Monday, March 07, 2005

“Survey says…”

Years ago, I used to love to watch “Family Feud.” Mostly, I wondered how many of the female contestants Richard Dawson would kiss. I suspect that, in today’s PC word, he wouldn’t even take the chance.
Which brings me to a phone call I received last week. One of our carriers, with whom I’ve done business for almost 20 years, called to see why I wasn’t writing very much with them lately, and if there were things they could either do, or stop doing, which might entice me to place more of my business with them.
I’m always happy to talk with carriers about these issues. For one thing, it gives me an opportunity to vent to someone at the home office. For another, I’ve become concerned lately because I’ve been putting so much business with one carrier (not the one which called), and I really value my independence. So, if I can spread a little more of the business around, I’d be happier.
In any case, we discussed some of the issues which cause an agent to use Carrier A over Carrier B. Price is important, of course, but it’s only part of the mix. I have no problem suggesting to a client that they pick Carrier B, even though their rates are a bit higher, if they offer superior service, or easier underwriting, or better plans. But the rates do need to be competitive; as it stands, Carrier B is usually 15% to 20% higher than Carrier A for similar plans, and they are much more difficult in their underwriting. Their after-sale service is superb, but you have to get the case sold - and issued - first.
Another reason I’ve been using Carrier A so much is that, unlike Carrier B (the one which called), they offer 6 different underwriting classes, versus only 3 for Carrier B. And also unlike Carrier B, they don’t “rider” (exclude) conditions or benefits. That is, if Joe Shmo has had a knee replaced, Carrier A will charge him more, but won’t exclude the knee or medications. Carrier B, tho, will often do both: exclude the condition (at least for a year or two) AND charge a higher premium. I just don’t think that’s right.
You may have noticed one aspect of the sales situation which I haven’t mentioned: commissions. Truth be told, I often don’t even know what commissions are paid on which cases. Generally, the carriers all pay more or less the same amount. So that really hasn’t been a factor in my choices of where to place business.
All in all, it was an interesting conversation (at least from my end!). I’m looking forward to seeing what, if any, changes Carrier B makes in order to increase their market share.
It’ll be interesting to watch.
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