Why A Trained Agent Is Better Than An Untrained Agent

Agents come in many shapes, sizes, and qualifications.  Every insurance agent must go through a basic level of insurance training in order to obtain a license. In order to keep their license, an agent must take a minimum level of training annually.  Unfortunately, many agents never do any more than the minimum. There is so much more to know about insurance than just the minimum of training.  It is imperative that all agents continually keep trained and educated in order to create, and deliver insurance and risk solutions to their clients.

Training benefits to agents and agencies

  • Enhances your company’s reputation. 
  • Employees desire professional development.
  • Helps agency attract and retain the best employees.
  • Increase the collective knowledge of your team.
  • Boosts your retention.
  • Allows you to truly provide “trusted advisor” solutions to your clients.

Training benefits to clients

  • Allows agents to bring a much broader knowledge base to problem solving.
  • Agents are more equipped to educate clients.
  • Provides a basis for providing business solutions beyond just insurance.
  • Trained agents are generally more knowledgeable about many different industries.
  • With a trained agent you can lower your cost of risk.
  • Professionally trained agents understand in greater detail how insurance is designed to work.
  • Highly trained agents can help you navigate difficult claims to your satisfaction.
  • Training is essential for knowledge transfer. It’s very important to share knowledge.

Professional development can come in many forms. But having an agent who is trained will always provide a broader depth of skill and experience to the client.

Our Holiday Wish… That Insurance Agents Become Trusted Advisors

This is the time of year when we give thanks.  We would like to thank our clients and market partners for their support this year. We would also like to thank all the agents who have followed us, and who are changing the way they do business. We continue with our mission to encourage insurance buyers to think about insurance as a service rather than a commodity, and to challenge insurance agents to strive to become trusted advisors.

Are you sought after by your clients for more than just your insurance knowledge? Do you spend time educating yourself on your client’s business needs? Are you aware of the trends and issues that will impact your customers next year? If you answered yes, you are on your way to becoming a trusted advisor.

What Is A Trusted Advisor?

A trusted advisor is an agent who becomes so important and valued by the client, that the client seeks advice from the agent on a number of issues other than just insurance. A trusted insurance advisor becomes part of the firm’s consultant team, which includes attorneys, accountants, and human resources consultants.  More than anything, being a trusted advisor is about establishing a set of behaviors.

Behaviors Associated With Trusted Advisors

  • Always put the client first. Do the right thing even if it means the organization does not get the work.
  • Solve problems rather than sell insurance.
  • Understand all the issues facing the client, well beyond insurance.
  • Be highly trained in business management.
  • Bring a portfolio of practical experiences, relationships with others, an understanding of business dynamics, and market trends.
  • Be willing to connect a number of business resources that will have a positive impact on your client’s business.

Invest In Customer Satisfaction

If you search the web you will find many good articles on how increasing customer satisfaction boosts your profit and is a good return on investment. While these are good articles, they miss the point. Don’t deliver outstanding customer service to make money, do it because it is the right thing to do. We believe that a happy and satisfied customer will become your ally, and you become their trusted advisor.

Here Is What We Know About Customer Service

  1. Customers know more about risk and insurance today than they did a few years ago.
  2. People want to be educated not sold.
  3. Partners are better than vendors.
  4. Everyone “says” they offer god customer service.
  5. There is a strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty factors such as repurchasing, trying new services, forgiving mistakes, and recommending the company to friends and colleagues.
  6. Customers expect extended hours: 24/7
  7. Consumers view excellent customer service as an extension of a company’s values and believe that these companies have “earned” their business.

What Customer Service Tools Should We Invest In?

  1. Continue to educate yourself and your team in insurance and risk management topics.
  2. Invest in a mobile-first customer experience. Customers want some level of mobile services, which could mean, paying bills, managing policy information and receiving claims update.
  3. Build a meaningful web site. Your web page is an excellent way to offer education and other services.
  4. Invest in people, most customers hate calling an agency and getting voice mail.
  5. Invest in the technology that allows 24/7 communication with your customers.

Go win the day!

Risk and Insurance Outlook

Are you concerned about the future? Is your risk management program designed and prepared for changes in pricing, economic downturns, healthcare, changes in employment laws and the upcoming political elections? A broker or agent who cares about your business will be on the forefront of change. Part of providing outstanding customer service is helping clients understand how current and future trends may affect their risk program.

Every so often we think it is a good idea to talk about what may be happening regarding insurance and risk management. We review many different insurance publications, insurance company bulletins and other professional’s opinions, to analyze these trends. This allows customers to make educated and informed decisions about their individual programs.

