Ask Questions While The Answers Still Matter, Part 2

Transforming from an order taker to a service provider and advocate is an intentional act.

By Mark Riffey

Last time, we talked about business takeaways from our deer collision experience.

Let’s discuss what was missing from the process: a personal contact from the agent.

The lady who cuts my hair knows more about the incident and the subsequent repair adventures than my (former) insurance agent. If this seems normal, you have the wrong agent or you are the wrong agent.

Our only interaction with the agent’s office during this nine-week adventure has been my call to their office to report the hit deer. The admin I spoke with in November was pleasant, asked if everyone was OK, took some info, and then transferred me to the national claims office — all of this was as expected.

After that, nothing.

It’s too late, baby

A week after getting our car back, it was clear our agent wasn’t going to reach out. I called to move our coverage to the C-Falls agent we previously worked with for almost 15 years (call it a corrected oversight). The old agent’s admin was pleasant and said she would take care of it, noting that she would contact me if they needed more info. She didn’t ask about my wife or the car, which tells me that their customer contact software doesn’t give them any sort of recent history to help “make conversation” and check in on a customer’s satisfaction level during customer calls.

The next day, the agent called me for what I believe is the first time in three and a half years.

He was calling to tell me that he had released our policies to C-Falls and to ask if we were moving because of something they’d done. It was too late to ask. They might be able to fix it for someone else, but for anyone wearing the customer hat, it doesn’t matter. Some might share, but most are going to say whatever gets the guy off the phone — and that’s exactly what I did. I was busy with work at the time and didn’t have time to get into what would probably become an hour-long discussion. Interestingly, the agent said he asks the same question of customers transferring business to his office, i.e.: What made you leave the other agent? Good question. But what about the gap between getting and losing a customer?

It’s critical to ask good questions, but don’t ask them too late.

Fill gaps of inattention

I share this to help you understand that gaps of inattention can derail your relationship with customers.

After my wife hit a deer at 70 mph on a pitch-dark morning just before 6:00 a.m., no one called during that nine-week period to ask if:

  • … the driver is still doing OK (injuries and issues often show up days/weeks later)
  • … we’ve gotten the car back or to ask if we know why it’s taking so long (we finally have and I do)
  • … if we’re satisfied with the repairs (we are)
  • … if we want to make any coverage changes (we do)

The lack of attention is below my expectations.

Some agents might say they “aren’t allowed” to make that sort of contact with customers. If your parent company doesn’t allow you to have personal, caring contact with your clients, find another company to represent. If anything, that sort of rule might indicate how that company will treat you someday.

Some insurance agents might think, “We’re not told to do that.” Obviously, there are many things you should do to care for a client that no one tells you to do.

Don’t be an order taker, even though an order taker can show some humanity and assess the purchaser on their feet and comment/question accordingly when appropriate. An order taker can be replaced at will. I can switch to another agent for the same company without a second thought. I can switch to another insurance company with a bit more work, particularly if all I want to do is compare dollars and cents.

On the other hand, if a client is madly in love (maybe that’s a stretch) with the care and attention provided by their insurance agent and their team, you’ll have to pry them away in most cases.

Which agency do you want to own? Which agency do you want to use? The order taker or the caring, attentive team?

Even if you aren’t in the insurance business, these issues affect the relationship you have with clients.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site, contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter, or email him at

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