Distinguish your agency with commercial client training

By | May 22, 2006

Most small to medium-sized commercial insureds are educated only in how to shop for the lowest possible premium. Very few are schooled in the everyday nuances of managing their firm’s insurance program. This is understandable, because once a producer gets the order, finishes the paperwork, and delivers the policy, he must move on to the next prospect or renewal. An agency’s bottom line demands it. Still, this doesn’t mean it is good business to entirely skip the client education process.

Almost every other industry trains its new customers after a major purchase, but generally ours does not. Instead, we rely on explanatory brochures and plain-English policies. That’s why agency-run educational sessions are so important. When held in your office or a borrowed conference room, they add an extra dimension to your firm’s professionalism. This higher plane of service has the potential to minimize future problems, increase retention, and provide a marketing advantage over agents who let unread brochures do their teaching.

Hold educational sessions every three-to-six months based on your new sales and client staffing. Topics may range from general to industry-specific, depending on the needs of your attendees. Invite freshly written insureds from small-to-medium-sized firms and new employees of insureds who replaced people that you previously trained. (Larger clients warrant a different level of training, held on their premises.) Also ask new producers and CSRs to sit in for training purposes. Company reps might also want to attend in order to meet some of their insureds in a casual environment.

A low-cost PC projector, screen, and a self-developed PowerPoint presentation are basically all you need. The agency principal welcomes everyone, while producers conduct the actual sessions. Selected company auditors, claims, and loss control people may also address the group and answer questions. For refreshment, serve snacks and non-alcoholic beverages (unless you also want to discuss “host liquor liability”). At the end, give each attendee a nice agency-imprinted portfolio as a reminder of their training.

Seven training ideas for commercial insureds

Claims. Avoid potential misunderstandings at difficult times by taking the mystery out of filing a business insurance claim. Drill into them that it is not okay to discard damaged property before an adjuster sees it or to begin non-emergency repairs without authorization. Educate them about your role in the claims process and what services to expect from the agency and their insurer. Walk them through a typical timetable for routine auto accidents, subrogation and deductible recovery, liability suits, major fires or thefts, etc. Also demonstrate how adjusters use a standard depreciation schedule to settle many business property claims and advise them how to insure against the table’s costly impact.

Premium payments. Use this opportunity to train your new insureds the right way from the start. Teach them the dangers of missing payments and how to avoid receiving a non-payment cancellation notice. Further explain that direct-billed and financed policies are invoiced from and paid directly to the insurer or finance company. Then ask your insureds to call you if an anticipated bill is late in arriving.

Gaps. Reinforce the fact that all policies have coverage limitations and exclusions. Suggest simple methods for overcoming the most common, such as buying commercial flood insurance.

Independent contractors. Whether or not a person is an independent contractor or an employee impacts payroll-based policies, including general liability and workers’ compensation. Point out that it is common for “independent contractors” to be considered employees, especially if they are injured on the job. Inform them that the tests applied to make this determination are broad and are seldom found in the employer’s favor. Download this PDF file (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1779.pdf) from the IRS Web site to distribute. It’s written from the individual’s point-of-view. Additional information on this subject is available at www.irs.gov and state Web sites.

Audit management. If you stick a new client with an unnecessarily large audit invoice, you will lose his account as quickly as you wrote it. So make an effort, early on, to educate compensation clients about such audit basics as obtaining certificates of insurance from subcontractors, separating overtime payroll, etc. Also discuss the present and future impact of the experience modifier.

Compensation experience modifiers. Many businesses don’t recognize the long-term financial impact of filing preventable claims. Briefly review what losses go into the calculation of a firm’s experience modifier. Then show how the resulting multiplier can favorably or adversely impact the premium that they pay over multiple years. Demonstrate with experience mod software, such as Specific Solution’s Mod Master (www.specificsoftware.com).

For-fee services. Discuss what extra services that you or a company that you represent or partner with can provide. These might include loss control engineering, PEOs, etc.

About Alan L. Shulman

Alan Shulman, CPCU, is the publisher of Agency Ideas® sales and marketing newsletter (free basic subscription at www.agencyideas.com/join). He is also the author of “500 Sales Ideas for Commercial Lines Producers” among many other P&C sales resources. Email: alan@agencyideas.com. Website: www.agencyideas.com. More from Alan L. Shulman

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West May 22, 2006
May 22, 2006
Insurance Journal West Magazine

2006 Program Directory, Vol. I

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