Treating ‘client as king’ leads to impressive retention

This piece is presented by Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company.

By Chris DeSchepper, account executive manager/team lead 

Chris DeSchepper

One of the things I’m most proud of about our agency is that we maintain a retention rate that is considerably higher than the industry average. While average customer retention in the insurance industry is 84 percent, our current retention across all lines of coverage is almost 97 percent.

Outsiders often wonder what keeps our retention so remarkable. Our people, our products, our resources and our reputation all contribute to retaining business. Another main factor is how we treat our clients. Today’s technology advances have changed the way we do customer service. But as it was when I started in the insurance industry over 30 years ago, the client is still king. In keeping with that philosophy, we have transformed the role of customer service to be one of customer advocacy. Here are a few lessons learned along the way.

  1. Be responsive. In today’s technology-based world, people are no longer content with waiting to hear back from you. Even if the answer isn’t readily available, let customers know you received their inquiry and will get back to them as soon as possible.
  2. Maintain multiple touches. Don’t just wait for business transactions to engage with your customers. Touch base throughout the year via phone, email, traditional mail and in-person meetings to maintain your top-of-mind awareness. These shouldn’t be pushy sales messages or only occur as reactions to problems. Be proactive and provide value-added content.
  3. A happy customer is a loyal customer. Our retention success is caused in large part by the commitment we have to keeping our clients happy. Because we have happy customers, we have loyal customers. That loyalty not only gives us great retention but also new business referrals.
  4. Empower your employees. An empowered employee is always going to be more effective than someone who feels restricted. Investments in education, professional development and, yes, even some fun, will pay dividends. Provide the necessary training, direction and support to employees so they can make good decisions on behalf of the customer, and then stay out their way.
  5. People want to be heard. When someone is upset, avoid getting defensive. Listen. Let them vent. Sympathize. Make sure you are using the right medium to resolve the issue. If you are starting to sense frustration going back and forth in email, pick up the phone. If there is ongoing tension over the phone, an in-person meeting may be necessary. And no matter how petty a problem may seem, never dismiss a customer’s issue as unimportant. The customer may not always be right, but it’s our duty to do our best to resolve the issue.

As testament to our team’s commitment to our clients, many of our service employees have won awards for their work with our clients. Ultimately, the thing people remember most is not what you said but how you made them feel. At Howalt+McDowell Insurance, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company, we strive to make our customers feel valued, protected, confident in our abilities and comfortable giving us their business. Creating a culture of customer advocacy is not easy, but it is a powerful way to impact the success of your business.

Chris DeSchepper began her career with Howalt+McDowell Insurance in 1985 and is one of their longest tenured employees. She has earned the following designations: Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR), Associate in Insurance Services (AIS), Certified Insurance Industry Professional (CIIP) and Diversified Advanced Education (DAE). She has been honored with multiple industry awards, including the Independent Insurance Agents National Outstanding Accredited Customer Service Representative, Insurance Professionals of Greater Sioux Falls Executive of the Year and the International Association of Insurance Professionals Award of Excellence. Learn more about Howalt+McDowell’s customer service philosophy by contacting Chris at

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Treating ‘client as king’ leads to impressive retention

Most businesses dream of a 97 percent customer retention rate. Here’s how Howalt+McDowell achieves it.

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