Top 10 Reasons Why YOU Should Attend the Freedom Campaign Road Show

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In just a couple of weeks, a team from IIANC will be traveling throughout North Carolina promoting the brand new Freedom Campaign.  Stops in Wilmington, Greenville, Cary, Greensboro and Asheville will give you the chance to learn more about this exciting, new initiative and how it can benefit YOUR agency.  Here are a few great reasons to attend…

10.  It’s FREE to attend!

9. Have a chance to network with fellow local agents before and after the meeting

8.  A representative from from Trusted Choice® will be there -hear about this exciting initiative directly from the source

7.  See IIANC CEO Kelley Erstine in person… (and tease him about being tied up with rope in the Freedom Campaign video and picture reveal)

6.  Receive your very own hard copy of the IIANC Brand Promise – a comprehensive branding guide that breaks down the thought behind our brand promise, compelling reasons for using it and provides real-world examples on how to apply it in your agency.

5.  It gives you 2 hours away from the office (and we can all use a break, right?!)

4.  Have the opportunity to view the new national ads closely and in a large format

3.  FREE MONEY! Learn about how you can get up to $1600 back via the Trusted Choice Marketing Reimbursement Program!

2.  Get a leg up on YOUR competition – learn the details on how to use the brand new Freedom Campaign ads FIRST!

 

And the number 1 reason why you should attend the Freedom Campaign road show…

1.  I’ll be there! Will you??

 

#FreedomIsYou – Join the Freedom Campaign TODAY!

To sign up TODAY, visit www.iianc.com/freedom

Posted in Events, Insurance, Marketing | Leave a comment

What Does the North Carolina Department of Insurance Require If I Charge Fees In My Agency?

Many insurance agencies in North Carolina charge fees for various transactions such as: payment, policy, cancellation or reinstatements. According to the North Carolina Statutory Authority G.S. 58-2-40; 58-2-195; 58-33-85(b); Effective February 1, 1993; Amended Effective February 1, 1996 the following are the items your agency must perform to be in compliance.

First, you should have a visible sign in large, bold print for your clients to see.  On this sign, you should display the type of fee and the amount that will be charged.  Make sure this is placed in an area of the lobby that can be viewed by everyone.

Second, you will need to have the client sign a separate form each time a policy or service fee is charged. On this form, you will need to have the date, amount of the fee charged, signature for the client, signature for the agent, and the form should be titled “Policy or Service Fee Consent”.

Third, as stated above, you must have the date of the receipt – this receipt must be issued separately from the policy premium receipt or have a separate line item on the policy receipt. My recommendation is to have a separate receipt to alleviate any confusion.

On a final note, when making a line item on the receipt for the particular fee make sure you put a description of the fee and the associated price.  For more detail on this topic, please review the current statue and feel free to contact the North Carolina Department of Insurance at www.ncdoi.com.

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Seven Effective Ways to Increase Retention

1. Communicate with your clientsCommunicate, communicate, communicate! Yes, your clients want and need communication on many levels.  With the continued move to mobility, our clients can receive emails, texts and phone calls on their mobile devices, allowing communication access on their terms.  Today, many people feel they are just another number in the system, so regular communication builds trust and shows you care.  Also, remember that when you communicate with your client, you should always document all correspondence.

2. Client policy reviews - As policies come up for renewal, you should discuss with your client any changes that may have occurred over the past term that would affect their coverage.  In the case of a homeowners’ renewal, you might find they have added on to their property, thus increasing the value.  Or you might find they have purchased jewelry and exceeded the limit for jewelry on their current policy.

3. Offer online services - Providing the ability to communicate and locate information on the customer’s time is becoming increasingly more important.  Today, many customers are looking for an agent that can provide this information at their own convenience and not the agent’s.

4.  Engage clients via social media & promote your community service – As independent agents, many of us already work and volunteer in our communities.  Let your customer base know of your community service involvement!  You can post your efforts on Facebook or Google+ or send out a Tweet to your customers letting them know how they can help in your efforts.  This helps to build a better reputation within your community and will show your customers that you care.

