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Which Insurance Agent Is Right For You?

Selecting an insurance agent may be one of the most important things you do.  Every family needs a good accountant, financial planner, and insurance agent to be looking out after their interests.  However, in today’s world, it may be hard to move your thinking away from the idea that the lowest price is the best, to getting the best value for your dollar.

We want to offer you a fun way to learn why your agent is more important than your policy.  We do this in the “Dear Abby” format—except it is “Dear Perk.”

Dear Perk: What does an insurance agent do?  In addition, is one really needed?  From – Wondering Will.

Dear Will:  A good insurance agent will help you understand what kind of insurance you need, first by educating you, and then offering solutions specifically designed for your family.  An agent asks you questions like, “What keeps you up at night,” or “Tell me about your lifestyle?”  Without an agent, there is no one looking out after your needs. Your agent will be there for you in the event of a claim and can provide valuable advice to make sure you get the full value of your policy.

Dear Perk: Aren’t all insurance agents the same?  From – All The Same Sam.

Dear Sam: No, insurance agents come in many different forms.  I recommend independent agents who represent many different insurance companies.  They are familiar with all types of policies from different carriers in the marketplace, and will create a better value by selecting what is best for their clients and not just selling you what products they have on hand.

Dear Perk: Our family has been blessed with great jobs that have allowed us to afford many luxury items.  Do I need any special kinds of insurance?  From – Very Blessed Brian.

Dear Brian: There are some very specific kinds of insurance we might recommend to people who have a high net worth.  Of course, we would want to meet with you to ask a series of questions in order to educate you and create a personal insurance portfolio just for you. However, here are a few ideas to get you thinking about your insurance needs.

Have you considered:

  1. A personal umbrella policy. This coverage offers higher limits for people who desire to protect their wealth in the event of a serious claim.
  2. Insurance for collections. Many people have wine collections, art, jewelry,and other high-end items that need to be insured.
  3. Insurance for a second home. If you own a vacation or rental home it is important to have that insured.
  4. Loss of use coverage. In the event your home is damaged, and you need to move out during restoration, you need coverage for a hotel, food, and other expenses. These can be covered under your homeowner’s insurance.

These are just a few thoughts we have regarding the importance of your insurance agent. “We believe insurance is not a product, it’s a promise and a trusted relationship”.  Please make time to hire the right agent with whom you can build a trusted relationship.  Then follow their advice and direction.

 

 

An Example of How Agents Are Different…the Rest of the Story

My last article had a very good real life example of how agents can differentiate themselves from other agents, and how trusted relationships can add real value to the customer.  In the case mentioned in the previous article, the agent added $440,000 of value to the customer!

So where do we go from here?  Where we will go is right to the heart of our value proposition.  That is, insurance is about building trusted relationships, open communication, identifying value, assessing risk, and developing solutions.

How Do Agents Accomplish This?

Many of my recent articles describe how and why agents can change their own, and their client’s, paradigm from “insurance transactions” to “relationship management.”  Here are a few questions that will help get you started in the process of this great shift in thinking.  You might be surprised when you start asking your clients and potential clients these questions.  Most likely, they have never before been asked these questions by an insurance person.  Notice how many times the word insurance is used.

  1. Are there business issues that keep you up at night? What are they?
  2. What changes do you anticipate will be made in your business in the coming year?
  3. If you were in charge and had unlimited time and resources, what would you change in your organization? In your department?
  4. What changes could your service providers make to improve your working relationship with them and your entity?
  5. What areas do you think offer the greatest opportunities for your broker or any service provider to do an even better job of serving you?
  6. Who are your clients/customers?
  7. Do you rely heavily on one, or just a few, customers?
  8. To what extent do you rely on technology to run your business?
  9. In your industry, have there been any major changes to the way you do business today versus prior years, that could give rise to new risk exposures? If so, what are they?
  10. Where do you see the future of your company 12, 24, or 36 months from now?
  11. What kinds of service does your current agent provide?
  12. When your agent meets with you, what kinds of items are on the agenda?
  13. Describe how you evaluate your agent and risk management program?

Well you get the idea, these questions are designed to have the client do most of the talking and you do most of the listening.  You may even come up with better questions after you read this.  If so, please share them with all of us.  Remember, one of the goals is not to just recommend an insurance solution, but to understand the risk and needs first, then use collaboration to develop business solutions.

