ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

ARE YOU WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE?

What implications are there to the words you use to describe your insurance agency to your customers and prospects?

Every time we encounter an agency we don’t know, the first thing we do is access their website to see what they say about themselves to their customers and to the general public. Some of the self-descriptions are wonderful – but may not accurately represent how the agency normally operates.

The words you use to describe yourself must be accurate and truthful in more than a ‘usually’ or ‘generally’ basis, especially in this litigious world. Your words must be chosen carefully to not only attract and retain customers, but also to properly describe the services and products you deliver trying to avoid any potential devastating litigation.

Here are two examples: one that many of us remember and another that has grown in popularity among insurance agencies. They describe the way every agency ‘wants to be’, but may not describe how the agency actually operates.

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind,

Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent

It is the Scout Law as defined by the Boy Scouts of America 113 years ago, an organization, despite of whose recent issues with sexual orientation and political correctness have been synonymous with building integrity, honesty and work ethic into our youth. This wouldn’t be a bad description of an independent insurance agent, would it?

  • Work with you to identify the insurance and financial services that are right for you, your family or your business and use our access to multiple companies to deliver those products.
  • Guide you through the claims process for a prompt and fair resolution of your claim. Help you solve problems related to your coverage or account.
  • Explain the coverages and options available to you through our agency, at your

    request.

  • Return your phone calls and e-mails promptly and respond to your requests in a timely

    manner.

  • Provide 24/7 services for our customers, offering any or all of the following: emergency phone numbers, Internet account access, e-mail and call center services.
  • Use our experience and multiple company relationships to customize your coverage as

    needed.

  • Commit our staff to continuing education so they may be more knowledgeable in

    serving you.

  • Treat you with respect and courtesy.
  • Conduct our business in an ethical manner.

These are the points of the Pledge of Performance for Trusted Choice® agents as defined by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

While the twelve points of the Scout Law define how one should live, the nine points of the Trusted Choice® Pledge of Performance defines how an insurance agent should treat their customers and business.

The Scout Law and Pledge of Performance share a commonality in being the “right” things to do; one in life and the other specifically in the insurance business.

We have always supported Scouting because it builds the kind of men that we would like our children to become. We support the Trusted Choice® Pledge because it defines the kind of insurance agents each and every one of us should aspire to become.

Millions of boys have subscribed to the Scout Law and, while they may not follow each of the points all of the time, they know in their hearts for their entire lives that these are the right things to do.

I wonder if the insurance agents in the United States who have subscribed to the Trusted Choice® label and the Pledge that comes along with the label are similarly inclined to recognize just how significant this pledge is to each and every one of them?

First, each point of the Pledge is the right way to treat your customers, to distinguish yourself from your competitors, and to give the value that your customers expect from you as their insurance counselor and professional.

Do you know how to tell if the points of the Pledge are genuinely the right things to do? Try stating any one out loud in the negative. If they make no sense in the negative, the positive statement is an absolute. Does it make sense to strive to be ‘devious’, ‘unfaithful’ and ‘unhelpful’? Similarly, would you ever strive to avoid identifying insurance products right for the customer? Would you want an agent that would avoid guiding a client through the claims process? How about proceduralizing NOT explaining coverages and options available to the customer through the agency?

The negatives to both the Scout Law and to the Pledge of Trusted Choice® are nonsensical when stated as the same kind of pledge as either statement in the positive.

Yet in the course of daily events even Trusted Choice® agents do not comply with the nine points of their pledge as many Boy Scouts do not comply with the standards of the Scout Law.

Just as the Scout Law is not limited to 12 year old boys, neither are the well-defined descriptions of the standards of performance of great insurance agents limited to only the convenient occasions for insurance agents. But the difference is that occasionally evading the points of the Scout Law may affect how people feel about you but will not permanently affect your life. Evading the standards of exemplary performance of insurance agents will eventually ruin your business relationships and could put you into serious financial jeopardy.

The twelve points of the Scout Law can be circumvented at times, but we know we have done wrong and, as long as the deviations don’t become habit or permanent, we can still live an honorable life. Most of us live our lives in the grey area between moral darkness and moral light and we rationalize our lives to maintain our equilibrium.

But please re-read the nine points of the pledge of performance, especially if you have adopted the Trusted Choice® label and mantle. If you negate ANY of these points, first and foremost you are doing a dis-service to your clients. They will not thank you for that if they experience negative results in their insurance experience. More urgently, you have subscribed to standards that can be used against you in a court! We recognize that the Trusted Choice® label and all of the things that accompany it, like the Pledge, have been adopted by agents large and small, singly and through entire associations. How culpable are you if you don’t “work with the client to identify the insurance and financial services that are right for you, your family or your business” and don’t “use our access to multiple companies to deliver those products?

What happens if you have committed to “guide the customs through the claims process for a prompt and fair resolution to the customer’s claim. Help solve problems related to coverage or account” and don’t do that?

How many of us “Provide 24/7 services for our customers, offering any or all of the following: emergency phone numbers, Internet account access, e-mail and call center services”?

And do we really, “Use our experience and multiple company relationships to CUSTOMIZE coverage as needed”?

Even the best agents must be constantly vigilant to adhere to these standards of performance that so accurately describe the reason that independent agents should remain the stalwarts of the insurance industry to guide the business and personal consumers through the ever-more-complicated morass of P&C and L&H insurance products. Today, more than ever, there is a desperate need for insurance professionals that HELP consumers, instead of trying to sell them something.

But, BE CAREFUL AND VIGILANT about how you describe yourself and the procedures normal to your agency’s service standards. If the words you use publicly are different than the way you actually act, you may be misleading your audience and may suffer serious liability problems as a result.

We are not afraid of Trusted Choice® and its Pledge. We applaud it. But we caution the agents who subscribe that a slap on the wrist for occasionally avoiding the points above in the Scout Oath can be supplemented with giant financial awards if we tell clients that we are going to do the kind of job that we know they would want of their insurance professionals and then allow slipshod procedures by our organizations to act differently than we publicize in our “pledge.”

Every agency should either audit their business using the Trusted Choice standards as a guide or evolving your own Customer Bill of Rights to describe to your customers, to yourself and to your employees exactly what you expect of your agency’s performance EVERY DAY. If you cannot audit your agency’s performance, our GPP (Growth, Productivity and Profitability Analysis) does just that to tell you where you are on track as a High Performance Agency and in what areas you are in danger both from a customer service standpoint and from a legal standpoint (if a Trusted Choice member). Call us for more information at 856-779-2430.