5.  Set the right expectations - Don’t you hate it when someone tells you they will get back with you within the hour and then they don’t call back for two days? Or you are waiting on a service person to arrive at your house and they are two hours late?  Make sure you set the right expectations when speaking with your client and follow-up before the expected deadline.

6.  Be the “Trusted Choice” advisorAs we all know, insurance policies are not for the faint of heart.  Understanding policy terms and conditions are important to properly informing your clients on the risk options they have available.  Training your staff on policy changes is an important part of gaining the trust of your clients. Obviously, clients are more likely to stay with your agency if they trust your advice!  Remember, becoming a trusted advisor takes time and dedication; you must gain a better understanding of their personal and business needs so you can advise them properly.

7.  Implement a client feedback survey - What better way to measure your client’s thoughts on your service than to ask them yourself!  Agencies should take the time to survey a portion of their clients on a quarterly or annual basis to measure how the agency is performing relating to client satisfaction.  Today, this is easier to accomplish than it has been in the past with the creation of cost-effective automation tools.  Don’t rely on your thoughts or the staff’s – ask the client.

 

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The Case of the Difficult Customer

Cheryl PhotoA Guest Post By: Cheryl Koch, a featured speaker at InsurEXPO14!

 

 

 

 

EXPO14_shortlogowithtaglineWe have a long-held belief in our firm that a bad account is a bad account is a bad account for an insurance agency.  Exactly what do we mean by that?  Simply that if you have a client that has a lot of claims activity, is chronically late making payments, and receives multiple non-payment cancellations (or threats thereof), eventually that customer is going to hurt you in other ways.

A case in point:  An insurance agency was involved in an E&O claim with a customer whose Homeowners policy was non-renewed by the insurance carrier due to numerous (seven to be exact) damage claims.  Six days after their policy terminated, the insured suffered a fire loss for which no coverage was in force.  The E&O claim against the agent was based on an alleged conversation that took place between the agent and the insured when the notice of non-renewal was originally sent, to wit, that the client was not to worry and the agency would find replacement insurance.  The agency’s defense was that the conversation never took place because they would not have even considered seeking replacement coverage for this client due to their loss history and the 18 (yes, you read that right) different instances where the insured had failed to make timely payments to the insurance company.

Let’s examine this situation from a procedural perspective.  What could the agency have done differently to possibly avoid the E&O situation?

  • The most obvious loss control measure would have been to terminate the relationship with the customer when the pattern of late payments first appeared.  It doesn’t take 18 notices of intent to cancel to figure out that the client is financially irresponsible.  Agents have wasted too much time and money chasing after chronic, late-pay direct bill clients and in fact, have enabled that behavior.  Stop the insanity!
  • Taking the agency at its word that no replacement coverage would have been considered for this client, a letter should have been sent immediately upon receipt of the non-renewal notice, advising the customer that coverage would need to be replaced with another agency and that no coverage would be in force after the renewal date.  Seek closure!
  • To substantiate the agency’s position that no such conversation ever took place with this customer, the agency would produce its procedures manual that indicates any such call would be documented in the client’s file.  Because there was no documentation in this instance, obviously the call never happened, or at least not the conversation that the insured says they had with the agency’s representative.  Procedures trump “he said, she said”.

It’s no wonder the client suffered an eighth loss very shortly after their coverage expired.  Even if the agency had replaced the coverage with another carrier, it’s equally likely the loss would not have been covered due to non-payment of that policy, in which case we’re sure the basis of the E&O claim would have been that the agency had notified the client the other 18 times their policy was in a state of cancellation so the insured would only expect they would do the same in this case.

The agency prevailed in this action, but it is clear that had proper procedures been in place and followed, the E&O claim might never have gone to trial.  It’s time to put the responsibility for sound loss control and timely payment back where it belongs: on the client, not the agency.

 

Cheryl Koch has been in the insurance industry for a very, very long time.
Now, you might think that makes her old, however, old is merely a state of
mind.  Over the years, Cheryl has served in nearly every capacity in an
Independent Agency, having been an Account Manager, Producer and Agency Owner.
She now devotes her time to agency management consulting and training and
speaking at industry functions throughout the country.  She is the President and
CEO of Agency Management Resource Group located in Roseville, California.
Cheryl consults on marketing and sales, sales management, agency operations,
automation, and strategic planning.

