As an insurance agency owner, there are some phrases that I hear alot that make me cringe.
“Give me an apples to apples quote”.
“We’re going to give you an apples to bananas quote here. Because your apple might suck. Sorry.”
“I’m on a fixed income.”
“Show me someone who isn’t. The price of your insurance doesn’t change based on how much income you have. It’s not like taxes.
“My (FILL IN THE BLANK) said that my insurance should cost (BLANK).”
99.9% of the time that FILL IN THE BLANK person is not licensed to talk about insurance, has no training in property/casualty insurance, and probably doesn’t even know how prices are calculated.
Or even better: “I know how you people are.” You people? and “What do I have insurance for anyways?”
Let me tell you exactly what you have insurance for. Because this past week, I was helping out with a customer who had a very traumatic insurance experience that was a great reminder of exactly what insurance is for.
Contrary to what a lot of people like to think, insurance really isn’t meant to try to fix all of your little issues on your homes and cars. In fact, home insurance policies originally started out as “fire insurance” policies before they morphed into covering more things (the official word for “things” is “perils”.)
Insurance was meant to cover you for major losses. When you lost everything and you would not be able to fix it or pay the bank back the money you borrowed from them or pay to rebuild a home and shelter your family. Everyone would pool their money together into a giant pot and pray that no one would use any that year. The goal was that the pot of money would grow and grow and be enough so that if someone did have a loss- there would be enough to cover them. But if the people who pooled their money started needing small amounts out- they were taking from the pot of money and they were using up the emergency fund, so everyone needed to pay more every year and the people who were taking the money needed to pay even more.
Makes sense. It’s practical when you dumb it down at the core of things. The more people took advantage of the system, the more there was a need for rules and “exclusions” and as you can imagine…. fast forward to today and in today’s society- everyone wants everything covered and blames the ‘big bad insurance company” and agents become “you people.”
On Wednesday morning, I answered my phone to find one of my customers, 78 year old Bruce, on the other line. He was kind of frantic as he told me that he had been calling and calling all morning (our phones had just switched on for the morning, as it was just after 9am). We are a small agency and I was alone in the office at the moment- but you can imagine my surprise when he told me that he and his wife were trapped in their home because during the tornado the night before trees had fallen on and around the house and were blocking all of the entrances.
“My dogs are trapped in their kennels outside and I can’t get to them.”
After establishing that no one needed medical attention, I told him I would get someone over there to get them out and then I would call him back about actually starting insurance claim information.
Can you imagine for a second what a person would say if you called the 1-800 number for the Lizard Insurance and told them that you were trapped in your house and needed help? Do you think that Insurance Woman in the White Lab Coat would know local vendors to call?
It is really important to us to be able to be able to help our customers. In this situation, I happen to have not just a great referral partner, but someone who I am friends with that owns a landscaping/property services company called All Seasons Facility Maintenance. I called her up immediately and told her what the situation was. She told me she would have a crew out there immediately.
Within 10 minutes, a crew was on the scene and had started to clear a path. But that was when she let me know that it was bad.
“Christine- I’m on my way there now, but my guys say it is bad. It’s really bad. I’m even calling my parents to come help.”
You know that sinking feeling you get when someone you care about is in trouble? I get that with all of my customers. Every time I get a call about a claim. Every car accident. Every property claim. I’m like everyone’s mom, sister, or I feel like they are my own parents.
I had already started to shuffle all of my appointments around and had transferred my office phones to my cell phones so that other claims could come to my cell while I was in the field. I keep a go-bag with a change of clothes at the office, but I had dressed for the day with the possibility that there might be a claim in mind. I just expected that it would likely be a sump pump failure or something similar because every time there is a horrible rain storm there is at least one sump pump water claim (NOTE: if you don’t have water backup coverage on your policy- you really need to add this optional coverage on your policy! Just trust us!)
Within an hour (because other calls came in and I had to file some minor claims) I was out the door and on my way to see if I could help. I don’t have a chainsaw, but I figured at least being there may bring some comfort. They didn’t have power and their house was on a well, so we offered bottled water, offered food, offered portable cell phone chargers. We took photos to use to file the claim, which was filed immediately, helped coordinate the invoice for the tree removal that fell on the house (which can be submitted to insurance) vs. tree removal in the yard (not covered), and filed claims for his camper which was picked up by the tornado and thrown 10 feet into the air into his garage, and dog-transport trailer which was also thrown around. Since those are specialty items, we also helped find a repair center to fix them.
Most of the time when claims involve more than one policy, you have to pay more than one deductible; however, we are getting the 2 extra deductibles waived (camper and trailer). Without an agent, this type of thing may not be possible or may fall through the cracks. Also, since it was a huge weather related incident, they were originally told that it might be next Tuesday before an adjuster could come out to see their property. I made a phone call and sent a couple photos and we had two adjusters out there before the week was over.
I know a lot of insurance agents that would have simply filed the insurance claim and called a tree person or recommended that they call 9-1-1, so that they could keep their office open and continue to sell policies during the day, while I closed my office down and went to help out a customer, but that simply isn’t our value system. That’s not how we choose to run our Richards Group. We probably won’t every be “as successful” or “as wealthy” as they are, but we’d like to think that doing the right thing by our customers will pay out in the end.
“We’ve lived here for twenty-some years… and we’ve never had a problem.” – Bruce said to me at the top of his stairs. I hear similar comments from so many customers. (Honestly- often times about that water backup coverage!). “Why us?” he said.
“Why not us?” his wife Bette said.
A tornado doesn’t care if you have a good insurance policy. It doesn’t care if you have a good agent. It doesn’t care if you have money in the bank- a “safety net”. It doesn’t care if you are a “good person”. It doesn’t care if you have ever had property claims or problems before or not.
But if you have a good insurance agent, hopefully… if you do experience a traumatic event, you won’t feel like you are alone.