Are you Still Buying Space in Yellow Pages?

Still not convinced your insurance agency should cease advertising in the Yellow Pages, YellowPages.com, and other paper directories? As we travel and speak with agents around the country, I still hear that many continue to cling to Yellow Pages advertising. Recent moves by former Yellow Pages giant AT&T should convince remaining skeptics who still buy Yellow Pages directory ads.

using yellow pages

According to an USA Today article, nearly 32% of U.S. households are wireless only, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association, up from 10.5% in 2006. The article also stated, “First it was street corner phone booths and home delivery of telephone books. Now, landlines are on their way to becoming part of American telecommunications history.”

AT&T agreed to sell a majority stake of YellowPages.com to a private equity firm. Revenue from the Yellow Pages unit has shrunk 30% in two years, as consumers continue to shun phone books in favor of the Web. Verizon also spun off its directory business to shareholders in 2006, only to see it file for bankruptcy three years later.

There are a few remaining pockets of Yellow Pages usage, e.g., the elderly and certain rural areas. Deals can be had if you decide to continue advertising in the Yellow Pages. But if you do, make sure you create a way to track business that comes to your agency via this channel.

The Effect of Multi-Screens on Customer Service

Google has done some interesting research into how people use and consume information and media in their daily lives, especially in how we use different screens. We all use multiple types and sizes of screens—from your very large TV screen, to large desktop monitors (probably more than one), to smaller laptops screens, to similar sized tablet screens that are touch-enabled, to small smartphone touch screens.

Google’s researchers wanted to know, for instance, how activities on one screen (say an iPad) affected those on another (for instance a smartphone). While it may seem like a bit of an abstract research question, their results uncovered some fascinating insights:

  • 90% of all media actions are screen based.
  • On average, people spend 4.4 hours a day of their leisure time in front of screens, with the TV being most popular, followed by the PC or notebook, tablet, and smartphone.
  • The choice of which screen to use is driven by the context: where we are, what we want to do, and what device is within reach.
  • 38% of our daily media interactions are done with a smartphone.
  • Tablets are primarily used at home and their main function is entertainment.
  • We’ve also become quite accustomed to using multiple screens at the same time, with the combination of the TV and our smartphone being the most popular.
  • The TV no longer holds our full attention; 77% of users are using another device at the same time.
  • Smartphones really have become the backbone of our media use.

The implication for insurance agents is the need to go beyond traditional phone and email communication options. Agents need to be thinking about the type of screen clients might be using when they want to make contact with the agency.

With Internet-connected TVs becoming more popular, is it beyond the realm of possibility that your client could use that screen to access their information on your website? What about tablets and smartphones? At a minimum, your Web presence needs to be automatically adaptable to whatever screen size is accessing your site.

What you don’t see in the information above is a high percentage of desktop access. This is a significant change from just a few years ago. People don’t have to “go” to the Internet anymore. They carry the ability to access the Internet around with them all the time. This is especially true for younger consumers.

It’s important to consider screen size when you look to improve your customer service options. Being adaptable will allow you to better connect with your customers and provide a service experience they can enjoy—regardless of what device they use.

Pay with Your Phone at Friday’s

Casual food restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday’s has become the first national chain to incorporate a mobile payment option called Tabbedout, which allows diners to open a tab and pay their bill right from their smartphone. The payment option is part of a new mobile app Friday’s recently released.

TabbedOut

After ordering from a server, you can pay your bill using the credit card on file when ready to leave. For now, users will only be able to pay with their credit cards, though other options will be added later. Tabbedout recently announced a partnership with PayPal, which will serve as another payment option for Tabbedout users.

The Friday’s integration will cover 350 of the chain’s 600 locations, with the remaining restaurants, most of them franchisees, expected to sign on in the future. The Friday’s deal is the largest for Austin, TX-based Tabbedout, bringing its total distribution to 800 locations nationwide.

Tabbedout has integrated their service with seven of the biggest restaurant point-of-sale providers. In the case of T.G.I. Friday’s, that provider is Micros, and the integration allows a customer to pay their bill without waiting for a server to bring it to the table.

An Android version of the app is expected to be available soon.

IT Plays Vital Role in Agency Success

Technology has always played a major role in marketing, but a recent report reveals that organizations will seek greater input from IT departments to achieve better sales and customer performance. IBM’s The State of Marketing 2012 indicates that marketing professionals are aware that they’re falling short in reporting and analyzing online visitor data. They’re overwhelmed with the amount of data and systems they have to manage. The vast majority say improved integration and metrics tools would provide a tremendous benefit. They also admit that their social media efforts lack a unified, integrated vision that greater collaboration with the tech side could provide. Ultimately, marketers hope that progress in this area will help them make better decisions about product and service offers and campaigns.

IT department

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these comments only apply to large organizations. Your agency, regardless of its size, should be looking to your IT department for sales and customer service support.

IT’s role has changed

In the past, most insurance organizations looked at their IT department as a necessary expense. IT made sure your computer network was up and running, secured your organization from external security threats, performed software maintenance and updates, and generally became the “fix it” department. In today’s environment that’s no longer enough.

Today, your IT department should be looked at as a profit center for the organization. IT staff should be involved in agency strategic business planning. They need to be viewed as the innovator in the agency, searching for new technologies and processes that will increase revenue. IT needs to work hand-in-hand with the marketing department, providing informed ideas as well as the technical support necessary to maximize the agency’s Internet presence.

Social platforms continue to increase in importance. IT staff should be leading the organization and exploring how you can best use these new platforms to facilitate better relationships with your existing clients, as well as develop new relationships with prospects.

How can your IT department be a profit center? By developing platforms and processes that create revenue for the organization.

For example, the CIO at a medium-size agency in Florida began experimenting last year with a marketing website specifically designed for the agency’s marine insurance niche. It was his pet project. After a year of experimenting and testing search engine optimization and Internet marketing techniques, the website is currently generating over $40,000 a year in commission income. Based on the information learned, the agency is now creating multiple additional niche marketing websites.

It’s time for IT to stop being the fix-it department and become a strategic asset for your agency.

Maryland Insurance Regulators Set Up Facebook Page to Help Consumers

Maryland residents with questions about insurance now can follow the Maryland Insurance Administration on Facebook to find useful tips from the state regulatory agency. The site includes a listing of events across the state where agency representatives will visit to answer consumers’ questions. Residents also can view videos and find links to timely consumer tips.

“A key aspect of the Maryland Insurance Administration’s mission involves educating the residents of our state about the choices available to them as consumers of insurance products,” says Maryland Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith. “Facebook is a great way to get our message out to Maryland residents. The more informed consumers are, the better equipped they are to make purchasing decisions that are right for them.” The site can be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection, including those who do not have Facebook accounts.