Crazy Claims

By Cathy Thurber

Have you ever had a claim come through that just made you stop and stare?  You actually have to re-read the form just to make sure you read it correctly!  There have been a couple that I’ve read through the years that just made me laugh in disbelief.  Especially the claim regarding the drunk guy that fell off his friend’s balcony while he was relieving himself….he passed out during his ablutions and toppled right over the rail!

I was perusing the internet as I sometimes do and googled ridiculous insurance claims.  Here were a few of my favorites that came up:

  • A couple vacationing in southern France filed an insurance claim for the paint on their car after it got licked off by a herd of cows.
  • While vacationing in Malaysia a couple had their clothes stolen and scattered around the jungle by a thieving band of monkeys.
  • A woman in Sri Lanka was knocked out cold by a falling coconut as she sat reading under a palm tree. Apparently this incident isn’t uncommon and apparently every year about 150 people are killed by falling coconuts.
  • A farmer in Minnesota filed a claim on his iPhone when he lost it in the rear end of a cow when he was helping with calving in the middle of the night.
  • A couple made a claim on their camera after they lost it over the side of cruise ship trying to film themselves recreating that scene in Titanic.
  • A man on vacation in Australia put in a claim on his car after a wild camel supposedly kicked in the door.

Coconuts, the unexpected killer – who knew?!?  Perhaps on your next tropical vacation you should stay away from coconut trees.  And seeing as half the claims were animal related, you may want to think twice around them, too!

cathyCathy Thurber has over 10 years’ experience in the insurance industry and likes to think she’s learned a few things along the way, one of which being to not take herself too seriously.  She would love to say she has as many cool expertise’s as her fellow blogger, Ken Kukral, but she’s just not as old as him.  Cathy is a voracious reader and a total word nerd.  Most importantly, she’s been married to her favorite person for almost twenty years and has two kids that she actually likes.  However, the dog is her favorite child and she’s been wheedling for a cat for years.  Perhaps this is the lucky year?

 

6 Reasons Freight Brokers Need Insurance

Check out our handy infographic letting you know the top 6 reasons all Freight Brokers and Freight Forwarders need insurance. Feel free to save and pass along!

freight-broker-infographic

When is it time to “fire” a customer or just let them go? When is “enough”, enough?

Man Hand writing Goodbye with marker on transparent wipe board. Business, internet, technology concept. Stock Photo

By Ken Kukral

This question can conger up all sorts of images, but the one I am interested in is when is it time to “fire” a customer or just let them go?  Sometimes it is in your best interests to let a customer know you cannot satisfy their demands or expectations and they might be better served by going to another agent.  Although this may be an agonizing decision it can be a healthy one for your agency.

First of all, why would you want to “fire” a customer?  There can be many reasons, but some are:

  • Loss ratio – There are those customers who see the “value” in insurance IF they get back MORE than they paid in premiums. They don’t see insurance as a “catastrophic” type of backstop, but see it as a reimbursement type of contract.  I paid this much in premium and I should be able to get that much back in loss payments.
  • They do not look to improve their risk exposures and are not willing to do systematic updates to their property to prevent future losses. They see an aging roof as an opportunity to have a roof loss so they can get a new one, rather than scheduling periodic updates and scheduling of repairs or upgrades.  You can see the handwriting on the wall, knowing the next big storm is going to get them the repair they have been putting off.
  • Payment issues – You only make money if they pay their premium. If you have to follow up for payments or have cancel/rewrite issues, are you doing yourself a favor by retaining these customers.  The chronic late pay clients will be the first one pushing to maximize their loss settlement and get paid quickly.  Just when you thought direct bill would solve all the payment issues you were wrong and they still crop up.
  • Accounts that use all of your time. Ultimately you need to make money on an account.  If they take considerable “hand holding” and they do not value your time, can you afford to keep them?  Even worse, they ask for your advice and then ignore it!!  It still needs to be a cost/benefit decisions and needs to make dollars and cents sense.
  • What about accounts that refuse to deal with other members of your firm (especially customer service personnel and claims personnel) and will only deal with you? If they are your largest account, then “maybe” they are worth it.  Tough decisions but something to discuss with your office staff and your client of they aren’t “getting it”.  Even worse if they are rude or obnoxious with the others at your office.  The rest of your team will start losing respect for you if you don’t nip it in the bud and set them straight.
  • I previously mentioned the issue of clients not taking your advice. There are times that you have to stand your ground and let them know that if they chose not to take your advice, you can no longer be their agent.  If they get so “cheap” with their insurance program, that IF they were to have a loss they would have major coverage issues, then you may want to let them move on.  Those  “savings” are not worth the future hassles, lawsuits and potential for that business to not survive in the event of a major loss.

