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The Digital Handshake: How to mix face-to-face and digital engagement to grow your business

The Digital Handshake: How to mix face-to-face and digital engagement to grow your business

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A key part of any Brokering business is creating, building and strengthening relationships. In the past a strong relationship started with a strong handshake, but now this handshake is sometimes a digital one. What this means is the use of video, online programs and other digital platforms to communicate with clients. Finding the best mix of face-to-face (F2F) and digital engagement for you and your clients is key to maximising the potential of your business.

Knowing where to start can be tricky, but lucky for us we have some help from founder of Human to Human, Michael Back. With many years’ experience working in financial services, Michael uses his expertise and passion for digital marketing to help other businesses reach their potential by improving their Client Experience (CX).

You may already understand what CX is, but for those that don’t, think of all the interactions and touchpoints that a client has with your business over the course of your relationship with them.

Here Michael talks about why CX is important for Brokers to understand, and also provides some practical tips for mixing traditional F2F techniques with the latest digital engagement tools and channels.

Getting the Mix Right

The digital tools you use – whether it be video, online scheduling, screen capture or anything else – will depend greatly on what your clients want and their level of comfort or confidence in using them. This is the key starting point for Brokers; yes, these tools are here, but the first step is knowing and understanding how your clients prefer to be engaged with as a baseline.

“I think that’s the message I would first give to Brokers, whether you prefer F2F or not, it’s irrelevant,” Michael says. “You’ve got to find out what your client wants to do and work towards that.”

“Most people live on their phones, so if your clients can engage with your business from the comfort of their bed, with a cup of tea in their left hand and their phone in their right hand, you’ve hit the jackpot.”

The average Australian spends six hours and 13 minutes on the internet each day. 88.1% of those people regularly watch online videos and last year, Zoom experienced a 2,900% increase in daily users.

Remove Friction for Your Clients

There are two types of friction: physical friction is where simple tasks have been made to be time consuming, for example rather than a ‘make an appointment’ button on an email or website there is a ‘contact form’ that must be filled out, creating more work for the client; and secondly, mental friction, which is when a client’s mind will wander away from your message because it’s too difficult or time-consuming to engage with – think of an email that’s too long.

“Friction is anything that impacts a client’s ability to do something and slows them down. So anything you can do to make things easier will improve their experience.”

Michael adds: “It will also help to increase retention and renewals, because people can do the things they need to do in order for us to do business with them.”

Calendly is a system that allows clients to book straight into your diary. You can even tailor it to only allow meetings at certain times of the day or week. “For a services business, it’s a game-changer,” says Michael. “One advisory firm that I work closely with, we literally doubled their amount of website leads by that one change, people don’t have to think, they just click and go.”

SMS is also a powerful tool to remove friction. It’s often faster and simpler for your clients, which improves their experience and allows you to keep valuable momentum.

Speeding up your response times to enquiries is also a simple way of reducing friction and improving CX. “There’s data that shows that if a business responds within 10 minutes of receiving a new business enquiry, they’re seven times more likely to close the deal than another business.” Michael says.

Control your Online Image

The first thing we do when we’re looking to engage with a new business is ‘google it’ to see what sort of reviews it has online. It’s the same when people look for a Broker and Michael sees this sort of engagement as a non-negotiable. “Having an online presence isn’t optional; everyone has one. The point is what is that online presence doing for you – is it building trust? Is it doing nothing or is it killing trust? If you’ve got one-star reviews, it’s hurting your trust. If you’ve got five-star reviews, it’s building your trust. If you’ve got no reviews, it’s an opportunity to act upon.”

Your greatest asset for building a positive online brand presence is actually right in front of you – your existing client base. Reach out and talk to your clients about providing a Google Review, says Michael. “Really, it’s just tapping into the great work you’ve done and turning it into a bit of a marketing strategy. And it’s not that hard because often you’ve made a difference to these people’s lives and they want to support you and want to help you.”

Research by Thomson Reuters found that 59% of people who need a professional services firm turn to online reviews. More than half of consumers may not use a business if it has less than a four star rating and 78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Embrace Video Technology

“I think the biggest opportunity for Brokers, when it comes to video, is explaining things to their clients that are easier explained verbally than in text and would also benefit from a visual component,” Michael says.

The added engagement that comes with F2F video can help get key concepts across quicker and is often far more effective than just providing text for a client to read. You don’t even have to be on camera, Michael says: “You could use Loom, where you’ve got a PowerPoint presentation or a quote, and you’re just hitting record and you’re talking into your computer and explaining it.”

Michael recommends to start using video in a safe space. “So for a start, and I do this with a lot of my clients who haven’t used video before, the next time it’s your mate’s birthday, don’t just call or text them, record a little video message and send it to them. Or try using Loom to explain something to a colleague. Just start getting more comfortable with it in safe environments, is the best way to do it.”

Once you’ve had some practice with explaining a process on video and sending a hello message, you’ve got the basis for two ways to interact with your clients via video (as coined by Michael): The Explainer and The Check-in.

The Explainer is when you’re using video to explain something to a client, and The Check-in is basically a version of that birthday greeting for your mate, where you’re just saying hi and checking in with your client around progress, approvals, that sort of thing. If you’re not getting a response after a few urgent emails or an SMS, then why not record a quick video to get their attention?

A smartphone or laptop webcam are all you need!

Loom allows you to record using screen capture, so you can have a policy or quote on screen while you record your audio on top. Much more engaging than a big block of text.

You’re probably already using Zoom, and your clients probably are, too. If you’re not using it, or could use it more, start to include some video meetings and get the best of both worlds, F2F engagement with online convenience.

Why not record and send a video instead of the usual SMS? Especially good for sharing good news, make sure to practice a bit with friends and family to get comfortable with it before you start circulating to your clients.

Create Consistency

When deciding on your mix of F2F and digital engagement, it’s important to remember that parts of your CX must remain consistent.

“Think of your favourite restaurant or cafe. You’d probably prefer a consistently ‘good’ experience, rather than an experience that’s amazing sometimes, but poor at other times. The same applies in your Broking business.”

Start by getting a clear understanding of the current journey as clients move through your business, then look for the painpoints or bottlenecks where issues arise. Diagnosing these inconsistencies is vital, says Michael. “Are we taking a week to get back to someone after they send an enquiry? Or is it that once they have that first appointment, we’re taking two or three weeks to get quotes to them? Or is it once they get the quotes the policy side is taking too long? Wherever your problem is, start there and improve the way you deliver that and standardise it, then rinse and repeat.”

Create your ideal email or SMS for each step of your process and re-use this version. This makes your communications more efficient to deliver and standardises your CX.

Have a think about your response times. You want clear standards, clear timeframes, and then some element of measurability so you know if you’re maintaining a set standard.

Keep Evolving

Keeping an eye out for trends in digital engagement is somewhat important, but Michael believes that the true evolution of your business and its CX will come from within you – because, after all, you know your business better than anyone.

“Stop thinking of yourself as just a participant in the client experience and appreciate that you are an active player in this relationship with the ability to hone and improve it for your client, and for yourself.”

As we know Brokering is about relationships, so putting time into CX is really about improving those relationships through the use of new digital channels. “That’s what’s going to keep clients coming back, because they value that service and they value having that person in their corner. Treating technology as a friend, not a foe in your business will help deepen your client relationships and give your business a competitive advantage.”

I don’t think what has always worked for a Broker in building their business has changed. It’s always going to be about relationships. It’s always going to be about trust. It’s always going to be about service, but the tools we’ve got to do it, are much better and easier to access now.

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