Think Differently In 2017

The definition of incorrect thinking is to repeatedly take the same action and expect a different outcome.  As you think about your insurance program for 2017, it is time to expect a different outcome.  This will cause you to consider different actions. To accomplish this, two things need to happen.  First, redefine how you define success in your risk and insurance program, and second, create a new set of actions that correspond to your new thinking.

Redefine Success

Under the old definition, most insurance buyers define success as a lower premium. Therefore, the action corresponding is to get as many agents involved to create competition to lower the price.  Consequently, insurance buyers are happy if they get a 10% lower premium.  The problem with this thinking is that buyers generally do not know what they are getting for the lower premium. They may have created a big risk management issue once an un-insured loss occurs.

A New Way of Thinking

A new definition of success is to have an insurance and risk program that address the risks you have, and choose to have, insured.  Some risk you may desire to self-insure and others you may want to transfer to an insurance company.  This way, you understand what you are insuring and what you are not.

Now that I have redefined your thinking, you need to create a new set of actions. Just bidding out your insurance to get the lowest price will not work anymore.  You need to select an experienced and qualified agent that has the experience to educate you on your risks. The second action is to select an insurer that understands your industry.  For example, some insurers are better at underwriting the hospitality industry, and others are better at manufacturing, and so on.

Call a few agents, interview them, get their qualifications, and ask them how they would design a program for your business.  Start to think differently and you may get different and more effective results.

We Think of Insurance as a Promise


Many people look at insurance as a commodity, like buying car or a piece of furniture.  Consequently, they become caught up in searching for the lowest price for the “product of insurance.”  Insurance is less of a commodity, and more of a promise or service.

Promise vs. Product

Insurance is a promise from the insurer to cover your claim or loss per the terms of the policy.  What many people fail to understand is that policies or “promises” differ from company to company. If you never have a claim, then you do not know if the insurer will live up to the promise you think they have made.  However, if you do have a claim you want the promises kept.

That is where we come in.  As an agent, we help you understand the promises made, and work with you to make sure the insurer fulfills all promises.  We can also help you design a policy that fits your needs.

Here Are Few Things To Remember About Insurance Promises

  • Getting the right coverage is not the insurer’s responsibility – it is yours. You need to determine what limits, deductibles, and coverage you will need to cover your risk.  As an agent, we can help you through that process.
  • You may need special or unique coverage like flood, employment liability, or umbrella coverage. We are here to help you evaluate your risk.
  • Insurance companies differ. We can show you how insurers differ in regards to product and services.

 

Why Low Price and High Value Can Be a Contraction in Terms

Shoppers are always looking for that next big sale or deal. When it comes to purchasing a 46” HDTV, it is easy to identify all the features you want, and then shop for the best price.  In fact, many retailers might even negotiate with you to get your business. When selecting your insurance, you cannot think the same way.  Why?

  • Insurance can never go on sale, it is highly regulated.
  • Consumers rarely have complete information about various insurance products.
  • Consumers may believe that “popular” or advertised products are high in quality.

Let me make it clear that high priced insurance does not always equate to a better value.  However, if you purchase the low-priced insurance policy are you satisfied that all the coverage terms are consistent with a higher priced policy?  A better way to look at this is to consider the value of what you are buying.  Here are some of the value added advantages you will find in insurance if you do a little searching.

What makes up a high value insurance program?

  • An insurance policy that will respond to your risks when a loss occurs.
  • The extra services offered by the insurer at no cost to you.
  • The knowledge and expertise of the agent. The agent is your key to a high value advantage. The agent is the one who helps you identity your risks and designs a policy specifically for you.  The agent will be there to help you manage through a claim and to educate you.
  • Your agent increases your insurance value by helping you understand why the premiums are different.

Value is more than price

There are also non-price variables that every insurance purchaser should consider.

  • The agent’s experience in your industry. Do you want an agent who primarily only insures homes, to insure your restaurant?  These risks are different and should be treated as such.
  • Insurance companies have customer satisfaction ratings for claims, premium processing, and other services. Do you want to use an insurer with a below average claims handling rating?

In conclusion, only an experienced agent can help you understand and define the true value of your insurance purchase.

Customer Service Skills Your Agent Needs

Insurance agents should always be considered a trusted advisor. As such, there are many unique skill sets an agent should possess. Without these skills you run the risk of having the wrong insurance program, being uninformed regarding your risks, and be frustrated whenever you call or meet with your agent.

Here are some of the skills of a trusted advisor:

  • Has under taken additional training in the field of risk management and insurance.
  • The trusted advisor puts clients’ interests in front of their own. Selling is dead, education is thriving. A trusted advisor will always put education over sales. If we stop trying to just make a sale and truly understand the customer needs, trust is formed.
  • A trusted advisor is genuinely interested in their client’s business success. By showing this level of interest their clients were more open with them and invariably opportunities were identified through discussion.
  • A trusted advisor has a team of experts working together to meet the client’s needs. You will receive personal attention and our team will even come to you. After you describe your personal situation, you will be presented with a custom-tailored insurance solution.
  • Seek to understand. As Steven Covey so succinctly puts it in the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”.
  • Trusted advisors are genuine, real, individual people. People can sense when others are being insincere and the relationship never develops beyond the civil stage as the client mistrusts the sales person’s motives.