What Is Going On That May Impact Your Risk Program

  1. Healthcare is still impacting individuals and businesses alike. Employers with less than 50 full-time employees are not subject to the mandate requiring a business to provide health insurance to employees or face penalties.  It was good news for the 5.8 million businesses in the United States with fewer than 50 employees.  Unfortunately for them, other rules imposed through Obamacare have a direct, negative financial impact on how insurance will be priced in the future.  And the future is now.

  2. Increased reliance on technology will lead to better run insurers and stable premiums. The development of advanced loss control analytic tools will revitalize insurers focus on claim reduction, and potentially lead to increased investments in loss control. Insurers are using business intelligence to leverage “big data” to help them estimate claims, assets, credit and market data, and gain deeper insights across networks of producers, policy holders, and operations.

  3. There are more insurers entering the marketplace. While this can be a good thing, some of these insurers are not financially strong, which might lead to issues at a later date. We always recommend using stable and financially strong insurers.

  4. Mobile applications are one of the fastest growing areas of insurance. Businesses are able to manage risk programs through technology.

  5. Cyber liability will continue to be a major area of concern for all businesses. The government will continue to legally require businesses to protect customer’s information. Those businesses that don’t will be subject to increased fines.

  6. Global terrorism will impact local business. With the U.S. pulling out of the peacekeeping leadership around the world, the impact will be felt through increased attacks on American soil. Terrorism insurance will become more expensive and harder to obtain.

Simple Ways To Deliver “WOW” Customer Service

We have been on a journey over the past few months to discover how insurance agents and buyers need to re-think how insurance is purchased.  We believe that relationships are an important part of the insurance process.  Agents have relationships with insurance companies and with their clients.  The agent’s objective should be to deliver “wow” customer service and provide a high level of expertise in insurance and risk management.

There are a few simple things that agents can do right now that will change the culture of your agency and help your team deliver outstanding customer service. Here are four things you can do today that will get you on the path of delivering “wow” customer service and also develop deeper relationships with your clients.

  1. Be willing to collaborate with your clients. Customers do not want to be “sold”; they want to work with you to achieve mutual goals.  Make your customers part of their own success by getting them involved in the process.
  2. Listen to your customers.  Be prepared to ask questions; then shut up and listen.  It is not about you; it is about the customer.
  3. Help customers avoid pitfalls.  Operating a business comes with risks. Outline these pitfalls to your customers, and show them how to minimize their risk.  It may or may not include insurance.
  4. Customers want to feel cared for.  When a customer calls do they get a voice recording? Do you return calls the same day?  Do requests get processed quickly? All these daily activities will tell the customers how you feel about them. These kinds of activities can build trust, or tear down trust between the client and agent.

Now go make a difference!

Move From Average To Exceptional Customer Service

We recently ran across a study by PeopleMetrics where they outlined methods of improving the relationships between agents and customers. We thought this information fit right into our continued effort to change the way we think about the insurance buying process.

“According to a recent Accenture survey, 91% of insurers “believe that future growth depends on providing a special customer experience.” So it would appear that the industry has realized the current system is flawed and is actively interested in bridging the gap between average and exceptional. But what does an “exceptional customer experience” look like in the insurance industry?” www.peoplemetrics.com

How To Bridge The Gap Between Good And Great Customer Service

  • Deliver solutions the customer wants and needs; stop selling insurance.
  • Be consistent. Deliver the same level of service from every touch point within the customer experience.
  • Show you care. Insurance is not a commodity, it is a service.
  • Build trust. The best way to build trust is to always acknowledge when you are wrong.
  • Go the extra mile. Build a culture where employees are encouraged to put in extra effort. This might include hand delivering a policy or auto ID cards in an emergency situation.

Now go win the day!

Cyber Liability; The Risk That Evolves Daily

How Cyber Liability threatens your business every day

Did you know that an average business has a greater chance of having a cyber breach than it does of having a fire? It is true, and your business insurance policy most likely will not cover cyber liability losses.

Technology has enabled the common criminal to get into the world of cyber crime. Small businesses are a prime target, as most small businesses have little to no protection. Criminals can actually purchase programs that can be set up to hack dozens of businesses at the same time. It is important that your business has the right business insurance, including cyber liability insurance. Here are a few of the evolving cyber threats.

Malware hacks

These are programs that can be attached to an email or web site. The malware then can target specific systems.

Example–A small retail shop owner opened an email with a malware attached. The hack program then found 1,500 credit card numbers of the shop’s customers. The shop did not know about the hack until customers called about the fraudulent charges. The shop owner incurred over $75,000 in notification and payment expenses.

Social Hackers

This scam involves someone posing as a trusted bank or other advisor. The criminal then relies on the business owner or manager believing the call is legitimate and divulging privileged information.

