A Great Way to Get Your Employees to Connect with Customers

The FORD Monthly Allowance

Benson Kearley IFG (BKIFG), headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is not your typical insurance agency, because Stephen Kearley is not your typical company president. BKIFG is obsessed with providing a world-class experience to both customers and employees, and it is paying huge dividends with exponential growth. BKIFG created an amazing incentive to help its team focus on collecting their clients’ FORD (Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams). This program provides every account executive with a $25 allowance that they must spend every month on their customers, creating greater customer engagement via more engaged employees. If you’re looking for a great way to get your employees to connect with customers, read on.

Every company struggles with trying to get their employees not to be transactionally focused, i.e., just answering what the customer is asking for and moving on to the next call. While making money for the company is part of most job descriptions, this program reminds employees to be present, to stay in the moment by listening and recognizing their clients’ FORD, and then following up with delightful surprises. For example, an existing customer might call to ask a question about a policy and in the process mention that it’s their wedding anniversary that weekend. The comment might trigger the BKIFG employee to send flowers or a gift card. Remembering personal details about customers and helping celebrate them is a sure-fire strategy for strong customer retention. Not only does it create a sense of connection, but it also helps draw in potential customers as current customers tell family, friends, and colleagues – and the world at large on social media platforms – about their personalized positive experiences with your brand.

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*Related – Going from Greg to Benny: Building a Stronger Client Experience Model

To maintain a sense of ownership, the BKIFG account executives must report on how they’ve used their FORD allowance. The third Monday of each month, after BKIFG’s morning huddle, the account executives stay on the call, and they take turns sharing how each team member spent their money that month. “This helps give the team, who may have not used their monthly allowance, some ideas on how they can spend their money in the future.” It can also switch the conversation from negative client experiences to positive ones with good clients. “It is easy to hang up the phone after a call with a rude customer and complain, but we don’t often do that after a good experience with a client. So, we like to ask our team in the meeting if they had a good client experience they had and wanted to share. Like a client “shout out’,” says Courtney Kearley, Marketing Director at BKIFG. It’s a feel-good strategy that can’t help but result in happy employees and an improved company culture.

Kearley shares some examples of how her team has used their allowance:

  1. “We had a client going on a road trip to Florida so we got them nice “to-go” hand soaps.” These weren’t just any soaps – they were well packaged for convenient vehicle storage and were in small sheets which only needed a little water to foam up, making it easy to wash hands “on the go”.
  2. “We had a client recently buy a new boat and expressed his excitement but also disappointment that he can’t take it out until next summer.” For this client, a set of rope coasters—from a shopping book BKIFG provides its employees—was the perfect gift to help him look forward to the upcoming boating season, provide something to bring on board once the boat was in the water, AND remind him that he was appreciated in the meantime.
  3. “We sent several clients the charcuterie board kits just because.” Who wouldn’t want to be surprised with a charcuterie board kit?
  4. “A relaxing bath bomb and tea set for a client who expressed they were dealing with more stress than normal in their personal life.” A thoughtful way of showing empathy and support to a customer.

BKIFG has a catalog with a wide range of products from which their employees can pick out gifts to send to their clients for various occasions.

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Boost Levels of Employee Engagement via In-house Fun

BKIFG also came up with a campaign targeted at increasing the amount of FORD they collect on their clients. Back when one of the new Star Wars movies was being launched, their slogan was: “May the FORDS be with you!” They even created Star Wars advent calendars for each office location. Every day they drew names of associates to open the doors on the calendar. They also had an R2-D2 trophy that was awarded to the top FORD producer. All of this added excitement, motivation, and fun to the collective employee experience while helping to create a best-in-class customer experience.

*Related – How To Build Trust With Your Team Using The Ford Method

We Perform at Our Best When We Make a Personal Connection

Author Daniel Pink has written a great blog about the power of making things personal. Pink cites a study of radiologists in Israel whose job was to read scans on computers. The radiologists were divided into two groups. The first group read scans as usual. The second group also read scans as usual, but they were given a photo of the patient for each scan. The latter group wrote longer, more meticulous reports. “That was interesting,” says Pink, “but further into the study, it got really interesting. After a period of time, the researchers went back to the group who had been given the pictures of the patients and, without them being aware, had them read the same scans as before but without the pictures. The stunning finding was that about 80 percent of the previous findings were not reported!”

Think about that. Most people believe the customer is the one who benefits when the employee makes a personal connection. But this example clearly shows that when the employees—in this case, the radiologists—have a personal relationship with the customer, an emotional commitment, they do a better, more thorough job.


Podcast 130: Never Lose an Employee AgainJoeycoleman, The DiJulius Group

Chief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group talks to Joey Coleman, who is a best-selling author and speaker on customer and employee experience. His most recent book, Never Lose an Employee Again details a framework on how companies can use to reduce turnover and increase employee engagement.

You will learn:

  • The 8 phases of an employee experience
  • Why the first 100 days of an employee’s career at your organization are so vital
  • What Hire’s remorse is and how to avoid it
  • Great best practices from organizations who do an incredible job of intentional building a world-class employee experience.

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2024 CXO Academy Class kicks off in JanuaryCXE Academy Class, The DiJulius Group

The CXO (Chief eXperience Officer) has been one of the fastest growing positions in corporate America over the last decade. The Customer Xperience Executive Academy (CXEA) is like a master’s degree in Customer Experience! The Customer Experience Executive Academy course is a 12-month part-time rigorous program. Training will occur in the classroom, in businesses, and virtually through scheduled calls and webinars. The CXE student is required to attend quarterly intensive training sessions and participate in virtual meetings. Contact claudia@thedijuliusgroup.com to learn more.

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.