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Workplace Noise Contributes to Heart Disease

October 24th, 2010 by Lori Reed

Report: Workplace Noise Contributes to Heart Disease

Insurance agents may find it useful to keep track of new studies which identify possible health risks that could result in substantially higher life and health premiums for their clients.

For example, a study appearing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine this month states that high levels of noise in the workplace may be associated with a higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Researchers acknowledged that there are currently inconsistent findings in the area of workplace noise and its effects on heart health, but emphasized that “chronic exposure to occupational noise is strongly associated with prevalence of” chronic heart disease.

The report also warned that young male smokers are at particular risk for cardiac problems exacerbated by workplace noise.

When it comes to setting life insurance rates and other premium prices, lifestyle factors like occupation and tobacco use go a long way in determining how much an individual will pay. Agents who are equipped to discuss ways to secure lower premiums through healthy lifestyle modifications may find themselves well-positioned in the long run to establish considerable trust among their clients.

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Fewer Customers Satisfied With Home Insurance Companies

October 23rd, 2010 by Lori Reed

Home insurance agents may be interested to know about a recent study which found customer satisfaction levels have been falling in their sector in recent years.

According to J.D. Power and Associates, overall customer satisfaction with home insurance companies has now fallen to a five-year low, with factors like service interactions and dissatisfaction with policy offerings driving the trend.

Specifically, satisfaction with home insurance companies received a score of 750 on a 1,000-point scale, marking a decline of 23 points from the previous year. Satisfaction has actually declined in four out of the last five years, with 2009 being the exception.

“Homeowners insurance policyholders are already price sensitive due to the economy,” said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Approximately 50 percent of customers don’t have a clear understanding of how much coverage or what type of coverage they have on their home, and may have erroneously expected their premiums to decrease just as home values have declined since 2008.”

While people may be frustrated by not fully understanding the details of the home insurance policy, this isn’t the only factor that has influenced the industry’s image. The J.D. Power report suggested that customer sentiments are also potentially affected by the far higher-profile efforts among auto insurance companies that focus on discounts.

Customer satisfaction has also apparently declined this year because of timeliness in resolving customer issues, although this is just one of several factors at play.

Another point that agents may want to take note of is the report’s finding that customers who bundle auto and home insurance policies with the same company are more likely to be satisfied. Customers who carry all of their policies with the same company are also likely to benefit from discounts – and a growing number of Generation Y members owning homes has created new opportunities for sales.

“Insurers that can successfully convince Gen Y home insurance policyholders to bundle their home and auto policies may be positioning themselves for the financial benefits of retaining this growing generation,” added Bowler.

When it comes to ensuring a smooth claims process, agents may also encourage their customers to keep an inventory of their valuables as well as receipts for major purchases such as wide-screen TV sets.

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More Health Insurance Customers May Need Allergy Specialists

October 22nd, 2010 by Lori Reed

Agents who want to provide a high level of customer service to clients may want to keep themselves aware of what kind of specialist services are covered under various health insurance plans.

One thing that agents should be aware of is the growing number of Americans who report suffering from food allergies, which can be highly dangerous and even fatal in some cases. According to new data from the National Institutes of Health, about 2.5 percent of the public – or 7.6 million people – have food allergies.

Researchers have also recently determined that males, non-Hispanic blacks, and children tend to be at the highest risk for food allergies. In fact, the odds of a black male child suffering from a food allergy were said to be 4.4 times higher than for an individual in the general population.

There also appears to be a connection between food allergies and severe asthma problems.

“This study provides further credence that food allergies may be contributing to severe asthma episodes, and suggests that people with a food allergy and asthma should closely monitor both conditions and be aware that they might be related,” said Dr. Andrew Liu, M.D., lead author of the paper.

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Solid Advice Can Go a Long Way in Gaining Customer Confidence

October 21st, 2010 by Lori Reed

One way for home insurance agents to be able to build longstanding and trusting relationships with their customers is to be able to deliver sound advice on what to do in case the need to file a claim arises.

For example, the Insurance Information Institute (III) recently offered some tips on steps people can take to make any home insurance claims move more efficiently. The organization was doing this in response to an upswing in natural disasters such as the flooding in Texas and wildfires in Colorado, along with the usual hurricane activity in the Atlantic this time of year.

Agents can advise their clients to be ready to provide an accurate description of the damage and, in the event of an evacuation, to remember to give up-to-date contact information. Taking photos of the damage is often a particularly useful step for home insurance companies as well as their customers.

Also, homeowners who are victims of a natural disaster or other incident, such as a fire, are advised to make a detailed inventory of all property that has been lost or damaged.

