Insurance brokerage firms have long served a critical function for independent agents, serving as the primary intermediary between the agent and the major carriers. Yet many agents have not always experienced the level of responsiveness they expect once they actually start working with a brokerage firm. Responsiveness is such a critical component that many agents will move to another brokerage house if calls are not returned or quotes are slow to come, despite the firm’s knowledge base and commissions.
“If I have a call in or email but I don’t get any response, I don’t know if anyone is working on it. As I have to get back to my client, that creates uncertainty on my part that I will be able to deliver on time,” says Scott Paine,CLU, of Paine Financial & Insurance Services. “I understand not everyone can do things right away. But I want to know someone has my request and will act on it as soon as they can. It has to be pretty expedient.”
Paine, who has worked with several brokerage firms over the course of his 36-year career, has left firms before, either when established relationships changed or when he felt he just wasn’t getting the responsiveness he desired. He recalls a situation where calls to a large brokerage firm went unreturned until the next week.
Mike Morgan, a licensed insurance agent and broker at Gene Morgan Insurance in Livermore, Calif. has had a similar experience with larger brokerage firms. His agency offers auto, home, life, business, health, farm and long-term care insurance, as well as annuities.
“You are just another caller to some brokerage houses, I find,” says Morgan. “When you call, you sometimes feel you are bothering them, but you’ve got a dilemma, an issue, and you need a quick response.”
In a highly competitive marketplace, the ability to win a customer’s business is often directly related to the speed with which an agent is able to return with a specific quote and policy that meets the client’s need. If too much time elapses, other agents or even online quoting services could swoop in and steal the deal. A quick, expert response enhances the reputation of the agent, creating trust and confidence that will be the foundation for future sales, as well.
“You want to get back to [the client] before they call somebody else, they give him another rate and he buys the policy somewhere else,” explains Morgan.
Interestingly, the role of technology has been both a blessing and a curse in this regard. Technology has facilitated online quoting for items like simple term insurance. But more complicated products like universal and whole life, as well as higher risk cases, still require picking up the phone and having a discussion with someone on the other end.
In the age of websites, voicemails and emails, there is still the need to have a hands-on, verbal give-and-take with agents to get them answers. The amount of time that is saved by simply being able to pick up a phone and get answers the moment they are needed — instead of two days later — saves crucial time, helps with the sale and ultimately makes the agent more profitable.