So what are you to do?

  1. Be straight forward with your clients. Be willing to “walk” if they cannot make responsible decisions based on your advice.  You are looking to put together an insurance program that best fits their needs and not accepting your recommendations can seriously jeopardize their coverage.
  2. Simplify the issue/coverage/decision/problem and walk them through the pitfalls. They need to know that you know what you are doing, what the consequences are of their decisions and how they could inadequately be protecting their assets.
  3. Have a system for addressing problem accounts and putting them on the path to “recovery” if that is even possible. There will be those “unethical” clients along the way and remember you are judged by the company you keep.

The accounts you lose sleep over….  Might be the ones….

The account you tend to shake your head as you hang up the phone with… might the ones….

Sometimes it is “addition by subtraction”…..

I am not saying just go out there and start firing your customers…. Just ask the question, is this a client I should be firing?  Do something about it….  Get them on track or move on….  Your time is too valuable!

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

What Makes a Good Underwriter?

By Ken Kukral

checklist

A recent article in National Underwriter got me thinking:  (read the full article here)

They boiled the qualities of a successful underwriter down to 4 things, but I think they left a couple things out.  The four things they found in a successful underwriters were:

  1. Maintain underwriting discipline
  2. Think outside the box
  3. Strive for a human connection
  4. Set yourself apart

Let’s discuss these and go a bit further.

Maintaining underwriting discipline.  Does this mean that the underwriter is consistent?  They look at a risk fairly and treat the risk the same for all agents?  They don’t write business they have any business writing (soft market expansion of classes).  To me this means the underwriter shows a long term consistent approach to looking at accounts.  The underwriter gives each risk a fair shake and you know they have given it a fair shot and priced it reasonably if they can write it.  No surprises.

I think this also means “looking for a way to write an account”.  Having an open mind and learning enough about the account to determine if it meets the underwriting guidelines for the carrier.  Over the years I have encountered many an underwriter who from the outset, is looking for a way to decline the account.  All gray area is taken in a negative connotation and unless ALL the stars line up, they will never quote the account.  All you want is for them to give it a shot.

Think outside the box.  In my thirty years in the business, this is one of the hardest things to master.  Many underwriters have become “box underwriters” and unless it fits the box, they decline it.  The “exception” underwriter is a dying breed and many underwriters are in fear of “coloring outside the lines”.  Just because a risk is unusual, one of a kind or “not like the others”, doesn’t make it a bad risk.  Some of my toughest “sells” to an underwriter has been accounts, they literally couldn’t have a loss, but the underwriter wouldn’t quote the account.  Coming up with a proper classification is an “art form” and not everything “fits the box”.

This can truly mean, looking for every possible angle to write an account.  Staying in the fight and duking it out till all your questions are answered and you have a comfort level with the account.   Especially if it is not a large account and will take some “work” to get the account done.  Not every coverage is readily available and might take some creative underwriting to come up with a solution.

A couple of examples of thinking outside the box:

  • We were able to come up with a solution for a large account where if they invoked their disaster plan and the hurricane veered off and there was not direct physical loss, they would have lost $1,300,000. So we were able to negotiate with a carrier for false trigger of disaster plan coverage.
  • We were approached by an agent whose client was a plaintiff’s law firm. They had evidence and documents stored in a warehouse, awaiting trial and were looking to insure for the expected settlement or award judgement that would be “compromised” if that evidence was destroyed by a direct physical loss.  Due to the “valuation” issue, we were not able to secure this coverage, but were able to find a carrier who would insured for the amount of expenses already expended on the case that would not be able to be recouped.

