In addition to our employee spotlight, we’ll be spotlighting some of our awesome agents. To kick it off we’re spotlighting one of our favorite Florida agents, Eula Murray-Hylton, owner/agent at Insurance Today in Lauderhill, Florida.
How many years have you been an insurance agent?
20 years as an agent, (the first 13 years as an Allstate agent, the last 7 years as owner of an independent agency).
What is your favorite thing about being an insurance agent?
The interactions with my customers over the years that have become like family.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be an independent insurance agent?
Spend time with an agent or working in an agency and ask lots of questions. Learn things about the business other than what is taught in books.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Good food that is fattening, and skipping work once a year just because I can!
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I love gardening and I'm a home-improvement junkie. I'm also a Law & Order and mystery movie buff!
For personal one-on-one service, visit Eula at Insurance Today on 4536 N. University Drive, Lauderhill, FL 33351.
Beginning this month we’ll be spotlighting an AccuAgency employee. We’ll start from the top this month by asking Gordon Ragan 5 questions.
Who is one of your heroes?
Sergeant Alvin York
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I can put a tennis ball in my mouth and close my lips.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
I never ate Spaghetti O's as a kid and saw people in college eating them. I now keep them in my drawer at work when I'm hungry.
What is something you would like to learn to do?
What is the best piece of advice you ever got?
It is what you do after that shows your character and defines you.
South Florida Homeowners Insurance AOB Abuse Crisis - No Legislative Action So Insurance Companies Are Making Changes... But Rate Increases Are Coming
The Palm Beach Post recently spoke to the CEO of Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company CEO Sean Downes about the AOB (Assignment of Benefits) issues in South Florida. He reported a slight uptick in frequency with severity down for AOB homeowners claims.
Insurers use the frequency and severity method to determine the likelihood they will have to pay out for a claim. Frequency refers to the number of claims an insurer expects to see. High frequency means they expect to see a large number of claims. Severity refers to the cost of the claim. Meaning high severity claims are more expensive than average estimates and low severity claims are less than the average.
The Palm Beach Post noted, “Downes made it abundantly clear he was not saying he sees no problem with AOB or no need for legislative action. Last year Universal proposed a blanket rate increase of 8.1 percent for homeowners across South Florida including Palm Beach County, and cited AOB among the reasons.” Downes said a rate increase is likely but he did not mention a percentage.
Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company is the leading insurer in Broward and Palm Beach counties. State run Citizens Insurance Corporation is the second largest.
In an article from The Sun Sentinel, they warn homeowners are in for a shock come renewal. Insurance companies in South Florida are asking for more rate increases.
The Sun Sentinel reported the following rate increase requests for single-family homeowner multi-peril policies by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Percentages are statewide average premium increases. Florida regulators have 90 days to approve or reject the filings:
· St. Johns Insurance Co., 3.1 percent; 9,490 Tri-County policies; filed Dec. 29
· Elements Property Insurance Co., 9.5 percent; 6,364 Tri-County policies; filed Dec. 29
· Heritage Property & Casualty (Preferred Homeowners), 9.9 percent; 16,285 Tri-County policies; filed Dec. 20
· Tower Hill Prime Insurance Co., 8.9 percent; 18,827 Tri-County policies; filed Dec. 2
· Florida Peninsula (Preferred), 9.0 percent; (Elite), 9.7 percent; 30,193 Tri-County policies; filed Jan. 11
· People’s Trust; 14.5 percent; 54,267 Tri-County policies; filed Jan. 30
· American Integrity, 4.2 percent; 7,748 Tri-County policies; filed Feb. 3
· Castle Key Insurance Co., 7.7 percent; 6,634 Tri-County policies; filed Feb. 6
· Castle Key Indemnity, 12 percent; 1,960 Tri-County policies; filed Feb. 6
· Federated National, 6.5 percent; 36,589 Tri-County policies; filed Feb. 17
The Sun Sentinel spoke to People’s Trust Insurance spokeswoman Michelle Ubben about the AOB crisis. “Despite policy language binding customers to an insurer’s approved contractors, some, particularly in South Florida, call their own contractors and assign benefits to them anyway. People’s Trust Insurance has revised its policy language to more clearly prohibit that ability, and the company hopes the tightened language will reduce losses so the proposed rate increases do not have to be fully implemented.” Ubben said.
Proposed changes to the state law have failed over the years. The Sun Sentinel states, “There are several bills pending in Tallahassee including one broadly supported by insurers and regulators that would prevent contractors working under assignments from claiming legal fees in suits against insurers.” But for now companies like Universal and People’s Trust are working to reduce AOB claims.
Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company told their analysts they are taking action by responding to claims quickly bringing the average cost per AOB claim down for standard HO-3 policy claims. People’s Trust has changed their policy language to reduce AOB claims and losses.
As independent insurance agents, what are your fears about the AOB crisis? Do you think legislation will ever be passed to stop the abuse? Do you have ideas to help prevent AOB abuse? Are your homeowner customers aware of the rate increase to come?
Last week I saw a tree service vehicle drive by my house. The company’s name was listed as AAA Tree Service. There used to be a time when the alphabet helped you get a leg up on your competition. Businesses were clever with spelling and grammar with names like AAA AAuto Alignment & AAuto Care. These clever names meant you would be listed first in the Yellow Pages under your business category.
These days a Yellow and White Pages phone book are hard to find. Most businesses have turned to the internet. The triple A this or triple A that won’t get you a leg up on the competition anymore. If you want your insurance agency to be found you must have an internet presence. Your agency won’t be found by many without one.