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What’s Your Growth Plan and Budget?

Roger Sitkins headshotCROPA Guest Post By: Roger Sitkins, Chairman & Founder of Sitkins International and Keynote Speaker at InsurEXPO14!

 

 

 

 

EXPO14_shortlogowithtagline

Roger Sitkins will be the keynote speaker at InsurEXPO14

There’s no doubt in my mind that every agency owner wants their company to grow. Also, with the exception of a few Retired-In-Place producers, I think that most producers want to grow, as well. That’s why I’m always amazed when I talk to agency owners who are very enthusiastic about selling insurance but have no actual plan for exactly how they’re going to grow. And no, “selling A LOT of it” is not a plan!

Unfortunately, too many owners and producers expect to succeed in today’s marketplace by operating the old-fashioned way (i.e., by just being there and waiting for the proverbial roast duck to fly into their mouth). The reality is, growth doesn’t happen just because you want to grow. It only happens when you know how to grow and are willing to invest in that growth. In “Star Wars,” Yoda said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Well I say, “Grow or grow not, there is no want!”

You absolutely must have a plan and be willing to invest in it or you’re dead in the water. That’s why I’m surprised that the average agency will not spend pennies to make dollars, even when they’re aware that the level of investment is commensurate with the amount of growth. Typically, they devote less than one-half of 1% of revenues on training budgets and investments dedicated to improvement and growth!! Conversely, those willing to prudently invest $50,000 – $100,000 to grow their firm can expect a return of three, four or even five times that amount.

With that in mind, how are you planning for growth in your agency this year and how much have budgeted for it? In which areas of your business do you plan to invest? Here are some suggestions.

Maximizing Your ROI

• Sales. Investing in growth starts with getting your current producers profitable (e.g., producing at a level that creates an operating profit for the agency). All too often, we see that profitable producers are subsidizing unprofitable producers, and in most agencies, it’s the owners who are the largest and most profitable producers. They would love to pay themselves on their own book of business at the same rate they pay their producers, but they almost never do.

How about you? Would you like to receive 40% new and 25% renewal on your personal book of business? Most agency owners would say “yes,” which would actually be a raise! Except for taking a management salary or distribution, few owners compensate themselves. They seem to believe that by not paying themselves, they’re somehow investing in the business. The truth is, they’re subsidizing the unprofitable producers, which only reinforces stagnation. That is not an investment in the agency!

Producers must create a profit, period. Furthermore, owners need to understand the point of profitability. Do you know how big a producer’s book of business must be before you realize a return? Although the numbers will vary according to agency size, the key is to know the minimum acceptable book of business that your producers must have in order to be profitable.

One of our aggressive, high-growth agencies estimates the acceptable minimum to be around $500,000. In other words, their producers must have approximately $500,000 of commission income on their book of business to generate an acceptable profit/ROI for the agency. The average producer has about $300,000. While that might be acceptable at some agencies, most profit-minded agencies will continually pursue opportunities for growth.

One of the best ways to grow is by cultivating and nurturing your best accounts. If every producer would simply focus all of their energies on the top 20% of their accounts and wow them to the point of earning introductions and referrals, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the growth! The theory is simple: If the top 20% of your accounts = 80% of your revenues and you replicated those accounts (because every one of them knows someone like them) you’d grow by 80%. You’d only have 20% more customers, but you’d have significantly higher revenue.

Last year, one of my major Blinding Flashes of the Obvious was that more than 90% of accounts renew, but fewer than 10% refer! That indicates that most producers aren’t following a purposeful plan to wow their best clients to the point that they start referring their friends and associates. One of our favorite sayings is, “Your very best clients are your best competitors’ best prospects.” How do you plan to totally wow your best clients? What are you doing to make sure no one else can get in the door on these clients?