Insurance Myth Busters

According to recent estimates by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), roughly one in seven drivers are uninsured.  A majority of drivers only carry the state minimum limits.

The Common Myth

If an uninsured or underinsured motorist hits you, many think, no worries, they have coverage, or my insurance will pay.

Myth Busted

Your coverage is limited to the amount of coverage you have on your policy.  Therefore, if you purchase minimum limits you would have little coverage if someone hit you carrying no insurance. Adding an endorsement to your personal umbrella policy will place higher limits of coverage over and above your auto policy uninsured motorist coverage.

Why Insurance Is More Than A Policy

The example above is an excellent example of why it is important to have an agent who knows and understands insurance, and one who can communicate complex issues in “English”. This allows our customers to make intelligent choices regarding their insurance.

Your insurance policy is only as good as the agent who placed it. Your agent should be asking you questions and learning about your individual risks and provide options as to how to treat your risks. When your needs change or your situation complicates, you don’t want an automated phone tree or cold cyber-agent. You want to talk to compassionate, honest insurance experts – that’s our team

The Problems Many Businesses Have With Their Agents

I talk to people regularly who tell me that they are not happy with their agent.  I hear statements like, “My agent does not understand my business”, “My insurance program is not matched to my business”, or “My agent always tries to sell me more insurance.”  These are common issues in the business community. I have found that the key issue with most of these concerns has less to do with the agent, and more to do with how the customer goes about selecting the agent.  What?–How can that be true?

Most agents are just trying to sell insurance and move on to the next account.  They are not bad people, but they have been trained to sell.  Our agents are different; first and foremost, we are trained to serve. 

Too often customers go about selecting their agent through bidding out their insurance and then selecting the lowest bidder.

Here is a great quote form the movie Armageddon, when the team of oil drillers are sitting in the space shuttle ready to lift off, and having second thoughts.  “You realize we’re sitting on 45,000 pounds of fuel, one nuclear warhead and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder?  Makes you feel good doesn’t it?” Rockhound played by Owen Wilson.

My contention is that the process by which clients select their agent is flawed, and there is a better way.  By only looking at the lowest price, you are missing the most important part of the process; getting the best possible combination, of coverage, risk management, customer service, and price designed for your specific business.

If buyers were to select agents on something other than price, they would be much happier.  Here is what to look for in an agent:

  • A good agent will have access to many markets, making price consistent between most agents.
  • Experience.
  • Staff experience.
  • Special training and credentials.
  • Have conversations with prospective agents.  Simply asking questions does not mean you have to work with them.  This is a chance for you to get a feel for how they work and if you feel comfortable with them.
  • A good agent needs a high emotional IQ.  This includes the ability to listen and empathize with clients on a deeper level in order to discern what they really want and need.

Keep Your Agency Healthy Through Client Service Reviews

Do you ever sit down with your team and complete a customer service review? If you don’t, let me try to convince you of its value. A customer service review is like an annual physical. It is necessary for the health of the agency, and it helps everyone better understand the client’s needs. Your review should include the producer, account manager, claims person, and any other team member that touches the client. The customer service review should only take a short time, but the information can be invaluable in making sure that the team is on the same page to deliver outstanding service to the client.

Here are some of the topics that should be included during a customer review:

  1. Review all open claims to make sure they are progressing correctly.
  2. Does the client have any service issues or concerns?
  3. What are any issues facing the client or the industry?
  4. Does the agency have any new services or solutions to offer?
  5. Have there been any personnel changes with the client?

Having this information can help build a true partnership with the client. If there are any issues or concerns, it is best to address these well before the renewal. By doing so, the client will feel they are being treated like a partner and will in turn treat you like a valued business partner, not just an insurance agent.

Can Selling And Customer Service Coexist?

Traditional insurance “selling” has not always gone hand in hand with good customer service. Traditional insurance selling often consists of a sales person trying to convince a buyer of the benefits of the product he/she is selling. Conversely, good customer service involves determining the customer’s needs and concerns first, and then determining how to best provide solutions. The difference is in the mindset of the sales professional. You can actually provide good customer service while “selling” if you view selling as offering a value added service to your customer. This starts with how the sales professional views the process.

If you are looking for something different in the insurance buying process, evaluate your next insurance meeting using these standards.

  • Does your agent ask questions to determine your needs and concerns?
  • How fast does the agent offer insurance products as the only solution, if it in the first 15 minutes you have a traditional insurance sales person.
  • Do you feel your agent knows and understands your business and industry?
  • Has your agent ever offered a non-insurance solution such as a contractual risk transfer?

We would encourage you to establish a set of standards by which you evaluate your insurance provider. Do they value relationships, do your values line up together and do they value the relationship? If you can answer these, you are on your way to developing a trusted partner.

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.