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STREET WISE Alliance of Insurance Agents of NC

What about Wal-Mart? The title of a recent article in the National Underwriter read “Walmart Begins Selling Auto Insurance Online”. You may read the entire article at 30/327853.htm

It looks like they think pointing their customers to is the best model. Wal-Mart does not own the agency or book of business but rather gets monthly fees for marketing the service in its stores and on its website. I tried it out last week pretending to live in Texas since it is not yet available in North Carolina. It quickly gave me an estimate but was several hours until a representative called me.

The title is wrong. Wal-Mart is “marketing” not “selling” auto insurance in eight states – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas directing inquiries to

Is your agency concerned about Wal-Mart marketing auto insurance?

They currently quote through 5 carriers – st Progressive, Esurance, Safeco, Travelers, and 21 Century with plans to add more carriers as they expand nationwide.

Please allow me to put your mind as ease. Velocify recently conducted a secret shopper study to determine how effectively direct writers, captive agents and independent insurance agents responded to online quote requests.

Does Wal-Mart’s participation require them to hold producer licenses (that is, agent or broker licenses) under most existing state laws?

Velocify completed online quote forms including telephone & e-mail fields and gave the companies 22 days to respond.

No. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ “Producer Licensing Model Act” requires people to be licensed if they “sell, solicit, or negotiate” insurance. [i] “Negotiate” is defined as offering advice about a particular contract of insurance by someone who “sells insurance or obtains insurance from insurers for purchasers.” People who provide general information about insurance but are not paid commissions are not required to be licensed, under the NAIC model.

The results: 44% received both calls and e-mails 22% received only e-mails 17% received only calls 17% received neither calls nor e-mails Speed-to-call: Of the 61% online leads that received a callback, the average wait time for the first call from the insurers was two days and 8 hours. Previous research by Velocify shows that attempting to contact a lead within one minute of a web inquiry submission raises the likelihood of converting the lead into a paying customer by 391%.

[i] National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Producer Licensing Model Act (Kansas City, MO: National Association of Insurance Commissioners, January 2005). Wal-Mart has been experimenting with different distribution models – single carriers in Georgia & South Carolina, aggregator with multiple carriers in Pennsylvania and they even provided kiosk space for Esurance to hand out special auto insurance discount cards in 150 locations in Illinois.

How long does it take your agency to respond? Speed-to-e-mail: Of the 66% of inquiring buyers that received an e-mail response from the insurer, the average wait time was 22 hours – compared with Velocify’s recommended best practice of 20 minutes after receipt of the lead. Do you have a formal e-mail response? Continued on page 2


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May, 2014

More Information about AIANC Membership at So … what’s the best way to sell in the Digital Age?

What about Wal-Mart? Continued from page 1

Have a state-of-art website that is mobile-friendly. The best way to see if your website is “mobilefriendly” is to check it out with a Smartphone. Embed an online comparative rater that notifies the agency immediately upon giving a quote. Or, if an online comparative rater is not available, make it simple and suggest the prospect send their phone number and / or e-mail address to you for a “Quick Quote”. Whatever you do, don’t have a fillable form that no one ever fills out completely and correctly. Claim your free online listings completely with videos, pictures and current contact information. Create an introductory agency video for posting on your website and social media. It’s easy to do. Here’s one that took me less than 5 minutes to create and went to the #1 position on page #1 in Google Search in less than one hour: “Tips for finding renter’s insurance in Dallas, TX” at

Number of calls: Velocify estimates that the optimal number of call attempts is six. However, only 3% of inquiring buyers received between 5 and 7 calls before the insurer gave up – with 93% of insurance shoppers either under-called or not called at all. How many times do you try calling? Number of e-mails: Velocify finds the optimal number of e-mails to send before placing leads into nurturing campaigns is five. But only 6% of the inquiring insurance buyers received between 4 and 6 e-mails; only 5% were over-e-mailed, and 89% were either under-e-mailed or not e-mailed at all. When do you give up? Difference in response by type of insurer Velocify computed a score for each insurer on a 100point scale, based on how each performed in each of the four key performance indicators (KPIs). The average score among all companies was 32.

Lastly, don’t worry about being perfect. You just need to be a little better and proactive than your competitors.