Assuming that you’re making current producers profitable, the next step is to add new producers each and every year. Every producer eventually plateaus at some level, so it’s very important to continually build the next wave of sales talent in the organization. Are you investing at least 2% of your total revenues in new producers each and every year? If not, why not?

We know that it usually takes about 3 years for a producer to start being profitable. That means we must be constantly investing in them through formal training, coaching and mentoring programs. That’s a considerable investment. You certainly don’t want to take the old approach of showing them to their desk, giving them a phone book and wishing them luck! Although that approach is a lot less expensive, you get what you pay for!

• Selling System. If you are still following a traditional agency sales approach (“Hi, we have the best markets, the best companies and the best people, we give great service, we liked to give you a quote, we can save you money!”), you might as well have a sign on the front of the agency that says “Free Estimates!” What is the unique and compelling story about your agency and its services that you and only you can tell?  What differentiates you in your marketplace?

Here’s an exercise you can do at your next agency sales meeting (you do have these don’t you?). Have your producers stand up, one at a time, and tell their story. What do they say to prospects about what your agency does and how it is different? What do they tell prospects about their unique system? My guess is that the majority of you will be shocked at what you hear, which is likely to be a very traditional approach — claims of great service and offers of a money-saving quote.

Do you have a branded, named selling process that you follow that differentiates your agency? Members of Sitkins International follow our Risk Reduction Approach. What is your unique approach? What can you say about your agency that no one else in your marketplace can offer?

Unless you have a different and compelling model, you’re just like everyone else in which case you have a ton of competition. If you don’t believe me, just Google “insurance” in your town. I did, and in my county, I found listings for 617 places that sell insurance —and that’s in an area with a population of only about 600,000 people! Therefore, one of the keys to growing your agency is to have a system so uniquely outstanding that it eliminates the competition.

• Sales Leadership. What’s your plan for proactive sales leadership in your agency? Over the years, we have found that fewer than 10% of agencies have an effective sales leadership program in place. This includes having a Chief Revenue Officer who is responsible for stepping up and driving revenue.

• Brand. Your brand is the clear, powerful and, I hope, positive thoughts others have about you. How do people feel after they’ve met with you? Do you know what your clients are saying about you and your agency? Have you ever had an outside firm do a client satisfaction survey? If you do, which I highly recommend, you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

When you think about your brand, what does it say about the quality of different aspects of your agency? For example, what sort of impression does your agency’s physical plant make on people as they drive up or pass by? Does your property look well maintained and attractively landscaped? Are the grounds litter-free and nicely manicured?

What about your website? Is it professionally written and designed in a manner that guides clients and prospects in the right direction? What do your letterhead and logo look like? If they appear to be from the turn of the century (as in the 20th century), they’re probably sending the wrong message and need to be updated.

How is the phone answered? A receptionist is the Director of First Impressions and yet so few agencies explain how they want the phone answered. If you want to know for sure how callers perceive your agency, try calling it yourself! If you don’t like what you hear, do something about it right away.

Remember, all of these things create the client experience. If you’re not managing the brand and managing the client experience, you can bet that someone else is.

• Internal Team. What are you doing to develop your internal service and administrative team? Do you have an annual education calendar or plan for every one of your team members? For some, this might be continuing education to maintain their insurance credentials. For others, it’s a matter of ongoing training to sharpen workers’ skills in areas such as automation, phone etiquette, written communication, customer service and more.

The Bottom Line

Growth doesn’t happen just because you want to grow. You’ve got to have the elements in place that will nurture growth, including a sales plan, service plan, marketing plan and client experience plan. You must also be willing to invest in growth. If you do — and it’s done properly — you can expect as much as a five-fold return on your investment.

At the end of the day, you’ll grow if you have a plan and you follow the plan. It may sound overly simple, but that’s how it is. Invest properly and you’ll get a great return. It’s your choice!

Posted in Events, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Take Another Look…

deeBy: Dee Yates, IIANC Marketing & Sales Representative (dyates@iianc.com)

Follow Dee on Twitter: @ddeeyates

 

 

ifinance logo for web - smallerifinance is not just about financing….it’s also an opportunity to offer an alternative payment plan that fits your customers’ needs and pocketbook!  This could help you improve retention, attract new clients, and ultimately, write more business.

