Agent Spotlight - Deenah Torres, Insurance World of SWFL
In our latest agent spotlight we’re featuring Deenah Torres, owner of Insurance World of SWFL in Fort Myers, Florida.
Here’s what she shared about her agency, herself and a nice, unsolicited compliment about AccuAgency. (Thanks, Deenah!)
Before opening my own independent agency, I managed a company owned agency for almost 10 years. During that time, I built that agency from a newly acquired acquisition, to a multi-million dollar book of business. But in the end, I wanted more than just a typical 9-5. As a mom of 4, I felt like my kids were growing up in the blink of an eye and I was missing it.
Now owning an agency gives me the flexibility to work a schedule that allows me to be there for my kids more, and that’s what I love most about AccuAgency. Because it is web-based, I can access it from anywhere, and still be there to help my clients. Just last week, I quoted two policies while sitting on the bleachers watching my son’s first high-school baseball game. I may have had to apologize to the client for the cheering (lol) but in the end, my son took the W, and my clients were able to get the coverage that fitted their needs, and their budget!
How many years have you been an insurance agent?
11 years and counting!
What is your favorite thing about being an insurance agent?
I love that I can help people get something they have to have at a price that is affordable for them, without sacrificing the level of customer service they receive.
What advice would you give someone who wants to be an independent insurance agent?
It isn’t easy, but it is what you make it. There are still days that I wonder if I made the right decision, but with perseverance I have built an agency that I am proud of.
What is one of your guilty pleasures?
Wine. Oh, and WINE! lol
What is something about you that would surprise people?
I am the third generation of siblings born on the same day, but in different years. So I have a “twin” brother that is exactly 2 years older than me. He said I was the worst birthday present he ever received! haha
Where’s your favorite place in the world?
Italy! I love the culture there, the food, the history, and the sheer beauty of it!
If you could visit anywhere in the world you’ve never been, where would you go?
Hmmm, that is a tough one! On my bucket list is Alaska – to see the northern lights and go whale watching,
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
That would definitely be my husband’s steak and lobster! Always marry a man who can cook! ;)
After the Equifax data breach which put 145.5 million people at risk for identity theft people were struggling to get their credit reports frozen at Equifax as well as TransUnion and Experian. If you were able to freeze all of your reports, you know it was a big hassle.
Now if you want to buy a house or car or apply for a credit card, you will need to contact the credit reporting agencies to have them turn your credit report back on so they can pull your credit and get a credit score. If you have to do this, I suggest you find out which credit reporting agency they use so you can temporarily unfreeze just the one. Speak with the credit reporting agency to find out how long it will take to temporarily unfreeze your report so you can give the financial loan company lead time before they pull your credit.
But what about insurance credit scoring? In states where carriers are able to use credit scoring for rating, does the rate reflect a no hit for everyone who has put a freeze on their credit reports?
I posed this question on LinkedIn:
Question for my insurance industry friends:
With the Equifax data breach and everyone freezing their credit reports, how are insurance carriers quoting potential and current customers? Are people getting dinged for a no-hit on their credit report? If yes, how is this getting addressed with the agent and insured?
Sadly, no one on LinkedIn responded to my questions. So I checked with our Business Development Project Coordinator who works closely with our carrier partners and asked her to reach out to a few carriers.
Several responded to our inquiry. One response came from a large carrier who reached out to their insurance score department to ask about frozen credit files. In the states where they are able to use credit scoring, if a credit file is frozen, the rating system treats it the same as a No Hit score which does generally result in a higher rate. They suggest customers with a frozen credit file will need to contact Equifax to have the freeze lifted, call their insurance score department to pull the file while the customer is still on the phone and re-rate the policy. Then the customer can contact Equifax to turn the credit freeze back on.
Are you noticing higher rates since the Equifax data breach and mass credit freezes? Are you asking your clients if they have put a freeze on their credit? Are your clients receiving notifications from the carrier that their credit was returned as a no hit?
Insurance Shopping Around
I’m currently shopping around for a better rate on my auto, home and umbrella policies. I requested a copy of all of my declaration pages from my “big” captive insurance company where I’ve been a customer for over 25 years. My rates just went up on my auto policy so I decided to shop around.