Take some time and do an internet presence audit. Is your website design up to date? Is your business listed correctly? Has anything changed? Are there calls to action on your website? Are you using keywords? Is your website mobile optimized? Are you actively updating your social media pages? Is your website listed on each of your social media pages like Facebook, Google+, twitter and LinkedIn?
Google your business and see how your agency information is displayed. Search for your agency on Bing. Search for your agency on Yahoo. Pull up your agency’s website on your mobile phone. Is your website mobile friendly? Test your website on Google’s Mobile Test Tool.
Do a keyword search to see where you are showing up for searches like “auto insurance”, “home insurance” and the lines of business you want to sell. Who is showing up first? Take a look at the competition and see what they are doing. It doesn’t hurt to find a little “inspiration” in the competition.
These are just a few simple ways to check your online presence. There are many factors that affect where your agency ranks online.
I enjoy eating out and supporting local restaurants and businesses. I’ve written over 30 reviews to date. Mostly reviews of restaurants. I have written some bad reviews but what I enjoy more is writing a great review. I like to get people’s names and mention them when they have given me outstanding service.
Your independent insurance agency is a local business. And people want to support local. As an independent insurance agency you are able to provide personalized, hands-on customer service that the big insurance companies don’t and can’t offer.
Where am I headed with this? You can boost your search engine rankings with reviews on Google Places, Yelp, Facebook and more. Most people don’t think to write a review. You need to ask and give them a place to access your reviews pages. Use your website and social media to gather reviews. Be straightforward with a call to action and a link to your agency’s Google Places page.
Ask for reviews face-to-face, by phone and email. Request reviews in your email signature. Ask all of your employees to update their email signatures with a message to leave a review and provide a link to your agency’s Google Places page.
Can you think of other ways to acquire reviews? Be creative and remember most of your clients won’t leave a review unless you remind them to.
Today I read a question and answer column from a Canadian newspaper. It’s a special driving and commuting column. The question wasn’t about driving and commuting but insurance fraud.
Dan from Toronto asked if his nephew had committed insurance fraud. It seems Dan’s nephew had his car broken into and he lied and claimed his brand new MacBook was stolen. Dan wondered if this was considered insurance fraud. It seems Dan’s nephew feels he’s owed something since insurance companies charge so much and make a lot of money.
The author explained that 35% of surveyed Canadians didn’t know that defrauding an insurance company is an offense under the Criminal Code of Canada, and 25% said they didn’t know auto insurance fraud affects auto insurance premiums. What the author never said was, YES DAN, IT IS INSURANCE FRAUD.
Insurance agents know fraud will end up costing people more for their insurance. And articles like this one can help raise awareness if people better understand the consequences of insurance fraud. It’s just really sad Dan had to ask.
I’d love to know some of the questions agents get asked regarding blatant insurance fraud. Feel free to comment below.
If you want people to find your insurance agency you’ll need to show up on search engines. Search engine marketing or web marketing involves more than just having a website. When we launch a website for an insurance agency our clients often ask, “When will I show up on Google search now that my website is live?” The harsh reality is never. Unless you claim your business listings on search engine websites.
You should carve out time each day to claim your listings. You want to make sure you are entering all fields as precisely and as detailed as possible. It’s a time-consuming process that you want to get right.
These search engine listings vary in what information you can list. You’ve heard the term “Search Engine Optimization”. Not only does that entail claiming your listings on multiple search engine sites, but optimizing those listings to the fullest extent. For example, Google My Business which has been called Google Places or Google+ offers many fields for your business. Take advantage of all of them. Make sure you pick the primary category that best describes your business and keep it consistent on all of the listings you claim.
If your business has been in operation for some time then you should find it listed on the search engine waiting to be claimed by your agency. If you have recently opened, you may have to create a listing, but surprisingly your business may show up. Remember to be patient, as you read earlier, it’s a time-consuming process.
Once you have completed filling out your listing you will submit it for verification. The search engine websites want to make sure this is a legitimate claim by the owner or someone on behalf of the owner. Verification can be completed via an immediate phone call that provides you a PIN to enter on the listing, verification by postcard and verification by email. As we have learned, postcards tend to get thrown in the trash. Be sure to give your staff a heads up that you are expecting a postcard. These postcards can take weeks to arrive. You want to avoid having to re-submit and wait another 4-6 weeks before the replacement postcard arrives.
Even after verification it can take time for your listing to appear online. You may see your listing immediately or months later. Be patient. Set a reminder every week to check on the listings that are not appearing and/or not yet live. You may be tempted to add more information or change the listing. Resist that temptation as it may restart the verification process.
Track your listings and note your logins and passwords. Once they are live, keep your information fresh and up-to-date. Always keep an eye out for business reviews and respond to them in a timely manner.
Now it’s time to start blogging...
There have been 2 recent announcements by big insurance companies who have seen huge profit losses on the auto insurance side due to wrecks. The biggest cause, distracted driving.
State Farm, one of the 2 companies reporting recent losses, surveyed drivers and found that 36% admitted to texting and driving. A whopping 64% of 18 - 29 year olds surveyed said they have texted while driving. You’ve seen the ads and the billboards with the text message icon and message that says, “It can wait.”
Sadly people have a difficult time putting their phone down in the car. The survey is a testament to that. It’s not just texting, it’s social media, email, news notifications and any number of other app notifications.
Everyone better prepare to pay the price. Rate increases are coming. These rate increases will likely be as much as an insurance company can get approved for by each state’s department of insurance.
There is a silver lining for independent insurance agents. With rates going up, consumers will be shopping around. So batten down the hatches and prepare to quote auto insurance.
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.