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

Bring Value to the Table

Five ways to build trust with restaurant clients.

With more than 550,000 restaurant establishments in North America with a combined annual revenue exceeding $400 billion, the restaurant industry is second to none. The employee base is projected to reach 14 million employees by the end of 2012, making this private industry the nation’s largest employer outside of government, according to the National Restaurant Assn.

Read Bill Shea's story, "4 Trending Risks for Recession-Recovering Restaurants."

A market of this size and scope is a goldmine for the insurance industry, and smart brokers, agents and carriers are all vying for a piece of the action. Those who will win are those who position themselves as experts and can bring value to the table.

Loss Control—A Valuable Tool

So what can agents do to tap into this profitable market, create more value and generate more opportunities? One of the most effective ways for an agent to add value to the insured/carrier relationship is to leverage the expertise of an insurer’s loss control department. Savvy business owners are looking for more than just price differentiation when it comes to their insurance coverages. They want a committed, knowledgeable, trusted advisor who understands their business challenges, risks and hot-buttons and who can help control costs through education and prevention.

Related story: "Chartis Angles for Larger Slice of Hospitality & Leisure Niche" by Chad Hemenway.

The best news about this valuable relationship builder is that most loss control services are offered for free. Your insurance carrier may provide:

  • Site visits to pinpoint hazards and make recommendations
  • Assistance with implementing recommendations
  • Education and training
  • Resources to assist in loss prevention and control
  • Assistance with state specific programs.

Related story: "5 Ways to Build Trust with Restaurant Clients" by Jeff Cordor.

So what can you do as an agent to help your client develop a solid loss control program? Follow these five simple steps so your restaurant clients know you’re dedicated to them.

5 Critical Ways to Build Trust with Your Restaurant Clients:

  1. Speak your clients’ language. Restaurants face unique challenges and obstacles not seen in other industries. Show familiarity with the issues they face and offer solutions that make sense to them. An awareness of these challenges will position you for a more skilled, consultative conversation–beyond mere rates and quotes. This is an opportunity to showcase your competence, your confidence and your commitment to them and their industries.
  2. Ask the right questions. This includes getting an accurate picture of the risk, their properties, business focus, hazards and liabilities, current operations and plans for the future. Ask probing questions about their wants, needs and priorities. This approach will help you uncover what coverage is critical and what is merely desirable. This competitive landscape is not the place for "one-size-fits-all" solutions. Insureds want to know that you understand their businesses, can customize a cost-effective solutions for their unique needs and have the capability to handle their accounts with expertise.
  3. Listen to their stories. Impress your clients with your willingness to make them feel as though his or her story is the only one that matters. Your ability to understand and relay your clients’ stories to the carrier is essential. This includes knowing their highest priority needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Educate your clients. Insurance is a changing, complex landscape. Navigating through the loss control process can be both confusing and daunting for the insured. If you follow the steps above and listen to the insureds’ pain points, you’ll be better able to suggest initiatives to help them prevent losses.
  5. Build great relationships with your carrier and leverage their strengths. Align yourself with carriers who want to partner with agents and insureds. The goal is a holistic approach where all parties view the whole of the business and collectively offer tangible value. If you know the risks your clients face, you can communicate those to the carrier, specifically its loss control department, to help you determine a plan of action that will be beneficial for all parties involved.

Follow these five steps and you’ll be on your way to keeping your restaurant clients happy and dedicated to your agency.

Similar story: Strommen's "Dishing Up Cyber Risk."

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