Through the ifinance program, many agencies have been able to retain policies that they may have otherwise lost because they were able to offer a creative and more flexible payment option. Recently, an agent had an insured who could not afford the 25% down payment with quarterly installments on a standard $40,000 workers’ compensation policy. ifinance made it possible by funding it at 15% down with seven monthly installments…and we adjusted the APR downward. The agent sold the policy, and the customer was happy!

Another insured had to be placed in the NC Assigned Risk Program. Unfortunately, their only option of 25% down and quarterly installments presented a hardship for the insured. ifinance helped the insured breathe easier by offering 15% down and eight monthly installments. And likewise, other insureds placed in the NCJUA have benefited from ifinance payment plans with lower down payments and more installments.

So take another look at ifinance ….in tough economic times, we can help you and your insured with more flexible payment options! Contact me at dyates@iianc.com or 919-863-6545 to get your agency started with ifinance.

What is ifinance?

ifinance is IIANC’s customized premium finance program developed specifically for our members. Through a careful selection process, ifinance has identified two of the top premium finance companies in the country as partners in this program – Imperial PFS & Prime Rate/AFCO Premium Finance. Our goal is to offer a product to enhance even your best insurance program, giving you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. We will be flexible and responsive to your needs.

By participating in this exclusive IIANC member benefit program, agents can assist personal and commercial lines clients in achieving a more affordable insurance program. Revenues generated by ifinance go directly to support member programs and help keep your membership dues low. Get started and experience the ifinance difference today. Learn more here.

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Coverage Alert: Changes to Water Back-Up & Sewer Discharge Endorsement

The latest endorsement to provide coverage for water backup and sewer discharge coverage under the Homeowners program has changed.  The 06 12 revisions of the HO 04 84 have been modified and coverage has been reduced.  The new endorsement has the word “Limited” in the title of the endorsement which the previous endorsements did not.  The new endorsement limits coverage to damage “caused by water, or waterborne material which: 1. Originates from within the dwelling where you reside and backs up through sewers or drains”.  The previous endorsement did not specify the origin of the water or waterborne materials.

The limitation of coverage to only water or waterborne material origination in the dwelling occupied by the named insured appears to exclude water or waterborne material that originates outside of the dwelling.  An example of water or waterborne materials from outside the dwelling could be storm water that is prevented from vacating the premises by a blockage of some sort and which backs through a drain into the dwelling.  It could also include waste water from a municipal sewer or storm water drainage system.

Please review accounts to which this endorsement is attached and determine if some notification to the policyholder is appropriate.

Contact me with any questions: spowell@iianc.com

Posted in Homeowners Insurance, Insurance | Comments Off

Why Should YOU Go to InsurEXPO14?

Blog post submitted by Allyson Knott (aknott@iianc.com) Follow Allyson on Twitter: @Allyson_IIANC

EXPO14_shortlogowithtaglineIf you have ever thought of attending an IIANC event, now is the time to register! As the state’s largest and most active trade association for independent insurance agents, we also host the largest industry trade shows and conferences within the state. With so much to offer, you cannot afford not to attend! Our next event, InsurEXPO14, will offer you a ton while taking minimal time away from the office.

IIANC events give you a unique opportunity to build new relationships and expand current ones with IIANC PARTNER companies and other industry-related exhibitors. With a packed Networking Hall featuring over 75 vendors lined up for InsurEXPO14, you will have hours to explore and make connections with companies who want YOUR business! Where else will you have a captive audience of insurance companies, technology vendors, disaster recovery companies, and much more eagerly awaiting the opportunity to forge a new business relationship with YOU?

InsurEXPO14 will offer new avenues of learning, staying current with insurance industry trends and earning CE credits. This year, we will be offering breakout sessions which allow you to choose which topics appeal most to you.  The event’s keynote speaker will be industry heavyweight Roger Sitkins, the nation’s leading sales coach and trainer to the independent insurance agency system.

