Keeping accounts after a merger can be a daunting task to agents and management alike, but it’s not impossible. What’s more, high retention rates are the key to financial success after the dust has settled and a new routine has been established. The number of the clients that follow the firm is directly tied into profits, and a strong incentive for both the seller and the buyer to make the transition with as little disruption to their accounts as possible. Find out more about what’s normal during a merger, and how you can maximize retention.
Every year on average, about 15% of the staff and 5% of the clients in a firm will leave: don’t expect the numbers to fall in the event of a merger. Management’s goals should be to keep the numbers even, and not to chase after every person who has decided to move on. The most challenging time will be right after the transition of course, when employees are unsure of how they’ll fit into the new organization. Should employees leave though, clients may find themselves confronted with rational fears about meeting a new agent and being forced to deal with a new power structure.
Some clients will be able to go with the flow, cheerfully keeping their account and adapting to any new protocol adjustments. Others will raise their concerns, expecting detailed answers that prove they’re still highly valued as a respected client. Some will simply leave despite anyone’s reassurances, fearful they’ll be swallowed up in the chaos as everyone tries to work out who’s who and what’s what. And finally, there will be some clients who think that they can handle the change, only to find out that the disparity between one company and the next is too great to handle. Assuming the acquiring firm doesn’t significantly raise prices for existing clients, it’s typically culture changes that is the deciding factor for clients to either stay or go. To inspire trust, the acquirer has to show they’re honoring the traditions and values of the original company as much as possible.
Communication is key during a merger, and it matters how the information is delivered. Clients will want to know about the details, so they can address their own budget and time concerns. If customers can’t form realistic expectations, the merger will have a very difficult time moving forward. And make no mistake about it: the natural response will be to reach for white lies to appease them. Clients want to hear that there will be no hiccups. However, if they run into one (or several) down the line, they will be even more angry than if they were told upfront about the potential snags in the operation.
Larger clients should always be told face-to-face, but every client will need some degree of hand-holding during the merger. Scripts can certainly help in terms of getting the language correct, but they may also backfire if an employee sounds too robotic or unconvincing. Also, only changes that affect the client should be discussed. The client doesn’t need to be concerned about peripheral decisions that won’t affect their personal business.
The Importance of Loyalty
Thankfully, clients are more likely to stay if they’re loyal to their insurance carrier, even in the event of a merger. This is because they have developed such good relationships with the people on the other end of the transaction that they’ll follow their trusted advisors wherever they go. Retention rates will fall only when the acquisitions company devalues that loyalty, and starts making drastic changes that shatter the fragile bonds. Transition lengths will vary based on the size of the two companies, but they will normally take longer if the clients aren’t given enough ways to stay in touch with their original points of contact.
There are complicated times ahead for everyone with mergers and acquisitions, which is why hiring a company like Agency Brokerage Consultants can be the answer to retaining clients. A third party is sometimes the only way the primary parties can find the common ground between them, as opposed to concentrating on their differences. Our goal is to make everyone comfortable with the changes as quickly as possible, so the company can move forward toward a brighter and more profitable future.