We’ve all seen the TV ads. A talking gecko, a perturbed caveman, an overly excited white aproned woman named Flo. The claims are impressive; “Give us 15 minutes and we’ll save you hundreds of dollars on your car insurance.” After years of doubt and a lack of interest, I finally pulled out my existing policy and compared what I had with what several web-based insurance companies had to offer. I was shocked to see how much cheaper my insurance could be when purchased through a website.
My existing “bricks and mortar” insurance agent had served me well for decades. He worked hard over the years to find all the angles to help me save money within the complex nooks and crannies of the insurance industry. He had become a trusted advisor to the point that I never looked at the prices that his company was charging. Because he had become an expert in his field and had such impeccable customer service skills, my agent helped me to be in a position where I rarely had to spend time on a subject, that frankly, was of little interest to me. How could I betray this person who had served me so well for so long? Worse…how could I suddenly be a price shopper when I am the one teaching people about price, cost, and value?
Tepidly, I called my agent and explained what I was doing. “This is good news for one of us,” he kindly said, letting me off the hook gently. ”Frankly, if it truly is apples-to-apples, you absolutely should switch.”
Unpleasantries over, we meandered over to the subject of the challenges he now faced. He had spent decades as an agent building his company, and now he was facing the fact that somebody had “moved his cheese.” He wondered about his CEO and the way he was positioning the company. He talked about the commoditization of his industry, and how it had become so price-driven compared to years ago when service was king.
Does any of this sound like your industry?
We are all facing the challenges of a troubled economy, pricing pressures, and lower margins. Sometimes the difference between our price and our competitor’s price is just too much to justify, no matter how hard we try and show the value and ROI potential of our products or service. There will be some clients that, at least for the moment, cannot be saved.
So that was it, right? He bowed out gracefully, walked away from a long-term client, and slowly watched his customer base disappear? No, this was a seasoned professional, and at just the right time, he said, “I get a lot of calls from clients who cancel their policies and switch to one of these companies. About half of them call me a year later saying that the rate went up quite a bit. They say they didn’t get the service they expected and ask me for a quote. It’s nice to be able to help them out.”
No hard sell, no “you’ll be sorry” speech. He was gracefully leaving me a path back to him if things didn’t work out with my new insurance company. His “apples-to-apples” line made a gentle point, which gave me a slight pause and will help me be aware of problems I might face down the road with the new company. Based on his previous experience, there is a 50% chance I’ll be shopping for new car insurance in a year. And based on how he handled this situation, there is a 100% chance I’ll be calling him.