As we all know, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. In this digitally-dominated world, it is so important to take the time to shake hands and make that personal connection. I hope that you will make the choice to join us on February 19-20 at the Sheraton Imperial RTP for what promises to be another AWESOME event!

CLICK HERE to register today!

For hot-off-the-presses updates, be sure to follow us on Twitter at @TheBigI_NC and use the hashtag #insurexpo

Posted in CE, Education, Events, Insurance, Networking | Comments Off

Why Should I Track Retention?

An area that most successful agencies track is retention.  We always hear agency owners and partners talking about new business, but what about the retention rate? The retention rate is just as important as the rate of new business for the agency. For just a moment, let’s stop and think about this: if our retention rate is 80%, that means we lose 20% of our business a year. In five years we will end up having to rewrite our entire book of business! Imagine the time and effort your staff will spend writing new business to keep up with the business going out the door.  Now you can understand why keeping track of your retention is important to your agency’s success.

Luckily, with the arrival of technology and new agency management systems, keeping track of your retention rate is becoming easier to accomplish. Some management systems give you the ability to quickly run a report to find this information, but most systems require a little more effort.  Make sure your agency has a plan to track retention by Line of Business, Carrier, and Producer.  Keeping track of this information will help your agency to see trends, thus allowing you to make changes to improve retention for the future.

Even if you are not using an agency management system, you can still track your retention.  Tracking your Policies In Force (PIF) by carrier is one easy way.  Most carriers track this information and it is reported on your agency report.  This does not track individual clients, but gives an overall look at the number of policies your agency has in force at a given moment.  If you start to see a drop in PIFs for a certain carrier, you should investigate to find out why.  On the flipside, if that PIF count increases, it might be a great time to ask why the agency is writing more business with that carrier.

If your retention for a given carrier on a given line of business is low, you need to determine the reason.  It could be a rate increase by that carrier, a claims issue, or it could be customer service.  Once the reason is determined, set a plan in place to stop the downward trend.  Be sure to discuss this with your staff since they usually will know the reasons and may have good suggestions for improvements. It’s also a good idea to keep your staff informed to help the agency to focus on resolving why customers are cancelling and make adjustments to improve the retention of your business.

Part 2 of this blog will come next month… stay tuned! In the mean time, let us know ways YOUR agency is going to increase your retention rate.

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Does Your Agency Track Your New Business?

Over the years, while watching some of the most successful agencies across the country, I have noticed that those agencies keep a routine track of their business initiatives.  They always make note of where their new business comes from. As new business is written, the agency makes a notation in their management system of the source of the business.  Sources may differ from agency to agency, but the most used sources of business are:

  1. Website
  2. Client Referral
  3. Ads
  4. Cross Selling
  5. Business Referrals
  6. Walk-In Business
  7. Phone Book
  8. Social Media
  9. Other

By keeping track of this data, your agency can determine where most of your business is coming from.  With that information, your agency can determine which areas to keep funding for marketing, and which areas are not effective.  For example: if you find that traffic from your phone book ad is starting to dwindle, you might want to focus more on marketing over the internet.

Once you know where the business is coming from, you can also track closing ratios by source of business.  This can be accomplished by keeping a record of every quote and documenting each quote with the appropriate source of business: Each month, run a report on the total number of quotes, sorted by source of business.  Next, run a report on your new business policies, sorted by source of business.  For example: if your first report showed 40 quoted polices by client referral and the second report showed 20 policies written by client referral, you can determine your close ratio to be 50%. (This can be determined by using simple division.) Knowing your close ratio by source of business will enable your agency to focus on those marketing sources that have the highest and most successful outcome.

I encourage you to track this information for several months and then determine what areas you should focus on for growing your agency in 2014 and beyond.  For more information on how to run these reports or setup this tracking method, please give me a call at (336) 253-3618 or email me at grobertson@iianc.com.

 

Posted in Insurance, Marketing, Social Media | Comments Off

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The Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina (IIANC) is here to help your agency succeed in today’s competitive insurance industry.

We offer a wide variety of products, services, resources and knowledge to our members, including education, networking opportunities, insurance products, agency management services, lobbying, advocacy, and much more.

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