Creating Value

What kind of value do you give your customer?  We just finished our annual season of giving in our personal lives, but what do you give your customers.  No matter what book on success that you pick up to read they always stresses the need to give and to give value to others.  Insurance and especially personal insurance easily becomes transactional and commoditized.  So how do you give value to your customers?

Here’s a quick brainstorm:

1.  Provide regular information on minimizing risk such as improving driving skills, safety tips at home, travel tips, etc.

2.  Promote customers with businesses.

3.  Create a network of customers looking for employees and jobs.

4.  Video their house and possessions.

5.  Have a list of contractors that people need in emergencies such as electricians and plumbers.

6.  Create a new mover kit to customers who recently moved to your city or neighborhood.

Brainstorm at least once a year on things you can do that improve the lives of your customers and brings a level of value that they don’t normally get in an insurance transaction.

Finding Talent for Your Agency

One of the biggest struggles, I have seen over the years with agencies is staffing.  Where do you find people?  Where do you find good people?  Where do you find people who want to do insurance?

It can be tough but not impossible.  First, what are you looking for in a new hire.  Are you looking for a receptionist, CSR, producer, etc?  Over the years, I have come to believe in personal lines every person you should hire that works with customers should have some sales skills.  It seems that there is a stricter dichotomy in commercial lines between service and sales.  Sales people in commercial tend to be outside sales who make cold calls and give presentations.  Sales people in personal lines tend to do more on the phone and could be considered inside sales.  Because of this most agencies will never have true personal lines producer, who are out in the field knocking on doors.  Marketing will tend to drive customers to you, because of this sales skills are critical to personal lines staff.

Where do you find personal lines staff with sales ability?  Here’s some ideas that I have culled from great agencies over the years.

1.  Don’t put an ad in the paper or local insurance paper.  This tends to just attract those already in agencies that are dissatisfied.  Many times, you will take someone else’s problem.

2.  Contact your local colleges and universities.  Most colleges give credit to students if they work in jobs related to their majors.  To become an approved business for credit is simple.  Contact the school, and ask for the forms.  These employees usually don’t cost as much as regular employees because they are earning college credit by working for you.  You can use them to develop marketing programs, set appointments, call dead files, put in retention programs.  There is a lot that they can do without being licensed that can add a lot of value to your agency.  Think of their period of employment as a trial period.  If they are good, you can transition them into a full-time employee.

2.  Bank tellers.  They usually are not making much money, but work with all kind of people all day long.  Each time you go to your bank, target a couple of people and deal with them exclusively.  You are pre-interviewing.  If they are good with you, have a lot of rapport, seems to be sales savvy, then approach them about a job.  I guarantee you pay more.

3.  Coffee shops and restaurants.  Befriend your local barista, and pre-interview like you did with the bank tellers.  Again the good ones have great people skills.  The same is true with waiters and waitresses.  Many are great sales people in order to increase their tips.

Be creative where you find people, and think of it like you prospect for new clients and referral sources.

What’s a House Worth?

How do you insure a home?  Because of the falling home market over the past couple years, the disparity between replacement cost and market value has grown.  Years ago I can remember struggling to get the value of a home high enough to cover the mortgage amount to satisfy lenders.  Today the opposite seems to be true.  The replacement cost estimators tend to be high relative to the market value.

As an agent, how do you handle this discussion with customers?  Recently, I have spoken before multiple real estate groups.  Realtors are really confused about how this works, and have been frustrated that their insurance contacts want to insure a home at a much larger value than the selling price.

Here’s how I have been able to explain that seems to be satisfactory to non-insurance people.  When talking with realtors, mortgage brokers, and customers, I use the term rebuild cost.  In many ways the insurance company is not insuring the value of the home, but the cost to rebuild.  Using that term rather than “value” seems to help immensely.  Explaining the cost of reconstruction helps a lot a well.

One that would really help the industry as a whole, would be a company consistent replacement cost estimator.  No matter what company you may use, the costs can vary widely.

How do you handle?