January 5, 2015, 12:53 PM

An insurance firm’s new online policy for winning over customers.

The Washington state-based Vern Fonk insurance agency uses specially designed software to close a third of its online leads.

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Wanting to reach more consumers without adding more sales staff led Vern Fonk Insurance last year to install sales conversion management software. Since then, the 50-year-old independent insurance broker, based in Washington state, says it is closing 33% of the leads gained via the web.

The sales software, from Conversica LLC, is designed to accept inquiries from prospective customers as the first point of contact with Vern Fonk and engage them with online content that they can access at any time, helping to keep prospects interested until a Vern Fonk agent can contact them.

In less than four months, the software brought in 11,780 leads, and engaged 2,306 of them until contacted by a Vern Fonk agent, resulting in 874 policies sold, Vern Fonk says. Those leads included nearly 495 gained during business hours, 557 that came in after business hours, 587 that were “re-engaged” after becoming unresponsive, dead or idle, and 226 that resulted from past shoppers alerting agents they were ready to buy. About 60 of the insurance firm’s sales agents use the Conversica software each day, the vendor and Vern Fonk say.

“Our focus on the customer is a significant competitive advantage for us, so we wanted to be able to respond quickly and personally to all inquiries,” says Robert Thielke, president, Vern Fonk Insurance. “As the volume of our Internet leads increased, we needed to engage and convert them more effectively, but without incurring the cost of adding more staff.”

Combined with Vern Fonk’s customer relationship management software, the Conversica software enables the insurance firm to craft automated e-mail messages that eventually lead a consumer to a human agent for further help; figure out the lead’s intent by analyzing text in e-mail communications between Vern Fonk and potential customers; alerts agents about consumers who display immediate intentions to buy insurance products; and gain feedback from customers. 

The use of the Conversica software has enabled Vern Fonk to tweak the advertising on its e-commerce site, VernFonk.com. It now prominently displays this marketing message near the top: “Internet customers go to the front of the the line.”

A Conversica spokesman says service starts at $1,500 per month. "It's a tiered pricing model based on the number of leads that we work on the client's behalf," he adds.

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