Customer Retention Is Key

By Linh DePledge
Wednesday - February 25, 2009
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By Linh DePledge
Vice President Sales and Marketing for DTRIC

Since joining DTRIC Insurance four years ago, I have experienced the excitement and trials of working in the competitive auto and home insurance industry. As a local company that serves Hawaii exclusively, we are challenged to anticipate and be creative as new companies enter the Islands and national competitors with deep pockets chip away at market share.

In 2008, our industry experienced “the perfect storm” as new car sales dipped by 26 percent and unemployment rates hit 5.5 percent - the highest level in nearly a decade. This combined with the poor economy caused some drivers to forgo their vehicles and insurance to save money. With a tough road ahead, how will we manage to survive?

Customer loyalty used to come naturally for our industry - there wasn’t much “shopping around.” But economic hardship and ease of online shopping have changed this dynamic. Nowadays, trying to increase sales without thinking of the customers who have remained with you is a losing strategy. In today’s world, retention is not only a profitable strategy, but a necessary one.

Focusing on retention wasn’t necessarily a change of strategy for us - we simply reallocated our resources toward what we do best, which is taking care of our policyholders. Customer service is the foundation upon which DTRIC is built - approximately one-third of our entire customer base is made up of people who were referred to us by family and friends, many of whom have been with us since our company was founded more than 16 years ago.

DTRIC in-house customer care center staff (front, from left) Rachel Robinson, Calvin Mirafuentes, Linh DePledge, (back) Cody Higaki and Judy Marrufo

One thing I am passionate about is analyzing data. As a marketer, I know that customer data provides a wealth of insight - learning about your consumers can be a valuable tool. It helps us to identify profitable segments and target likely responders. It also can teach us more about current customers: who they are, how long they’ve been with us and what products they need for cross-sell strategy. Knowing more helps you sell and retain more, and can even help to decrease marketing expenses.

Growth will always be essential to our strategy, but developing differentiators and adding value to our current customers has been very rewarding. Features such as “Deductible WipeOut” and unlimited towing benefits have become strong retention tools. Enhancements to our online services are in the works, and we continue to reach out to customers with regular appreciation mailings expressing our gratitude for their continued business. From the moment a person calls us for a quote to the time they become a policyholder and for years beyond, our employees work hard to provide them with the fair, respectful and friendly service they deserve.

This year, DTRIC is hosting a special “Customer VIP” day at the 2009 First Hawaiian Bank International Auto Show. On March 27, any customer who brings a valid DTRIC insurance card to our booth at the Hawaii Convention Center will receive free admission for themselves and one guest. It’s our way of showing our appreciation and thanking our customers for putting their trust in us, hopefully for many more years to come.

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