In a breakdown between direct, captive and independent agencies, none achieved a score of 60 or higher, showing that all insurers, even the best, need improvement. The top three companies in the study were direct carriers, with captives consistently average or slightly above. Independent agencies performances were varied, but generally below average.

AIANC “Lunch ‘n Learn” Series Marketing Your Agency in the Digital Age Successfully Marketing Your Agency Online The Power of Video Marketing Attract & Retain more Customers in the Digital Age th 12:00 - 2:00 on June 18 at Golden Corral in Greenville, NC Free Registration at

Stuart Ganis, director of insurance industry consulting at Velocify summed it up … “Independent agents should embrace technology and learn how digital customers want to be sold to”. More facts:  78% of prospects convert with the company that contacted them first  Leads convert 22 times more often when you make contact in under 5 minutes 

50% of leads are never called a 2nd time.

 Leads generated on the weekend are 26% more likely to convert  Converting a lead is 57% lead quality and 43% sales process  Leads convert 50% more often if you use a lead management system over email  40% of leads close eventually, with consistent long term follow-up 

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90% of leads have no activity after 30 day

 On average it takes between 5 and 6 attempts to contact a lead AIANC’s STREET WISE

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May, 2014

Security, Accuracy & Reliability Focus on what you do best! Selling insurance. Let us focus on what we do best! Ensuring your financial peace of mind.

Give Rosemary A Lambert, CPA, PA a call. Whether you need daily financial guidance, or yearly tax planning services, our professional staff will work with you to customize a plan that aligns with the goals of your agency. Our firm understands the need for absolute confidentiality. We will ensure the security of your financial systems and provide you with accurate and reliable data. With more than 20 years in the business, Rosemary A Lambert has extensive experience in accounting for the insurance industry.

704704-855855-1509 WWW.ROSEMARYALAMBERTCPA.COM Closeout Services Include: ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗

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More Information about AIANC Membership at For example, a producer with $150,000 commissions would generate the following expenses in an average agency:

River Rocks By Chris Burand

Revenues = $150,000

Good salespeople have great qualities. Most are likeable, probably among the most likeable people on God’s green earth. To be so likeable, they often resemble river rock. Solid cores and rounded off edges. Edges cut and salespeople, being likeable and wanting to be liked, do not want to cut anyone the wrong way. They make sales by winning people over, living the life by the motto, “It’s easier to get a bear with honey than with vinegar”

Producer commissions at 40% = $60,000 CSR compensation = $30,000 Benefits and employment taxes for CSR and producer (6% of commissions) = $9,000 Administrative expense at 20% = $30,000 Selling expense at 5% = $7,500 Total expense = $145,500

If everyone was a customer such a life philosophy would be wonderfully successful!

The remaining $4,500 falls significantly short of covering the producer’s share of compensation for the receptionist, bookkeeper, claims person, marketing person, owner(s), or anyone else in the agency. On the other hand, a producer with $250,000 in commission would generate $207,500 in expenses which leaves enough revenue ($42,500 vs. $4,500) to contribute to the agency’s overhead and profits.

Unfortunately, not all people are customers. Some people are instead associates, partners, and employees. The difference is huge. Though we need customers to pay the bills, they come and go. Associates, partners, and employees can stick around for a long, long time (especially, it seems, when we don’t necessarily want them to) and honey only makes them stickier.

Poor producers waste time and energy. Agency owners across the country spend time and energy trying to motivate, cajole, and persuade poor producers to produce. Agency owners are perpetually frustrated that these producers will not improve but they never tell the producers they are not cutting it.

What happens when a salesperson encounters a situation requiring vinegar rather than honey? Usually nothing. Salespeople are river rocks and often would rather endure pain themselves rather than inflict it upon even a deserving soul. Not addressing the situation though is equivalent to telling a lie. By ignoring the situation, we are imparting that something is true when it is not.

Poor producers waste capital too. Many agencies are short of capital and if they were not wasting money on poor producers, they would be better able to invest in good producers, training, and growing their agencies. Trying to grow with poor producers is like trying to win the Kentucky Derby riding a Shetland pony.

This can cause severe problems, especially when the salesperson is an agency owner. Problems arise, for example, when an agency owner has poor producers. This is a situation that often requires some vinegar, some rough edges. Most agency owners though are salespeople first and owners/managers second. They hate to deliver bad news. As a result, many producers go through life thinking they are great salespeople when in reality they are not and sometimes they are downright awful. But no one will tell them the truth. Everyone just waits for these producers to figure it out for themselves but they never do.

