By Ken Kukral
A different perspective on insurance agent continuing education….
Am I happy that many medical professionals are required to take continuing education and courses in order to be certified or to keep a certification? YES. I truly want the medical professionals I deal with to be the best in their field and be the best they can be.
That being said, do I also want the insurance agent I deal with to be the best they can be? Another resounding YES. While in many professions you pay more to deal with the best in their field (like attorneys, consultants and architects) in insurance you ultimately end up paying less. By less I mean a better agent has better relationships with their carriers and can negotiate the best pricing, best terms and best value for their clients. At the time of loss the client is more likely to have the proper coverage and actually have coverage for the particular loss.
Do some agents see continuing education and a “necessary evil” of the profession? Many do.
Do other more professional agents see it as an opportunity? I hope so.
The perspective I hope more agents will take is that with education they can become a better agent. Plain and simple. There are so many different insurance educational programs out there, that you can usually find courses in just about any area you want.
– Get a designation. I highly recommend Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC). This will give you a solid foundation so you know what you are selling on a day to day basis. I will also give you a fairly broad based education.
– Maintain your designation. Many of the designations have updates that you can regularly attend and get a more in-depth knowledge of your field.
– Plan out your education. This may sound simple but it takes a little bit of time and research. If you wait till the last minute (end of the state CE compliance period) your choices might be limited.
– Get way more than the hours required for continuing education compliance. If you are looking to be the best in your field this will be without question.
– Figure out where you want to build a specialty. In nearly every insurance specialty there are courses that help build your knowledge. If you want to specialize in transportation, there are numerous courses on trucking insurance, cargo insurance, commercial auto insurance, etc. They may not all be local so you may have to be willing to travel to get the education you need. Some of them will be available online too.
– Work with your local insurance agent associations who provide CE. We recently worked with our local trade association to develop a 1 hour program on “dealing with a large loss for one of your clients”. This course gave agents a perspective of some of the issues in dealing with a large or total loss, dealing with a catastrophic loss (hurricane), dealing with potential E&O issues and also how involved they should be in the claims process with their carriers and clients. Rather than taking a one hour basic online course on business interruption to get that hour of CE, I chose to go to a course that gave be a better perspective on dealing with claims. “Real world” type courses such as this can be extremely valuable.
– Read trade journals. Many of the top insurance trade journals will do informative articles on specific subjects. The writers are experts in their field and can help give you a perspective that you can not get from online courses or books. I read a recent 2 part article on dealing with a total loss. This agent chronicled a large loss from start to finish. He discussed many issues you would never think of when dealing with a large loss. Each one is different and there will be many bumps in the road. The better you can work hand in hand with your client and your carrier, the better off the claim will be settled. Many times this is the “moment of truth” for agents and how well they deal with the issues will determine if the client will be a lifetime client.
– If you specialize in a certain class of business learn as much as you can about that industry. When you can understand the lingo and the issues your clients are dealing with, you will have more empathy for your clients. More empathy will transfer to your clients believing you actually care about their business and their industry and will strengthen your relationship with them.
– Take courses in other subject. Subjects like marketing, computer software training, social media, management, organizational skills, etc will all help you have a better perspective on business. I heard a statistic once where Motorola determined that their return on investment (yes, investment!) for every training dollar to be 7 to 1. When we start looking at education and training as investment rather than just as a cost of doing business we will be able to move forward with the right perspective.
– Never stop learning. As they say, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Keep asking questions, keep reading and keep searching for subjects you want to learn more about.
If you walked out of a class and said to yourself, “wow, that was a waste of an hour!” then do something about it. Seek out courses, classes or designations that WILL be worth your time and you will walk away being a better insurance person. Resolve to change your perspective on continuing education and more importantly do something about it!
I would welcome your comments and experiences in this area.