, Miami Beach, Fla. He formerly was brokerage vice president of the northeast U.S. region at American Express Financial Advisors. Contact him at [email protected] .