Canadian Underwriter

Special Report: Best practices for demonstrating your value to clients

February 26, 2016   by Sara Tatelman

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The numbers have spoken—brokers need to improve how they explain and demonstrate their value to clients.

“I think the biggest mistake is not doing so in the first place,” says Stefan Tirschler, an account executive at Rogers Insurance in Calgary. In today’s soft market, brokers often head straight into price discussions without explaining to clients who they are and how they can help.

Read: Brokers and their customers, by the numbers

“The biggest thing you can do to avoid that pitfall is to start asking questions,” he recommends. “Get to know the person who’s calling you and find out what they want and need. And then you actually know how to speak to that as opposed to just heading straight into the bottom line and making that bottom line the dollar.”

No broker needs to be told to ask about a client’s occupation for accident benefits, their car’s make and model, the presence of a sump pump in their house, and the ages (and names, if you want to get chatty) of their children and/or pets. But don’t forget questions about their hobbies, volunteer positions and even vacations.

“It’s not necessarily an upsell or a crosssell opportunity,” Tirschler says. “It’s simply getting to know the person and what they do. Because as brokers, when we’re accessing more than one policy, each one of those various products differs from the others in fairly subtle ways. And depending on the person, you might find that one product is a better fit for them than another.”

So if a client likes road biking and peddles in the Ride to Conquer Cancer each year, Tirschler says, “you’d be looking for a policy that would address that particular portion of their contents coverage to their satisfaction. Those are more of the soft details about a person that you don’t find out if you only focus on the house itself or the car itself.” And an algorithm won’t figure out those details at all.

For commercial clients, doing background research on their industry can show you’re serious about working with them, says Chris Hirte, a commercial lines sales associate at the Hull Group in Toronto. “After doing some research, I discovered that this [prospective] client was a member of an organization our brokerage sponsors. And I found an article on the organization’s website about this prospective client’s new business venture and the story of how it came to be.” By understanding the client’s business goals, Hirte and his colleagues could “better understand his needs from an insurance perspective. We are still in the process of trying to win the account, but the fact that we were able to better understand the stage that his new business was at allowed us to better position our approach and establish an understanding of his needs.”

Read: How do you measure up?

And then there’s the matchmaker approach to insurance in which brokers have to know about pretty much all the Prince Charmings out there.

“Companies are like people,” says Norma Hitchlock, president of Marsh Insurance in Belleville, Ont. and the current president of the Registered Insurance Brokers of Ontario. “They all have their individual personalities, so you try to fit [clients] to the best company.”

Clients near retirement, she says, may be interested in flexible home insurance policies, which provide cash payouts if the home is completely destroyed. And clients with boats, snowmobiles and cottages in addition to their homes and cars should be placed with insurers that offer cross-discounts.

Brokers should also make sure they don’t simply point to the best policy. “There aren’t many people in this world who really want you to tell them what to do,” Hitchlock says. “…If you’re advising [clients] to take one policy which you think is better in cover in a certain area, but you have another one that’s a little bit less in terms of pricing, you tell them that because it’s important that they know what they’re looking at.”

Tirschler shows clients “the first and likely the second and potentially the third most relevant product,” and explains their differences in pricing and coverage. But in the end, “we like to let the client make the final decision according to a balance of the most important factors to them.”

Two main factors are often pricing and coverage, and while brokers acknowledge cost is important, sufficient coverage is more so.

“When you think about it, there’s not a doctor in town who’s going to recommend a tonsillectomy when you need heart surgery just because a tonsillectomy is cheaper,” says James Chmiel, president of Erb and Erb Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ont. “It doesn’t work that way. And the last time that somebody wants to hear that they’re not covered or that was missed or I didn’t need that limit, is at the time of a loss…”

Read: Broker and Client Behaviours and Opinions Survey

But whatever policy you end up suggesting, make sure your clients understand the terminology you use and what exactly you mean. “When I’m talking about replacement cost,” says Gord McCool, CEO of Standard Insurance Brokers in Kenora, Ont., “I’ll point to a tangible item like a desk and say you can replace that item of like kind and quality with the same like kind and quality as you had before, brand new.”

Where brokers can really demonstrate their value, however, is anticipating their clients’ needs. For commercial clients, Hirte suggests sharing news articles that might affect their business, even if they’re not directly about insurance. “If you’re always keeping them top of mind… it’s just another way of adding value as a business for them.”

In personal lines, brokers can send out targeted updates for new products, such as flood coverage and winter tire discounts, says McCool. “A conversation about the importance of winter tires and why the industry and government worked together for change shows the consumer that we have their back.”

When Aviva introduced coverage for Uber and other ride-sharing drivers in early February, it was—and still is—only available in Ontario. So a week after it launched, Rogers Insurance, headquartered in Calgary, set up an Uber wait list where interested drivers can get their questions answered and be alerted when the product enters the Alberta market.

“…We really can’t predict how long that might take or even if it will take the same form as the product that’s launched in Ontario,” Tirschler says. “At the moment, it’s more of a wait-and-see approach until insurers can actually release more formal details about the coverage they intend to bring to market.”

And when coverage becomes available in the province, Rogers will have a distribution list of primarily new clients they can act on right away. “Our new initiative with this [wait list] is attracting a great
deal more interest with people who aren’t necessarily clients of Rogers yet but who are looking for a source of information on Uber and how that might impact their personal insurance coverage.”

Then there’s always swiping right on conveniences first offered by direct online insurers. In September 2015, Rogers introduced an app where customers can access policy information, request changes and file claims, and Standard Insurance Brokers in Kenora is working on an on-call system for a live web chat.

Direct writers don’t “affect us as much here as [they do], say, my friends in southern Ontario,” McCool says, “…however, you don’t want to be blindsided.” So from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. each business day, staff members would take turns keeping their phones next to them and swiftly tapping out replies to any queries asked through the website. The goal, however, wouldn’t be for clients to buy insurance online but to answer pressing questions, make a connection and follow up the next day.

A complete switch to online quoting, says McCool, could mean brokers are simply forced to “compete in a space where people aren’t giving you a chance to demonstrate your value proposition.”
Copyright © 2016 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.