Example–A CFO received a call from a hacker (acting as a bank official) requesting verification of account information. Through the process, the hacker obtained privileged information. They then used this information together with other data to make withdrawals from company accounts.

Key Business Insurance Coverage Offers Real Solutions

  • Cyber liability
  • Data restoration coverage
  • Business income or loss income
  • Legal notification coverage and expense


Why Hand The Baton To An Agent?

baton 3432drtLife can be like a race. We all are in our lanes going as fast as we can to get to the next place. Buying insurance can also be like a race.  Except with insurance, you have the option of passing the baton to an independent agent, and when the baton is passed correctly, you and your agent truly become a team that can accomplish great things.

What are some of the benefits of passing the baton to an independent agent?

  1. An independent agent is someone who knows how to run in the insurance fast lane. With an independent agent, you will be able to communicate more effectively with insurance companies, than you can on your own. This gives you an advantage of having an advocate on your team.  We know which markets are interested in your unique insurance requirements.  For example, some markets like contractors while others prefer retail businesses.  And still other markets like to insure motorcycles.
  2. When you pass the baton to an agent, you now have the experience and clout of a well trained professional to finish the race for you. The finish line includes having the insurance relationship and program design that meets your individual needs.
  3. When an agent takes the baton, you get his or her entire team as well. This includes qualified staff to help answer your questions and provide accurate information to you when you need it.
  4. Every race may have a point where claims do happen. If your agent has the baton they will be there to help you get back on your feet and get you back in the race. An agent will take the lead in working with the insurance company during the claims process.
  5. As your team member, we communicate with you. Our goal is to connect with you regularly throughout the year on hot topics that will affect you.

Together we will run the race with professionalism, excitement, experience, and customer service in mind, to deliver the best possible combination of coverage, service, and price.

Three Things Every Agent Should Be Doing

Businesswoman Writing on White Board and Businessman at Table

In case you have not figured it out, I am on a mission to change the way agents/brokers and their clients interact with each other. There are three things that every agent should be doing with their clients; educate, educate, educate. Ok I know what you are thinking. Just like real-estate, it is location, location, and location. But not so fast.

Here Is What I Mean By Educate

Educate Your Clients About Their Risk

The very first thing every agent needs to do is help their clients understand what their risks are. Not just simply fire, wind, and auto hazards, but rather the client’s complete risks.  These risks can include liability assumed in a contract, cyber risk, employment liability, and more. This involves truly understanding the client’s business and how to create and deliver real solutions; some of which may not include insurance.

Educate Your Clients About Insurance

Every agent needs to be providing information to their clients on how insurance works, and the pros and cons of the insurance their clients are considering. Do your clients fully understand all the terms, conditions, and exclusions of their insurance?

Educate Your Clients About The Market

It is very important that your clients understand how the insurance markets work, including market trends and market volatility. The swings in market pricing can actually provide opportunities for our clients. As prices go up, why not increase the deductible, thus keeping premiums level?

It should always be the goal of every agent to help your clients understand the value you bring to the relationship.

Do You Want To Avoid Unhappy Customers?

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Does anyone like having an unhappy customer?  Do you really like having to deal with a frustrated client? I do not; and I try really hard not to have them. According to customer service experts, customer satisfaction, or should I say un-satisfaction, can be boiled down to these areas:

  1. Customers do not feel heard
  2. Customer expectations are not realized
  3. Promises are not kept
  4. Agents are selling policies, not solving problems

In one survey by the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois, researchers found 30% of unhappy customers will simply move their business.

How To Improve Customer Satisfaction

Stop selling and start solving problems — It is easy to sell a client an insurance policy, but that may not always be the best for the client. There are other solutions like self-insurance, contractual transfer, or even a modified policy with high deductible.

Focus on personal service – Take care of your customers like they are real people; because they are. Listen with understanding and sympathy.  The customer’s first impression of you is all important in gaining co-operation. You can do this by acknowledging not just the facts of the situation, but also acknowledging how the situation made them feel. For example, “It must have been frustrating for you to bring home our product only to realize it wasn’t the right model for your needs.”

Take responsibility — Never, ever blame or make excuses.  Instead, take full responsibility and the initiative to do whatever you can to solve the problem as quickly as possible.

Always give your customer options — Never limit your solution to just a quick insurance fix.  Ask questions to get to the issues, and then offer more than one alternative.

Show them, don’t tell them –– Present the solution, or option, to the client and then show them how you will respond. The sooner you deliver on the solution you promised, the quicker you’ll be creating another friend of your business.

We all want happy clients, but it does take work. A happy client is a happy business! GO win the day!