Poor producers cause many other problems too. Poor producers can overwork the staff with incomplete, inaccurate applications and too many unqualified quotes. Poor producers are often the prime reason many good staff people leave agencies. Poor producers can put a strain on company relationships because they do not submit enough applications and/or the applications they do submit are poor. Poor producers with inflated egos can be a management nightmare.

By acting as if someone is capable when they are not, we impart something as true when it is not.

They are often totally unmanageable. Enabling a poor producer to think they are a good producer, sets that person up for a bigger fall later. As time passes, poor producers will find it harder to improve their habits and skills. They will have more obligations and facing reality later will be very painful. Consider the producer who has been working for an agency for 15 years. He has a mortgage and a kid in college. The producer has built only a small book but as far as he is concerned, he has been doing a great job.

By not telling these producers they are failures, agency owners/managers are telling lies. They are leading the producers to believe they are good producers when they are not. Telling these big silent lies has a huge negative impact on agencies. As a result, our industry is full of poor producers hat do not know they are poor. Any producer with ten years’ experience and still less than $200,000 commission is probably a failure. These producers are huge cash drains on agencies. AIANC’s STREET WISE

Continued on page 6 Page 4

May, 2014

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River Rocks Continued from page 4 Then, just as his second kid enters college, his agency is sold. The new management decides to cut compensation for producers with small books. Or, maybe the new owners recognize they do not need producers with small books and just lets them go. Perhaps that producer would have been a lot better off if someone had advised them ten years ago that they might be better suited for a different career.

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Most agency owners’ personalities make them better salespeople than managers. That sales personality never wants to rub anyone the wrong way. Sometimes though, we mistakenly confuse rubbing people wrong with steering them in the right direction. Steering them in the right direction might cause some immediate irritation but eventually, you will have made another sale. Chris Burand is president of Burand & Associates, LLC, an insurance agency consulting firm. Readers may contact Chris at (719) 485-3868 or by e-mail at NOTE: None of the materials in this article should be construed as offering legal advice, and the specific advice of legal counsel is recommended before acting on any matter discussed in this article. Regulated individuals/entities should also ensure that they comply with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

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Questions? Contact Eddie K. Emmett at or (770) 312-2342. HU


3 Questions for Insurance Agents...

Carlos Penate is a regular contributor to our newsletter. He shares a few more articles on the topic of “What About Wal-Mart?”: Are you tired of car insurance advertisements yet? A quick show of hands: Who is ready to stomp on a gecko? Another great article for the independent agent!

Allstate's Esurance two-step: Jacking up rates, touting savings Question # 1: How much does a 2,200 sq. Ft., 3 bedrooms, and 2 bath house with a 2 car garage weigh?

So agents don't think the direct writers are doing so great, now is the opportunity with having so many choices for consumer to choose from thru an agent for better prices.

Question # 2: How much weight can a rural 2-lane bridge hold? EWS07/140509832/allstates-esurance-switcheroojacking-up-rates-while-touting-savings


Startup helps independent agents take on insurance giants like Geico and Progressive

Submitted by Adam Kotter of The Kotter Group ( 4/05/01/consumer-agent-portal-chip-baccioco.html AIANC’s STREET WISE

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May, 2014 1-877-320-3003

Big Rock Promos Tom Smith

Browse the 2014 Best Buy catalog page by page on-line. Check out Windjammer specials.

Let Big Rock Promos help you create a long-lasting relationship with your clients through the power of promotional products. AIANC interviews Tom Smith

Tell me about BigRockPromos! Big Rock Promos is an affiliate of Kaeser Blair. They are one of the top 10 distributors of promotional products in the US, having been in business for over 120 years. Because of our reputation and volume we are offered industry selection and pricing that is second to none. So in essence, Big Rock Promos can offer national selection and pricing but with a local presence. Selling promotional products is so much more than just selling mugs and tee shirts. It is my job to work with my clients to find ways to increase brand awareness, help establish their corporate identity, increase sales and improve customer and employee loyalty.

