With the recent cyber security attack in Europe and some companies in the United States, data breaches are becoming more common and more costly. Businesses that have been exposed to data breaches face civil liability from customers, credit card issuers, business partners and stakeholders.
PC Magazine defines a data breach as, “An unauthorized dissemination of information. It may be due to an attack on the network or outright theft of paper documents, portable disks, USB drives or laptops. Sensitive information can also be found in trash cans when reports are carelessly discarded.”
As an insurance agent you gather personal data such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers, credit card or bank account information and more. Most agencies have moved away from paper records to electronic data systems and web based applications to store your agency’s data. The personal information and data must be protected from hackers and data breaches. But these days that isn’t always possible.
Most small business owners believe their company is safe from hackers, viruses or a data breach. That’s because most small business owners think they’re too insignificant to be attacked. The reality is most data thieves are looking for an easy target. Security software company Symantec did a study and found that 40% of attacks are against organizations with fewer than 500 employees. Computer hackers aren’t the only ones who can attack your agency. Your agency can be open to attacks by disgruntled or recently fired employees who have access to your data.
If you are reading this, you’re probably an insurance agent or you work at an insurance agency. If anyone should know why you carry insurance, you do. A business liability policy is unlikely to protect against most cyber exposures. Most commercial policies are written to insure against physical loss or injury. These policies don’t protect your agency from electronic damages associated with a data breach.
Like the recent ransomware data breach a cyber liability insurance policy covers cyber extortion. Cyber extortion is when hackers hijack your website, data, and/or networks and deny you access until you pay them to restore your systems. Cyber liability insurance covers expenses associated with data breaches like credit monitoring, costs to defend claims against state regulators and losses resulting from identify theft.
Does your agency have Cyber Liability Insurance? If not, contact your broker and discuss the level of coverage your agency needs based on your range of exposure.
Tension, conflict, fighting, friction, whatever you call it, can have a drastic effect on productivity in the workplace. You’ve probably experienced some workplace conflicts due to deadlines, clashes in personalities, different work methods, power plays and emotional issues. A little healthy competition isn’t a bad thing but working in a volatile atmosphere isn’t good for your agency or your employees.
The best thing to do is nip it in the bud as soon as you are aware of it. First, encourage your employees to work it out. If the conflict persists, listen to both sides individually and don’t play favorites. Identify the issues at hand and get to the source of the conflict. If necessary, refer to your employee handbook. Once a solution is found, you may want to document the incident. Some employees may need time to cool off and in some cases you may want to reevaluate your staff.
You may find that some employees who continue to hold a grudge can’t work it out no matter how much talking you do. There are workplace communication and problem solving training courses available if it comes to that. This problem-solving therapy helps people cope with difficulties in the workplace and teaches them to proactively solve their problems. You may not have the resources or time so once again, you may want to reevaluate your staff.
The worst thing you can do is let these conflicts continue to fester. Employees will spend a lot of time discussing their version and getting people on their side. That time is wasted time. The tension and conflict could lead to bad decisions being made and lowering job motivation due to poor focus. You could lose an employee if one gets fed up and decides to leave because of the conflict. The conflict could lead to sabotage and damage to the business as the employee’s anger grows due to lack of resolution.
Bottom line, get to the bottom of the conflict, speak to those engaged in the conflict and get it resolved before your business is affected.
We’re spotlighting another one of our wonderful agents, Janeth Ochoa, Owner and Manager at El Gallo de Oro or The Golden Rooster. The Golden Rooster agency is located in Gainesville, Georgia.
Janeth’s agency offers home insurance, auto insurance, commercial insurance, workers compensation, general liability and tags and titles and more.
We asked Janeth a few questions about being an agent. Janeth exclaimed the Nike slogan when asked about insurance, “Just Do It”.
How long have you been an insurance agent?
What's your favorite thing about being an insurance agent?
"The best aspect is being able to work with people and help them."
What advice would you give someone who wants to be an insurance agent?
"Just do it. It's a great field to get into."
What is something about you that would surprise people?
"I love crossfit and do it as much as I can"
If you would like to be included in our agent spotlight, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the worst things you can do for your body and your health is nothing. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, for example, parked on a couch, may contribute to anxiety, depression, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Now let’s say your body is your agency’s website. Your agency’s website lives on the internet. If you don’t frequently update your website with fresh content and new information, it will become stagnant and drop in organic search rankings never to be found on search engine inquiries.
Fear not. If you update your website often with high quality content, search engines will reward you for it. Keep your website healthy by staying engaged and up-to-date. Consider updating your website with blog articles, videos and new web pages. The more frequently you update your website the more often a search engine will crawl and index it.
A web crawler or spider is a program that visits websites and reads the pages to create entries for a search engine index. Here’s how Google describes their indexing, “The crawling process begins with a list of web addresses from past crawls and sitemaps provided by website owners. As our crawlers visit these websites, they use links on those sites to discover other pages. The software pays special attention to new sites, changes to existing sites and dead links. Computer programs determine which sites to crawl, how often and how many pages to fetch from each site.”