The III maintains an online tool at KnowYourStuff.org that can make this process easier. Some items to include in this inventory of items include approximate date of purchase, the amount paid, and the value of the property in question. It’s also desirable to keep two copies of this information so it can be provided to the insurance adjuster when the time comes.

Insurance customers can also take similar steps before a disaster strikes by keeping an inventory of their covered valuables in a safe place – perhaps even in a location away from their home. It can also help insurance adjusters determine the value of lost property if customers keep receipts, cancelled checks and other such information.

One mistake that homeowners can make is to have extensive repairs performed on their property before an adjuster can actually inspect it. Instead, it’s far more advisable to make only temporary repairs in the aftermath of a disaster – primarily just to prevent further damage from being inflicted on the property through rain or other weather conditions.

While homeowners are strongly advised not to have permanent repairs done until an adjuster has been on the scene, it is beneficial to have reputable contractor provide a cost estimate for repairs. Providing such information to the adjuster can make a home insurance claim process run more smoothly.

http://www.iii.org/press_releases/claims-filing-advice-for-homeowners-affected-by-hurricanes-wildfires-and-other-disasters.html

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How Well Do You Listen To Your Customers?

December 8th, 2009 by Katherine Hernandez

Are you regarded as a good listener? How do you know? In my opinion, active listening is one of those skills which requires constant attention and practice. I still find myself once in a while interrupting when I shouldn’t or thinking about what I am going to say next in a conversation and forget what a person was stating to me- yikes! This is not good practice, especially in a sales/customer service situation.

 Therefore, if you find yourself in the same predicament from time to time, remember that active listening is crucial when determining the needs of a customer and providing the best products for them. Active listening involves more than just listening…active listening involves probing for more information, paraphrasing, and acknowledgement that you are listening. If you do not listen well, you may lose a sale.

 Here’s a fun listening exercise that I participated in during a training class a few years back (however, it’s better facilitated as a listening exercise- not a reading exercise). It goes like this:

 You are the bus driver. At stop #1 three people got on the bus, one of them was wearing a blue baseball cap. At stop # 2, five people got on and one exited the bus. At stop #3 two people got on, one person was carrying a bag and the person with the blue baseball cap got off. What is the bus driver’s age?

 If you answered the age, which is yours by the way since you are the bus driver, then you passed! If not, then that’s okay, this exercise is a reminder to us all to make the effort to listen effectively to our customers. (Keep in mind that this exercise should be provided verbally in order to be effective)

 Have some fun with your co-workers and see who can pass the listening test!

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You’ve Got Mail

December 7th, 2009 by Melissa Webb

Emailing is a fantastic marketing tool, and if you haven’t already hopped on board the email train, please check out Katherine’s blog on October 27th! (You can read it here)  It also can be the cause of a common conundrum for agents these days: how often should you email, and how do you distinguish another ‘emailer’ from a prospect that needs a phone call?

If you’re wondering how early you should start sending emails to your prospects, let me answer your question with this question:  How soon do you start calling a prospect once you receive one?  Now you have your answer.  Want more?  Okay: as 21st century human beings we are exposed to millions of sensory sounds, smells, tastes, and images every day.   We’re used to it.  We’re also used to tuning out most of it.  In fact, unless our brain makes a conscious effort to actually move information into our long term memory, we only retain cursory information for about 20 seconds. Then it’s gone and other images, sounds, smells, etc take its place.  So, you’re not only competing against all the other noise out there to get your prospect’s attention, you’re competing for a spot in their memory.   Take every chance you can to get noticed: a phone call is always a great way to sell to a lead, but an email (which you can save and resend multiple times with a few minor adjustments) will also give them something visual to remember you by.  Plus, it puts all of your contact information in writing right in front of them!

I love email.  I can receive and pay bills, keep in touch with friends and family, order movies, and keep up with my favorite retailers, all in the same log-in.  That being said, I also am part of the technical generation – a generation which defies any age restrictions – and therefore am more comfortable navigating my inbox than my voicemail.  My insurance agent’s email address is saved to my email address book, but unless his phone number is on his email signature, I have no idea what it is. So, how DO you distinguish someone that is more comfortable with making contact through email versus someone that needs a phone call?  You won’t really know until you try, but if someone has extended to you an extra opportunity to contact them, why ignore it?  Seize the opportunity that the prospect themselves have given you.

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How Would Your Customers Rate You?

November 9th, 2009 by Katherine Hernandez

 How do you rate yourself as an insurance agent? What measurements do you use to obtain feedback from your customers? How do you know if you are meeting customer expectations? Some organizations use postcards/surveys or online marketing tools to solicit feedback. Some call the consumer after a certain amount of time to obtain feedback. For example, I have received calls from car dealerships after a completed service and do take the time to answer their questions.