Why invest in promotional products? Items like mugs, pens and tee shirts are memorable and provide a better cost per impression for advertisers than almost every major marketing effort like TV, magazines and the Internet. We are able to supply your company with every possible promotional product from over 3,000 suppliers. With so many ad specialties available there is a huge opportunity for professionals like you to boost ROI and leave a lasting

impression with your customers. Our mission is to help you create long-lasting relationships with your clients through the power of promotional products.

What are the different type products you offer? Because of our relationship with our suppliers, we can virtually offer any product. Apparel has been a great seller this spring. Whether its tee shirts, golf shirts, dress shirts or caps, it’s a great way to professionally promote your agency or company. Also some agencies offer a small gift depending upon the type policy written. It’s amazing how long someone will use and hold on to an item. It’s not so much the value of the item, it’s the uniqueness and the fact that they were offered the item as a show of appreciation. After all it’s all about promoting your agency and improving customer loyalty.

How can insurance agents get in touch with you? Of course I’m always available by phone. 1-877-320-3003 or email at Also, please visit my website at I’ve worked for over 30 years with Independent agents in NC, SC and GA and would love the opportunity to support them in promoting their insurance agency.

More Information about AIANC Membership at

discuss. Anticipate their questions or objections to be ready to respond knowledgeably and quickly.

17 Terrific Telephone Tips

4. Use “I” instead of “you” when requesting information. “I need this information” sounds better than “You need to give me this information.” 5. Take ownership of the call. Customers do not like to be transferred. If you do need to transfer a call, introduce the caller to your colleague. Do not place callers in voice mail without their knowledge.

by Emily Huling, CIC, CMC The telephone remains the most effective communication means following face-to-face conversation. Through voice, we sense attitude, emotion, and interest. Here are some tips to help teach or remind us how to make the most of this tried and true communication tool.

6. Use phone conversations to build and personalize relationships. Inquire about the weather, family, vacations, or hobbies. Look to find common interests. 7. Be warm and cheerful in energy, words, and tone. “I’m so glad you called!” “We really appreciate your business.”

1. Never e-mail negative news. Pick up the phone and call.

8. Pick up the line quickly. The phone should ring no more than three times. If you are going to be away from your desk, program the phone to roll into voice mail or to an associate’s line.

2. Utilize a frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers document to assure accuracy and consistency in responding to routine inquiries.

Continued on page 9

3. Respect customers’ time by preparing for outgoing calls. Create a list of questions or issues to AIANC’s STREET WISE

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May, 2014

More Information about AIANC Membership at 9. Don’t sound like a recorded message. I called a person recently who answered the phone and identified herself. I hesitated a minute and said, “Oh, you’re alive!” She laughed and said many people mistakenly think she’s her voice mail message. That’s not a good thing! Answer the phone with enthusiasm.

14. Listen well. Take notes, repeat back what you’ve heard, ask questions, and summarize the conversation. Avoid confusion and errors with good listening skills. 15. Never leave the phone off the hook. You have no control over what your caller may hear. Always put a call on hold when you need to step away.

10. Identify yourself confidently. If you’ve ever been greeted by someone who sounded as if they weren’t quite sure who they were, you know what I mean. Using first and last name is the most professional way to distinguish yourself.

16. Let the caller end the conversation. A simple, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” allows the caller to close the call. Doing that prevents the caller from feeling dismissed.

11. Eliminate distractions immediately. Don’t try to finish something on the computer or read a report while you’re on the telephone. Half listening is rude and can create misunderstandings and extra work.

17. Thank them for their business. People who do business with you want to know you appreciate their patronage. Tell them. Emily Huling, CIC, CMC helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and service organizations. She can be contacted at She’s a frequent presenter at industry conferences, on the national faculty of the Society of CIC, and is the author of “Great Service Sells”, “Selling from the Inside”, and “Kick Your ‘But.’” For information on her products and consulting services and to subscribe to her free monthly newsletter, visit

12. Outgoing voice mail messages need to be current. Callers want to hear an upbeat, informative, and brief message that expresses accountability. "This is Emily Huling. Today is __________. I'm in the office and will return your call shortly." "This is Emily Huling. Today is ________. I'm away from the office and will (will not) be checking messages. I'll return your call ________." For immediate assistance, dial _______ to reach _________." (Include coverage disclaimer as appropriate.)

Emily Huling of Selling Strategies, Inc.