Note that Google pays close attention to “changes to existing sites”. Google sets the bar for all other search engines. You want to cater to the Google Gods when it comes to updating content for future indexing.
When you publish new content be mindful of using keywords. Frequently added content like a blog post or an article post allows you to optimize the content with keywords pertinent to your products and services that can help attract visitors to your website.
Google is not looking for repetitive keywords throughout your content. Google is looking for quality content that has keywords within it. Write content that provides information your readers are actually interested in reading. Not a bunch of insurance jargon and gobbledygook.
Providing new visitors with valuable, up-to-date and relevant information about your insurance agency lets them know you are actively involved in your business. Inform your audience about customer satisfaction, benefits of your insurance products, why they need your insurance products and they will be more likely to contact you for your services.
Today we are pleased to have a guest blog from David Robinson, Territory Sales Representative, at Progressive Insurance.
Best Quote Practices to Increase Auto Conversion
We’ve all heard that dreaded response from new prospects after delivering (what you thought!!) was an excellent rate: “No thanks, I got lower quote somewhere else.”
Did you know that when a potential prospect calls your office requesting an auto quote, that, on average, you are the 3rd option they are calling, whether they contacted an agent down the street or quoted an online company?
That is why it’s critical to do the following on every single auto quote: Ask the right questions, apply all available discounts, offer the best bill plans and follow up by emailing the quote.
I like to use an acronym for best quote practices called BRET- Best Rate Every Time.
In my 12 years working with Progressive agents and previously in our Direct call center, it is critical to accurately apply and lead with as many discounts as possible. If you don’t, I guarantee there is an agent down the street that is quoting with all the discounts and we all know that the Progressive Direct or Geico call center sales rep is quoting that prospect with every available discount.
Here are a few tips to help increase sales when that new prospect calls in for the first time:
1) Ask for/ collect email addresses on every quote. Why? You can leverage more discounts, such as Paperless and Snapshot, on the quote. Also, did you know that agents who regularly email quotes have reported higher conversion levels vs. agents who do not email quotes to potential prospects?
2) Take time to connect with your new prospects through relating, asking the right questions, listening, and understanding their needs. Don’t assume it’s always about lowest rate.
3) As an independent agent with multiple carriers, set yourself apart by letting prospects know they do not need to shop with anyone else because you represent “x” number of carriers. Present multiple carriers/ quotes and let the customer choose. Be sure to let the prospect know the various features/ benefits of each company that you represent.
4) Accurately apply discounts in your AccuAgency rater on each first quote and discuss best bill plan options that give the largest discount. For example, if the customer has an email address, tell them you are going to give them both a Paperless and Snapshot discount. Using the word “discount” connects the client to the product you are selling and increases your odds to close the business. Some of the most commonly missed discounts Progressive offers include: Advance Quote, Length of Vehicle Ownership, Education, Occupation, and Snapshot (up to 10% at new business). Please note: All of Progressive’s discount questions are listed in your AccuAgency Rater.
Remember, to increase your agency sales and revenue, don’t forget the importance of connecting with your clients, emailing quotes and make sure you utilize B.R.E.T. on every single new quote.
Territory Sales Representative
Employee Spotlight - Luisa Guzman, Inside Sales
Our next employee spotlight is shining on one of our brightest stars, Luisa Guzman. Co-workers and agents alike love working with Luisa! Here are 5 things Luisa shared with us.
1. Who is one of your heroes?
Mother Teresa. A nun who spent her life among the poor in Calcutta, and who was declared a Saint.
2. What is something about you that would surprise people?
I am a twin.
3. What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I have a small blanket I’ve kept since I was a baby. I need to smell it every night before going to bed.
4. What is something you would like to learn to do?
I would like to learn how to cook. I am a cooking disaster.
5. What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
Be Impeccable With Your Word. Don't Take Anything Personally. Don't Make Assumptions. Always Do Your Best.
This is the second in a series of how to generate referrals. Please use the comments section and share your ideas on how you generate referrals and what has worked best in your agency.
Getting Referrals - Client Featured Marketing - Write Your Story
Do you have a client success story? If you’re in business, the answer is yes. Your agency wouldn’t be open without happy clients and customers.
Take a close look at your entire customer base and identify all of your unique client success stories. I bet you’ll be surprised at the number of success stories you can identify. Now that you have identified your success stories consider how you can use these in your marketing materials. You don’t need to share multiple success stories. Find one or two and write your marketing stories highlighting your happy client and how you went above and beyond to make them happy. If possible, include a photograph or video of your client or their situation.