Reichley Insurance believes insurance is more than a transaction.  Insurance involves a trusted relationship built on a promise to put people before policies. Our promise is to listen to you, identify your risks, and provide solutions.  Every Reichley employee has the heart of a teacher.  Connect with us to experience The Reichley difference.

Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. – Ross Perot

Agents…Learn to Be “Consultative” Rather Than “Transactional”

For those who have been following my posts over the past few years, thank you!  We have been talking a lot about how to better serve the needs of our customers.

If I had to put customer service into one thought, it would be this; be consultative rather than transactional.  It is hard to get your head around this because it seems like our business is nothing but transactional.  Binders, certificates, billing, claims processes, and renewals all seem to focus on the transaction process.

Transactional selling is about need, price, and closing, and the word “client” is nowhere to be found.  Conversely, consulting is client focused through discovery, education, and problem solving.

Here are a few ways you can break out of the transactional cycle:

  • Educate yourself on the client’s risks and potential needs.
  • Realize that you are creating value, not “low cost.”
  • Develop relationships with your clients.
  • It feels better to help someone—rather than sell someone.
  • There is real satisfaction in creating solutions.

Consultative customer service is the direction in which our industry is going.  Trusted advisors actually generate more business and sales, receive more referrals (via their customers), and have long lasting customer relationships.

As author David Meister tells us, “There is no greater source of distrust than advisors who appear to be more interested in themselves than in trying to be of service to the client…A common trait of a trusted advisor relationship is that the advisor places a higher value on maintaining and preserving the relationship itself than on the outcomes of the current transaction, financial or otherwise.”

Your Policy Is Only As Good As Your Agent

To say that your insurance policy is only as good as your agent is a bold statement. You have also heard me say, that not all policies are created equal. Just what do I mean by this? The idea is that your agent is the most important part of your insurance program. Here are three reasons why this is true:

  1. Insurance companies only offer a policy, they do not design coverage. On the other hand, independent agents can design coverage that is best for your specific needs.
  2. Independent agents work for the client, not the insurer.
  3. Experienced agents can help you identify and manage your risk, rather than sell you a policy.

The best way to ensure you are getting the best advice and value is to have a trusted relationship with an experienced agent. Like any relationship, communication is the key. A good agent will listen to the customer and offer risk and insurance solutions. There are times when insurance is not the best solution. Again, here are examples:

  1. Contractual Risk Transfer – There are many ways to transfer your risk through a contract or agreement. An example might be for products liability. If you are distributing a product manufactured by another party you can transfer the product liability to them, rather than take that risk on.
  2. Self-Insure – There are times when the risk may be such that you are better off self-insuring rather than spending a lot on an insurance policy with a super high deductible. Sometimes, you can mitigate risk by putting risk control techniques in place to reduce or eliminate the risk all together.

Only an agent who is interested in your best interests would offer you options that included no insurance. Rather than using any agent to get you an insurance quote, select a qualified independent agent who will collaborate with you and design a risk management program that meets your needs.

 

Client Education Trends

We have been on a journey for over a year to educate both agents and buyers of insurance about the most effective way to secure insurance and risk management services. It appears our work may be paying off. We are seeing more and more articles related to the buying and selling insurance that include titles like:

  • “Educate Your Clients”
  • “Discover Solutions”
  • “Quality Relationships Matter”
  • “Buyers Value Partnerships”
  • “Sales People Can’t Wing It”

These are all good articles that directly relate to what we have been saying over the past twelve months. We have reviewed a number of these articles and picked out some of the best points for agents and insurance buyers to consider. These include:

  • See your buyer’s needs through their perspective. This involves active listening on the agent’s part. Agents should talk less, and listen 80% of the time.
  • Deliver your buyer a solution — not a product. Solutions are meant to address the client’s real needs, not sell an insurance product.
  • Focus on what’s important to the client. Determine what their true needs are.
  • Focusing only on your insurance product will cause you to miss what buyer’s value from you.

If insurance buyers demand these procedures of their agents, and agents practiced these guidelines, insurance coverage would be better designed, and overall cost of risk would be lower for businesses. Insurers would be happy because losses would be reduced, and businesses would be matched with the right insurer.

Sources: Jay Mitchell, Dive Inside the Mind of Your Buyer — and Discover a Solution to Serve Them. 2.28.17, Clayton Christensen, The 4 Disciplines of Execution, Deb Calvert, Research Reveals What Buyers Value…It’s Not What You Think, 3.2.17.