13. Personalize the call. “What can I do to help you, Sally?” Calling people by name shows you are listening and makes them feel important.


P.O. Box 200, Terrell, NC 28682 Phone: 888-309-8802 Mobile: 704-516-5114

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May, 2014

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10 Ways to get rid of Non-Standard Auto Business 4. We just posted a sign our office no longer accepts monthly payments. We also had them sign a disclosure with the application informing the Insured we did not accept monthly payments. We had very few complaints and lost very little business.

Letters to the Editor Editor’s note: I belong to many blogs. Here’s an interesting thread on the topic of reducing non-standard auto insurance. I almost encouraged them to “Send It to Me!”

5. I always encourage EFT payments. I show the discounts offered to those customers who choose the EFT option and I definitely promote peace of mind and convenience to each and every customer. It's simple and it works. It may take some customers longer than others to cross over, but keeping pushing EFT it works. I also offer online payments to all customers. I even offer online payment to those without bank accounts because they usually have a cash card and it can be used online. Before they leave the office, I simply help the customer set up the account online. They absolutely LOVE IT....Walk-In Business is still there but walk-In payments are almost non-existent. Educating your customers is the key.

Question: We are trying to reduce the amount of non-standard auto business we write. We have a lot of people paying cash in our office each month. How have some of you eliminated this part of your business!? 1. We had the following strategies: 1.) Removed large sign. 2.) Charge a handling fee for each monetary transaction as allowable by law. 3.) Open office to the public at 9:30am after people have to be at work. 4.) Close the office during lunch. 5.) Close the office at 4:30pm before most people leave work. 6.) No quotes over the phone, you have to appear in person to get a quote. We now have virtually no walk-in business. 2. The average amount of time it takes, all things considered, to take a payment in the office is about 20 minutes. It also creates an E&O exposure and is an invitation to robbery. For those reasons, we decided to stop accepting them, and advised everyone in 30 days that decision would go into effect. That got rid of our payment problem.

In regards to the reduction of non-standard policies; I simply offer the standard carrier first, then I introduce the non-standard carrier. I explain the difference, the limits and the rate. Educating my customers in "Standard vs NonStandard" allows the customer to make their own educated choice. I can honestly say I have more standard customers than non-standard customers. The non-standard customers usually convert to a standard policy upon their renewal. My customers appreciate the insight and the knowledge and they leave our agency with confidence in a policy they truly understand.

We also decided we would no longer write anybody that failed to have prior insurance, we found someone else that wanted to write them, and sent them to them for a referral fee on each one. By doing that we helped the prospect find someone professional, other than us to deal with, and in the end were actually making more profit on those folks from the referral fees than we ever did in net commissions.

I hope this was helpful. (by the way....I don't encourage or promote removing signage, inconvenient business hours, charging unnecessary fees or refusing quotes over the phone) Paul is right, You will virtually have WalkIn Business resulting in "NO BUSINESS".

Just be sure you check out the agency to which you send them. If they are not a quality agency, and as a result of that agents lack of professionalism they sustain an uncovered loss, they could sue you for referring them. That is why you should probably employ at least a couple of agencies for that purpose.

6. We stop taking cash some years ago, we accept check, money orders and credit card payments. The agency has a socio economic scale of wealthy to farm field workers and they all pay non-cash. We have transitioned our clients that showed responsibility to preferred companies, but with that said the personal auto business is very service intensive and your basically paying the insurance carrier to do their business due to low commissions they pay.

We still did phone quotes for those folks needing full coverage on at least one car as long as they had prior insurance...but that is just a matter of preference. 3. Put everyone on EFT or Reoccurring CC

Continued on page 11 AIANC’s STREET WISE

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May, 2014

More Information about AIANC Membership at 10 Ways to get rid of non-Standard Auto Clients

We've heavier on the commercial lines side in general and market across our state so our storefront presence is no longer necessary or compatible with our direction. If money were not an object, I would love to relocate our agency into a non-storefront office. Several of the larger agencies in my area are located in high rise office buildings downtown and get no walk-in traffic.

Continued from page 10 Some competitors state that they do not charge brokers fees but what they do not say is that they charge payment fees which can add up for the client. The auto insurance business has gotten so competitive, The lizard, Flo, and all the others claiming their the best. What was the question?