Here’s an example, has one of your clients left the office without signing a form and you stopped by their house to get it signed. Or maybe one of your clients had a small house fire and you stopped to check on the family. Consider taking a picture of the fire damage. Follow-up after the contractors have come out to repair the damage. You may consider a video to capture how satisfied your client is with the repairs. You could use the picture you took before the damage and and one after the damage is repaired. People love before and after pictures.
Share your stories on your agency’s website, your agency’s social media pages and any and all of your marketing collateral. Always be looking for client success stories.
If you include a client success story in your marketing you should see referrals in 2 ways. Let your client know you are including their story in your marketing and online web marketing and they will share on their social media pages. Second, client success stories found in your marketing materials show your agency cares about customers, the community and you’re good at what you do.
Featuring clients and sharing your agency’s success is a great way to showcase your services and attract new clients seeking those services.
Getting people to write reviews is a great way to increase your online visibility and boost your web marketing presence. As an independent insurance agent you want people to write reviews about the great service and products you offer. But, not all reviews are positive. If you get a negative review, never assume the best response is no response.
Your potential customers won’t count you out based on one negative comment or review. However, you will gain respect for your business if you respond in a helpful and positive way. Always remain level-headed and calm and don’t let your emotions take over when writing your response. Take some time before responding and gather your thoughts. Formulate a polite response with empathy, acknowledge the customer and flip the switch to highlight your agency’s strengths.
Know all of your review websites and monitor them daily to every couple of days. Monitoring your review websites is a great way to get customer feedback and improve your customer service. Top review websites include Google Places, Facebook and Yelp. Respond to reviews quickly (within 24-48 hours). Never be defensive even if the customer is 100% wrong. You know the saying, “the customer is always right” (even if they are wrong). At the end of your response thank the customer for taking the time to share their issues.
Reviews whether good or bad cannot be deleted. There are limited exceptions. Yelp will only make an exception if the review violates content guidelines. Google reviews appear next to your agency’s listing in Google Maps and Google Search and include compiled reviews from other review websites like Facebook. Facebook will remove a review if it does not meet their Facebook Community Standards or if the review doesn’t focus on the product or service offered by the Facebook Business Page.
Remember when you respond to reviews, you aren’t just responding to the reviewer, you’re responding to anyone who reads the review. Your responses will give your potential clients a glimpse at how you run your agency and how your agency respects customers and clients.
Your Agency’s Central Nervous System
An agency management system could be considered your agency’s central nervous system. The central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. Your agency management system is made up of all of your policies, quotes and documentation which is essential for running your agency.
Here are 3 reasons why your agency needs an Agency Management System
1. Disaster Preparedness
An agency management system allows you peace of mind in case of a disaster. All of your files are stored in a single web-based central location. No paper files and stacks of files and folders waiting to be filled. With a web-based system you and your employees can access the same customer information from any location.
2. Reduce Your E&O Exposure
An agency management system minimizes your chances of E&O litigation. If your agency’s central nervous system is running smoothly then you have anything and everything you need as the management system creates a permanent audit trail. Your agency management system allows you to store your notes, scanned documents, saved documents, saved ACORD forms, prospect information, quotes, policies, vendors, employees and client documentation.
3. Track Performance
Your agency management system allows you to run multiple reports on your agency’s health including policy reports on your book of business, sales reports, sales growth reports, employee productivity reports and more.
There are many additional benefits to an agency management system. These are 3 that are critical to the health of your agency.
Agency Management System Audits
Ensure all of your employees are using the same standards when working in your agency’s management system. Notes should be professional and very detailed. You want to make sure your management system is used consistently among your staff. Create a manual outlining and describing how entries should be made within all the various features of your management system. Consider auditing your management system periodically to ensure everyone is meeting the standards and make corrections where necessary.
The personal attention you provide as an insurance agent is similar to that of a real estate agent. But as an insurance agent, instead of sifting through listings for a 4 bedroom, 3 full bath, fenced in yard, in an area with great schools, you’re looking for the company that best suits the client’s coverage, limit requirements and underwriting needs.
As an independent insurance agent you work with several carriers. You know what they offer and don’t offer. You know what they will cover and won’t cover. Let your customers know that you know.
Your auto insurance clients probably know that a Maserati will cost more to insure than a Mazda but they don’t know all of the factors that play into insurance rates. That’s why it’s a good idea to inform them that you are there to help and recommend the best company that best fits their situation.
Let them know:
· You know what reports are pulled by each company (MVR, CLUE, Credit)
· You know if a claim will cause their rate to go up
· You know if a client is at risk for non-renewal
· You know what can lower a client’s premium
· You know what coverages they should carry
· You know when a violation will drop off which renewal policy
· You know what claims will be covered or rejected
When you let your clients know exactly what they should expect they will be more likely to use you to find their next house...OOPS, insurance policy.
Vikki Thomas has been working in the insurance industry since 1995. Vikki has worked for several carriers in customer service, quality assurance, underwriting, product management and marketing. Vikki has worked at AccuAgency since 2008.