Insurance Academy

Customer Service: You’re Doing It Wrong.

By Patrick Wraight | September 5, 2018

Insurance is a business that’s all about people.

I know. You’ve heard that before but let me be as clear as I know how.

Your customers are not just some business out there. They aren’t just some person, or people, that exist in some insurance policy vacuum, where there’s nothing else in life. They aren’t just the note from your carrier that says that Suzie Policyholder is past due. They aren’t just a note in your agency management system that Joe’s Really Good Restaurant’s renewal is coming up.

They’re people. Unless you’re an online only agency or mobile app only agency or you sit in some call center in Kubukistan, your customers are your neighbors. They are the people who send their kids to school with your kids. They are the same people who drive down main street with you. They own the deli where you order lunch.

This week’s Academy Journal entry is for the local agent, but not directed at all local agents. It’s meant for the local agent that’s doing it wrong. How do you know that you’re doing it wrong? I’m glad you asked. Here’s how to do it wrong.

Assume that they’ll call if they need something.

There are insureds that are on the ball. They know that when something changes, they’ll need to call you. They’ll let you know that they bought a new delivery truck, or replaced a vehicle on the BAP. They’ll make sure that you know about their new office and the new staff that they bought. They’ll make sure that you know about changes in their operations. Let’s face it. That insured has a risk manager that helps them, or they have had a claim denied in the past so they’re extra attentive to their insurance needs.

That’s not most of your customers. Most of your customers have enough to worry about in their daily operations that they’re not concerned about their insurance, until something happens. They remember that a few years ago, you told them that they had some free coverage when their bought a new truck so they put off reporting it until they remember six months later (usually when they get the renewal policy in the mail.)

If your customers are calling you when they need something, they are calling you when something bad has happened. They aren’t calling you in advance. It’s not, “Hey. I just wanted to let you know what we bought a new building and we’re about to start manufacturing fireworks.” You’re more likely to get a different phone call. “Hey. I was wondering if it would make a difference if we stopped doing the CPA work and started manufacturing fireworks because there’s been an incident. Anyway, call me when you get a chance. Thanks.”

They aren’t thinking far enough in advance to call you whenever they make any change in their business. They just aren’t.

Fail to return phone calls and emails.

On the off chance that your customer calls you or emails you, it’s because they actually need something. It might be that they did think about you when they bought the new delivery truck or they are wondering what impact the new fireworks manufacturing operation would have on their insurance.

Let’s think about three primary ways that an insured might contact you. They may call, email, or text you. When you first met your customers, you gave them a card that had your office number, your cell number, your email (and probably a fax number, too.) You told them to reach out any time they had a question or whenever they needed anything. You remember that conversation, don’t you? Since you actually wrote the policies and cashed the checks, they’ve kind of fallen off your radar.

They call, and you think, “I’ll call them this afternoon, after I pitch this other customer.” You never call. They email their specific question to you and you figure that you’ll have to do some research to properly answer their question, or you think to yourself, “Ugh. Them again. I’ll get to them later.” You never email. Worse, you email them back and tell them that the next time you’re over their way, you’ll stop in and say hi, knowing that you don’t plan to be over that way until February 30th.

Let the carrier just send the renewal out.

You write several different businesses and all of them will get a renewal policy either in the mail, or by email from the carrier. You also know that the renewal bill will be included with that renewal policy so there’s nothing for you to do, right? I mean, there aren’t any changes to the policy. At least, no significant changes. The premium isn’t going up that much.

Meanwhile, your insured, who is calling because their premium did go up and they still don’t understand this sixty-page insurance policy, is waiting for your return call. The way you see it, you did the hard work in getting the policy written all those years ago. They should remember all the stuff you told them, right? I mean it’s not that hard after all. It only took you four tries to pass the licensing exam.

Assume that they’re not shopping because it’s a niche market.

There are only so many carriers that write policies that’ll fit your customer. So there’s almost no way that they are shopping their insurance policies, right? We all know that niche markets all have similar policies. The prices aren’t that different and since there aren’t any appreciable differences, there’s no way they’re shopping.

If this is you, you’re doing it all wrong. All of it. You’re bad at this and should probably find something a little more suited to your skills.

You need to understand that your insured relies on you to help them. They don’t know what is at risk in their business. They don’t have time to read the policy. They assume that since you sold them the policy, everything will be handled and there’s coverage for their business, even if they started the year as a CPA and ended it as a fireworks manufacturer.

You need to be proactive. You need to answer phone calls, emails, and texts. You need to have a conversation about renewals before they get mailed out. You need to be able to explain differences in price, even small ones. You need to ask if they need someone to talk through the policy. Better yet, you need to help them to understand what important risks are covered and what important (or expensive) risks aren’t covered. And why.

If you’ve gotten all the way through this post and you’re actually not doing it wrong, thank you! As an insurance professional, and an insurance consumer (I’m not just an insurance educator, I’m also a client…), I personally thank you. Now, if you know someone that is doing it wrong, please restrain the urge to send them a link to this post. All you’ll do is end your friendship. However, if you’re brave (and a little sure of yourself) you could send a link to this post to your customers and ask them how you’re doing.

About Patrick Wraight

Patrick Wraight, CIC, CRM, AU, is director of Insurance Journal's Academy of Insurance. He can be reached at

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