I would also say for all intents and purposes that after fifteen years in business, I can personally count on one hand the number of "good" accounts we've written from people who have walked in to our agency versus accounts we've pursued or marketed to.

7. We stopped cash payments from clients some years ago. Our office is 100% direct billing - EFT/ or recurring credit card - no cash payments. We are very selective writing new business that falls into non-standard markets (high maintenance / low returns)/ 8. Only take check or money order, that’s what we did and it got rid of some the real problems, blame it on the companies policies

I've seen a few agents over time here that have said they love non-standard, do well with it, etc. Great if it's working for them. I firmly believe for our agency that non-standard is a detriment to our agency on several levels (low commission, low retention, time spent on non-standard is time spent away from servicing and selling to standard business, etc.).

9. We do not quote "no prior" cases and sent them to Safe Auto and we do not quote minimums, We quit taking cash payments 4 years ago then quit taking any payments 2 years ago, When we sell a non EFT policy we make it clear that we do not take payments and that they will need to mail it or pay it online, It’s a culture change in the beginning but you will find your staff spending less time handling payments and payment problems and more time selling to quality clients. Nonstandard will refer you more nonstandard, quality refers quality.

Letters to the Editor Do you have an opinion of this or some other topic? Send it to Do you want it to be anonymous? Just ask. I have yet to betray the confidence others place in me.

10. Excellent question. Like others I see here, we stopped taking cash payments over five years ago and have no till or cash box. We still have a very small number of walk-in payers, but they must pay by check or go down the street to get a money order. I realize this is different than a full on refusal of accepting payment of any kind in the agency, but we didn't want to go there over concern that our carriers would balk. Our explanation to those who want to pay by cash is that we're not a cash business and we have no cash on premises.

Our Newest Member Benefit Do you write Commercial Lines Insurance?

It's been over a year since we've allowed quoting/writing non-continuous insurance. We turn it away on the phone or at the door. We've removed ads from the yellow pages. For existing clients, we have escalating reinstatement fees if their policy cancels. First time $25, then $50, then $75, then $100 and a large dose of wonderment on our part as to why a few have the misperception that we're the only agency in town... AIANC’s STREET WISE

How would you like to have an Excel spreadsheet of Company Names, Addresses, websites, Social Media, and e-mail addresses (if available) for any specific type of risk you can name? Current members can get the information on up to 200 of these risks within 30 mile radius. Want to try? Send your type of commercial risk and zip code to I’ll create and send the Excel spreadsheet ASAP. Page 11

May, 2014

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The Evolution of Customer Service:

Then there is social media. There are over 243 million active users on Twitter and over 1.23 billion on Facebook. Many of them are using these social channels to communicate with the companies they do business with. If you aren’t interacting with your customers on multiple channels, you can bet your competition is.

Adapt and Adopt or be Left Behind

And now we are entering an era that takes us even further than social media. There are mobile apps on our smart phones that connect us to our customers. GPS tracking tells us when our customers walk in our stores. Some businesses have apps that enable customers to pay for their merchandise with their smart phones. If you aren’t developing an app or some other technology to enhance your customer’s experience, there’s a pretty good chance your competition is. The idea behind customer support isn’t changing. It’s how we go about it that’s changing. And, it’s changing faster than ever. It’s not that each year there is something new in the world of customer service and experience. It’s each month. So, what does all this mean? Adapt and adopt – or be left behind. QUESTION FOR YOU: What is the coolest, latest and greatest technology you’re using to enhance your customer service and the overall customer’s experience? When I was a kid, there were five TV Channels; ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and a local channel. I remember it was a big deal when another independent channel was added – and it needed an additional antenna that attached to the back of the TV. Now there are hundreds of channels. And, we have choices of the type of system or company we want to do business with. We can get our TV via the phone lines, cable, satellite dish and devices that allow you to watch TV via your computer using the Internet. I always smile when my kids say to me they can’t find anything to watch on TV.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken (Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

Well, it appears that business, and specifically customer service and support, is going through a transformation that is not unlike the traditional television of yesteryear. There used to be only two or three ways to communicate with a company when you had a customer service issue; the phone, in-person and written correspondence. Now, like TV, there are many channels the customer can use to communicate with the company, get customer service, purchase merchandise and more. So back to the concept of the evolution of customer service. Most clients I work with recognize that customer service and support has changed. Phone, while still viable, is falling to newer technology. Email and instant-chat are almost oldschool. Who would have thought that “self-help” customer service would be acceptable? Well, it is. Companies have developed websites that make it easy for a customer to find answers to their questions. Taken to another level, some companies have set up “support forums” that are run by their customers to support other customers. Customers helping other customers, what a concept!


