From the February 2012 issue of American Agent & Broker •Subscribe!

Different is Good

Imagine for a moment that the late Steve Jobs had thought that the best way to succeed in the computer business was to mimic everything that IBM or Microsoft performed, to emulate them. If he had, hundreds of millions of people today would not be using iPhones and iPads.

If Steve Jobs had been in the insurance agency business, the last thing he would have been is a direct writer. The cookie-cutter, assembly-line approach to selling insurance policies would have been anathema to his philosophy of creating cutting-edge products and customer experiences that are "insanely great." In our industry, Steve Jobs would have been an independent insurance agent.

Customers place a high value on something that’s different, especially when it’s better.

One of the best things about conventional wisdom is that it is usually wrong. Puncturing the bubble of accepted orthodoxy is not only a lot of fun, it can lead to greater success. Recently, the carriers of The PIA Partnership released the findings of a new national survey of personal lines insurance customers designed to discover what those customers really value.

Is price all that matters? Actually, no. Our survey results clearly show that customers are looking for more than the lowest price. We found that insurance customers want expert advice and counseling, personalized attention and interaction, comprehensive protection to meet their individual needs and excellent "relationship-based" customer service.

Value matters, but it all comes down to who provides the best customer experience—not in the view of carriers or agents, but in the mind of the customer who, in the final analysis, everything should be about.

Professional insurance agents know their customers, their communities and their markets. They use this knowledge to create individual insurance solutions that are custom to each client, who they know by name. When that client calls with a question, the answer comes from their local agent in their community.

Ask any successful person who they have their insurance with, and most often they will give you the name of their local professional insurance agent. This bond, based on the insanely great customer experience that customers expect and agents provide, is the unique difference that sets agents above and apart.

Independent insurance agents cannot out-compete direct writers by becoming direct writers, because independent agents are different. And—as Steve Jobs and Apple have proven—customers believe that different is a very good thing. Tell that to the gecko.

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