I chose my agent years ago because of the company’s reputation and the local agent’s proximity to my house. I’ve stayed with them because I felt loyal to the company. My loyalty has since subsided. They sent me the dec pages I requested and the email salutation said, “Dear Policyholder”. How cold.
Now I’m working with one of AccuAgency’s Georgia agents to find a better rate. He’s been fantastic. He said he will be there to fight for me if ever there is a claim. That really means a lot. I’ve called on my big captive company agent over the years and I’ve never heard them say they would fight for me. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard them take a personal interest in any of my insurance needs for all of these years. I just get a tiny plastic business card sized calendar in the mail every December.
So I’m going independent insurance agent. I’m confident I’ve found the right insurance agent who can save me money and find the protection I need. I feel like I’m going from just another number or just another policy to an agent who cares about my family and my insurance and financial needs and goals.
If a customer calls or emails and requests a copy of all of their dec pages, does that throw up a red flag at your agency? Do you oblige and send it without question or do you dig and find out more. Why do they need the dec pages? What can you do to help them?
Know Your Competition
Mark Sanborn, a best-selling author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur said, “If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you’re in trouble.”
Do you know your competition?
Is your agency located in an area with other independent insurance agencies? If the answer is yes, do you think you are different than the other insurance agencies? Can you honestly say you provide your customers a better customer service experience? Better products and services?
Keeping up with your competition is a great way to grow your business. Identify the markets that aren’t being met by your competition. Then consider offering products and services they don’t.
Compile a spreadsheet and note your products and services vs. your competitor’s products and services. What do you offer that they don’t? Find your differences and market those. “We sell boat insurance!”. Compare your operating hours. Are you and open Saturdays and they aren’t? “OPEN Saturdays!” Compare the number of companies you represent. “We’ll find the best coverage for your insurance needs. We represent 12 top rated insurance carriers.”
Attend trade shows to find more markets and products. Companies and carriers want your business. The more you offer, the more you’ll stand out compared to your competition. In addition, you’ll network with other agents, carrier marketing representatives and insurance association representatives to learn about things that are working for them and their agencies.
Here’s a basic example of a tracking spreadsheet. Add to this and find areas where you stand out. Market to your potential customers and promote what makes your independent insurance agency shine compared to your competition.
Is Your Agency Customer Friendly?
Is your office easy to find? Is your office tidy and inviting?
Here are some things your independent insurance agency can do to make your office more customer friendly:
You see your office almost everyday. Get an outside opinion on things you can do to spruce up your agency. Ask your spouse or a friend to tell you what they think of your office.
There are other things you can do to keep your office looking ship shape. Ask your employees keep a clean and tidy desk. You want to make a good impression on your customers so they will feel welcomed. If they feel good about coming into your agency, they will come back to see you when they need additional products and services that you offer.
Do you do anything special at your office that may benefit other insurance agents? Maybe you offer snacks or you have a cooler with sodas and waters for your clients. Do you offer free Wi-Fi? Do you update your furniture as it gets worn and outdated? Do you subscribe to sports related magazines for sports fans? Do you have some cool artwork on your walls?
We’d love to hear about some things you do that makes visiting your insurance agency a pleasant experience. Please tell us in the comments section below.
Cell Phone Etiquette When Working With Clients
In the Seinfeld episode entitled “The Millennium” one of the storylines involves Elaine. After shopping at the clothing store Putumayo, Elaine heads to the checkout counter where she is rudely ignored by the clerk who is on a personal phone call. Later Elanie is on a mission to run the store out of business.
In this cell phone obsessed day and age it’s become even harder to stay off of the phone. It’s not just calls, it’s texts, news notifications, social media post notifications and more. You don’t have to leave the cell phone locked away while you are at work. But consider a couple of cell phone etiquette tips while at the office.
When we are working with clients we should give them 100%. Make them feel as important as they are. Your customers are your business. Giving them your undivided attention allows you to concentrate on the personal attention they deserve. If you are expecting an important call and you must have your phone in view, tell your client in advance.
If that important phone call does comes in, make sure you have a professional ringtone. You want to look professional in every aspect of your business.
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.