In the Medicare insurance industry, where I work, many individual insurance agents start their businesses as a one-man show. You handle all your own marketing, sales, back office, and even filing. Because so many brokers start out this way, it’s easy to fall into the habit of just using an Excel spreadsheet and a file cabinet to track your clients. However, as your business begins to grow, failure to implement a good database software can hinder your future growth. Let’s look at some reasons why.
Database Software Allows for Timely Note-Taking
As your business grows, you will all sorts of contact from your clients. They may call with questions about the product they bought from you, or even reach out to you give you a referral. Handwritten notes or notes kept in a spreadsheet might work okay if you have less than 50 clients, because at that stage you’re likely to still remember each individual. Once your business gets larger, though, remembering what you last talked to a client about gets fairly difficult to do if you are racing to your file cabinet to read over handwritten notes every time. This problem is easy to solve with a good database. Almost all database software will allow you to make note entries into a client’s online file. Some even automatically timestamp the date and time you entered the note.
The added benefit to this kind of conversation tracking is that you can keep personal notes about clients that will remind you to inquire about things they care about. For example, I’ve got a client who is crazy about her cat, whose name is Brutus. Her file in my database lists information on the cat so that when she calls, I always remember to ask after her favorite feline, and this has helped me to develop a great rapport with my client over the years.
Your Database Will Greatly Help with Retention Efforts
It’s often said that the cost of acquiring a new client is significantly more expensive than keeping an existing client. Depending on your type of business, there are certain features that you can track in a database that remind you when you should be making contact with your clients. In the Medicare insurance field, my clients have policies that renew annually. My database allows me to create a monthly list of all the policyholders who will have an annual renewal in the next 4 weeks, and we know that this is when they usually are notified by their insurance carrier about rate increases. We then call every one of those clients right around the time they are receiving their notice of increase in the mail. The appreciation by our clients for this contact cannot be understated. Just knowing their agent cares enough to call and acknowledge the increase and offer some options for rate relief makes them feel they are in good hands.
Now if I were keeping all my files in just a file cabinet, I’d likely never be calling my existing clients at renewal time, because it would be such a chore to sort through all those files. My database helps me organize my agency’s efforts to build loyalty among our clients.
Keeping a Client’s History at Your Fingertips Saves Time
Perhaps the most logical reason to use a database for your clients is that it allows you to be more productive. When your company is growing, and you find that you have less and less time available, one of the first things to slip is often your record-keeping. After all, who has time to put your client on hold, run for the file cabinet, pour over all your handwritten notes and remind yourself what is going on with that client before you get back on the phone? With a database, all the information is right in front of you. You can literally pull up that client’s file on your PC as you are exchanging initial telephone pleasantries. By the time they tell you the purpose of their call, you have already perused the history from your last call and well prepared to talk with them.
Many small business owners work with tight budgets for the first few years, and have to choose wisely about where to spend their profits. There are many affordable database software packages available, and some industries even have specialized databases designed for the type of business that industry does. Researching the right one for you and then investing into that database is a wise decision if you intend to be around for the long run.