InsureMe obtains feedback in a number of ways. We’ve created surveys, and yes, we do read them; we conduct follow up calls to hear feedback; and we also obtain great feedback through daily conversations with our agents. We value your feedback, as without it, we cannot continually improve our products and services.

Whichever marketing feedback tool works for you is best – the key is doing what it takes to obtain instrumental feedback either for you or your organization. Consumer feedback allows an organization or an individual agent to see what they are doing right or what they need to improve, not only from an individual/agency standpoint but also for competitive advantage reasons.

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Your Passion, Your Book of Business

October 26th, 2009 by Melissa Webb

I was reading an article in my favorite local magazine recently about a small sample of business people that had found their true passions in life (career-wise) and were now pursuing them. (Of course, the article included an easy five-step guide on how all adults could follow in that group’s footsteps if they wanted.)

While I generally try to steer away from anything that guarantees to make my life better in anything less than ten steps – standards please! – this particular article got me thinking.  How many of us factor how passionate we are for something into our career choices? And does our passion, or even our personal strength, for what we do translate into our success?

I recently placed a call to an agency and was greeted with the following message “Why, it’s a sunny day at (insert generic insurance agency name), thank you for calling. How can I brighten your day?”  I’m sure you’re probably thinking that this is a really fun and original greeting, and it probably was when the agent first thought it up, but the person that recited it said it in a complete monotone.

Obviously, the passion for this particular job had run out.  Unfortunately, the person’s lack of passion for their job was directly translated to their success because they were the first person any consumer came into contact with when calling their business.

OK, maybe this is a fairly obvious example, but it’s also one that causes more lost sales than people realize.

While it’s neither logical nor practical to take what we’re literally passionate about and then do that exact thing every day (I have a passion for shoes and sleep, but I don’t work in a shoe store or sleep 24 hours a day!), it is possible to take a look at what drives you and apply it to your business in a positive way.  In order to do that, of course, you have to KNOW what your strengths are first.

Are your strengths in line with your business values and purpose?  If you need a little help in this department, might I recommend a great read, Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.  Once you’ve got your strengths and your passions all sorted out, sit down and figure out how you can apply them to growing your business.

According to the StrengthFinder in Now, Discover Your Strengths, one of my strengths is Woo, which means I enjoy meeting new people, and I find the challenge of meeting and winning over strangers energizing rather than intimidating.  This has been a very helpful strength for me to have in this business.

To find your strengths, you can go to strengthfinder.com or purchase a copy of the book.

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Vacation, Vacation, Vacation

October 12th, 2009 by Katherine Hernandez

Ah…vacation…..doesn’t that sound nice right about now? I’m thinking of a trip that includes a lounge chair…a good book… and quiet. I’m not headed out-of-town this holiday season, but thinking maybe Spain in the spring…

 Okay…back to work. With the holidays fast approaching, I want to take a moment to discuss the option of placing your account on a “vacation” hold. Some of you may be wondering when you last took a vacation; especially some of the new insurance agents. 

 Placing your account on vacation status doesn’t mean you are actually taking a vacation, setting an account to vacation status can be used for a couple of reasons: actually taking a vacation and the need to stop the leads for a period of time or placing a temporary freeze on the account to catch up with the leads. For whatever reason, you can place a hold on your account by setting the account status to vacation.

 You can access your account online anytime and set vacation start and stop dates. Simply go to http://agent.insureme.com, logon to your InsureMe account, click on the Account tab and click on Set Vacation.

 I’d love to hear you if have an upcoming trip to an exciting location. Safe travels!

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Superman Needs Insurance?

September 24th, 2009 by Katherine Hernandez

As you well know, on occasion a lead will come through under a fictitious name such as Superman, Yogi Bear, or Iwana Sayhello (Austin Powers comes to mind)….something along those lines. Your first reaction may be to say, ‘bogus lead,’ and then you want to toss the lead or ask for a credit. Although the lead very well may be bogus, I ask that you first call the phone number on the lead just to be sure.

 Consumers are concerned in this day and age with identity theft- no news there- and they are hesitant to enter certain information online. Therefore, a lead may enter the correct telephone number and other contact information but may not want to enter his or her name. Case in point…we recently found that a consumer provided correct information on the lead form and wanted a quote but entered the name Superman, because he didn’t want to enter his name for reasons only known to him.

 In addition, some consumers may enter an incorrect name and phone number but the email is correct as they only want the quote via email. Therefore, before you quickly decide that the lead is “bogus,” based on the name or funny-looking email, exhaust all resources by completing the following:

 Call the lead ASAP and leave voicemail if provided

  • Send an email
  • Check an outside source such as www.whitepages.com to verify the contact information

 You may be surprised that Superman very well may need an insurance quote!

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