Bottom line, a good excess and surplus lines broker, who has been in the business for many years, has a wealth of knowledge and can many times find “solutions” to clients risk problems, by thinking outside the box.

Strive for human connection.  Trust is earned with an underwriter and the human connection cannot be under estimated.  So many times, submissions are e-mailed in without any phone conversation (or even a narrative).  Running an account past an underwriter can pay excellent dividends.  You find out what information they want, what the chances of placing the account and what the “hot points” are in dealing with the underwriter.  By having a preliminary discussion with the underwriter you can approach a potential client and get them on the same page with the underwriter from the beginning.  This will help a client feel like they are both working towards the same end and are not on either side of the fence.  This reduces a chance for us, versus them type of scenario.

How many times have you seen where after a face to face meeting, a dinner or an agency visit with the underwriter, you all of sudden start writing more business with that carrier?  A chance occurrence?  I think not.  It is a matter of building the relationship with the underwriter, finding common ground and a human connection.  It takes time and is a building process that pays long term results.

Set yourself apart.  Stand out in the crowd.  Don’t be a faceless drone.  Be the one they want to call first.  So this might entail taking more calls, sending periodic updates on where things stand or JUST GETTING THE JOB DONE.  While just getting the job done may not seem like something that sets you apart, it is.  As an underwriter, you want to be the “go to” underwriter.  The one they call first when they get a new piece of business.  The one who gets the “last shot” on an account.

This might mean staying late to get them a quote, knowing their cell number so you can get a hold of them at a moment’s notice or finding out up front what their client expects so you both don’t spin your wheels if you can’t meet the timing or pricing expectation.

So what did they leave out?

Qualifying accounts – Every underwriter can’t quote and write every account that comes in the door.  So asking a few questions up front, possibly putting out a rough indication or even declining an account if you know you can’t be competitive.  Respecting both your time and their time can be critical and will be important in the long term.  Who wouldn’t like to quote fewer accounts, but write more of them and have a higher hit ratio?

Just being responsive.  There is nothing better than a quick response.  Even if it is, hey, I received your submission and will look it over, looks like something we can do.  You would be surprised how many times, the first quote in gets the order.  Also remember a “quick no” is also good.  Allows the agent to go on to another carrier who can help them out.  This type of quick response can leave you in the number one position so you get first shot at that agent’s business.

Anything I missed?  Any other characteristics of your favorite underwriter?   Would love to hear your thought!

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

Questions to ask prospective clients

Are there questions we should be asking prospective clients that we aren’t that would help us to better understand what they want?

Are there questions we are afraid to ask prospective clients?

Are there questions we should be asking that would help us to “qualify” prospective accounts?

I have a feeling that the answer to all three of the above questions is yes.  In fact I KNOW the answer is YES!  I do a post mortem on accounts I lost, didn’t write or spent significant time on and wondered if there were questions I should have asked that would have helped me to do a better job.  Questions such as:

  • What kind of premium or rate are you expecting or the insured is expecting? While they may not know, many times they do.  I have saved a lot of time and effort by just relaying minimum premiums for certain classes of business and found out they were expecting something significantly less.  That way the agent is able to move on to the next account and not spin their wheels that they aren’t going to write.
  • Why do you want to fire your current agent? Using a word like FIRE puts a touch of reality to the situation and many times the client will tell you what is important to them that the other agent is not providing.  If they say “they aren’t sure they want to fire their current agent”, then you have your work cut out for you.  Most likely they are just price shopping and you will have to work to differentiate yourself if you are going to have a chance to write account.
  • When do you need the quote by? Simple question, but I am surprise on how few it is asked.  It is essential if you want a clue as to what your prospective client is expecting.  Isn’t selling all about meeting or exceeding expectations?  If we don’t know the clients expectations, how do we have a chance to meet them?
  • What kind of premium are you currently paying? How many times have you worked an account, didn’t write it and found out the premiums they were currently paying after the fact?   If you knew up front you might have decided to not waste your time since they already had a great deal!  If they won’t tell you, that is a signal they are price shopping.  Do they think if you know what they are currently paying you will come in just barely under it?
  • If they don’t currently have coverage, why are they looking for it now? I know a number of carriers that don’t like accounts that do NOT have current coverage.  They found when they did “look backs” on the accounts that experienced losses, that the loss ratio for accounts that did not have coverage directly before them, experienced more losses.  I think the answer to this question, tells a lot about the potential client.  If they cancelled previously for non-pay, is this potential client going to be a payment nightmare or more susceptible to losses?  Are they only looking for coverage now since someone else is requiring it?  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but is important to know.
  • If they move coverage to different carriers over the last few years, why? They are most likely driven by price, don’t have any loyalty and don’t understand the true “cost” of switching carrier often.
  • Do we ask about their website? I can’t tell you how many times I do some internet research on a prospective account and the agent is unaware of what I found.  Many underwriters do the same thing and I hate to be “caught with my pants down” and unaware of what the insured’s website says or what is available on the internet about them.
  • How did you hear about us or come to call us? Did someone suggest us to you?  This give you some information on where your business is coming from and what is working.  If they were sent to you by another client, it lets you know who you should thank!
  • What is your biggest concern or what keeps you up at night about your insurance program? Again, it helps you to better know your client and find out what their “hot buttons” are.  Besides, if you don’t ask questions like this, how will you ever know?
  • Tell me about how you got started…. People love to talk about themselves and tell “their story”.  Knowing more about their “passion” and what makes them successful will help you to protect that commercial client.
  • What is their tolerance to risk? You will most likely get a confused look when you ask this question.  Ultimately you are there to properly protect their assets and they need to know more about what risk those assets take.  This is an opportune moment to help educate your potential client and help them understand what you are looking to do.

Finally…. Ask the prospective client if there are any questions you haven’t asked that they think you should?  This lets you know where you stand and how close you are to being on the same page.  Another expectation assessment moment.  If you are having to extract information and they are not very forthcoming, it will be hard for you to do your best job for them.  If it is a “need to know” type of environment, you have not built the trust element enough and are in for a bumpy road ahead and a reduced chance to write the account.

Keep in mind, you are there to learn about the account and portray them in the best possible light to the carrier to get them the best terms, most appropriate coverage and meet or exceed their expectations.  So ask away!

Ken KukralKenneth Kukral, CIC – VP of Special Risks – That means, call me if you need help on placing a unique, difficult, large or more complex risk. Kennethkukral@intlxs.com  800-937-3497 ext 2079

3 Helpful Tips on Transferring a Call

By Cathy Thurber

One of the easiest statements to use in business seems to be, “I can’t help you…let me transfer you to the right person.” It’s also one of the hardest to hear when you’re the one being transferred. There are many times during the work day where a person calling in ends up with me and I’m not the correct individual to speak with them. It makes it worse when you know that you are already the second or third person to speak with them. Sometimes it can’t be helped…this may be the first time the individual even dialed your phone number but they have already called two other places, only to be jockeyed around there. However, if you are the first person to take the call within your company, here are a few things to do in order to help the customer:

1.    Make sure that you know exactly where you need to transfer the individual to, even if that means asking them nicely to hold for a moment for you to verify. You don’t want them to be handed off a few more times after you speak with them.

2.    Try to get the necessary information from the caller at the beginning, so they don’t have to explain their request to more than one individual. If you know right away that you are not the correct person for them to speak with, then kindly let them know that. Tell them that you will be happy to get them to the right individual.

3.   Consider giving the customer the contact information for the person you are transferring them to, just in case they are disconnected. This is also beneficial in case the issue is unresolved or the customer needs to contact that individual in the future.

No caller wants to waste time being transferred from one person to another. It’s just frustrating. But if we can do our best to make sure they get to the correct person quickly (and kindly) then we can only enhance their opinion of our business.