That's a moron..... Dean Martin had a hit song many years ago called "That's Amore". Someone adapted it to scary things done by stupid people. Some these stunts had to hurt...

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May, 2014

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Help Clients Prepare for Spring Storms Although it may not feel like it in some parts of the country quite yet, spring is here or just around the corner. The change in seasons from winter to spring can bring with it the dangers of unpredictable and severe weather. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hailstorms, and high wind can have damaging effects on people and property.

4. Create or update your Go Bag. If you have to leave your home in a hurry, would you have the essential items you needed ready to go at a moment’s notice? You can purchase a Go Bag at popular websites like Amazon and eBay. Or you can simply make a list of the items that you need to include and purchase them locally. 5. Have a communication plan. Family members may not be in the same place when a disaster strikes so think through beforehand how you will communicate with each other. Cell phones may not work well after a disaster if cell towers are damaged. Text messaging may have a higher likelihood of getting through. You can also designate a family member who is not in your local area to be your contact person. For those clients within tornado prone areas, Zurich Insurance created a white paper called Five Tips for Every Business to Become Tornado-Aware that is a good resource and provides some good tips on protecting life and property.

One of the ways you can help protect your clients is to remind them of the simple steps they can take to help make sure their property is protected as much as possible. Your organization should also take the steps to make sure your own offices are protected and your staff is ready to help your clients at perhaps their biggest time of need. The following are some steps you can suggest your clients take to help them be ready for spring storms: 1. Review your insurance policy. Update any necessary information such as location addresses, size of the deductible, and the current insured value of both your contents and home. 2. Evaluate your need for flood insurance. Many areas of the country saw an unusually large amount of snowfall this winter and as that snow starts melting, the water has to go somewhere. If it’s your basement, understand that your homeowner’s policy will not pay for that water damage.

Agility Recovery’s has created a Tornado Checklist that will help prepare your organization for the storms. They also created a white paper called 9 Ways to Prepare for Spring Weather with things you can do right now to ensure that your employees and your organization are ready for spring. The insurance policies agents sell provide protection against catastrophic losses. Prevention is the best protection because no one wants to go through the heartache of having to rebuild after a major loss. What have you done to prepare yourself, your clients, and your organization for the upcoming spring storms? Please share your experiences. Thanks so much for reading this issue of TechTips. I look forward to touching base next issue! And remember, always feel free to email me with comments, new ideas or products that have worked for you. I will check them out and spread the word! Steve Anderson, Editor

3. Maintain home repairs. Make sure your home is in tiptop shape by having a local contractor inspect your roof, gutters, and HVAC system for damage or clogging. Make any necessary repairs, and clean air ducts and replace filters. AIANC’s STREET WISE

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May, 2014

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When Is It Legal to Force a Person to Retire? Q&A By Robin Thomas, Managing Editor Is it ever legal to require an employee to retire at a certain age? Find out the limited circumstances when the ADEA allows mandatory retirement. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Q: Can we require employees to retire at a certain age? We have two upper level managers who are approaching 70, and they have become less productive in the last few years. A: As a general rule, employers may not impose a mandatory retirement age on most employees. A mandatory retirement age usually is considered age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). When the ADEA was first passed in 1967, it did limit the age discrimination protections to employees who were between the ages of 40 and 65. Subsequent amendments to the Act increased the upper age limit to 70 and then eliminated it, except for certain employees, discussed below. (Download free Retirement model policy including HR best practices and legal background.)

The ADEA makes two exceptions. One allows a mandatory retirement age for certain executives and high-level policymakers when particular criteria are met. Since this provision is an exemption from the ADEA’s requirements, it is narrowly interpreted and the burden is on you to prove that all of the elements of the exemption have been met. The exemption applies to any employee who is: (1) At least 65 years of age; (2) Employed in a bona fide executive or high policymaking position for the two-year period immediately before retirement; and (3) Entitled to an immediate, nonforfeitable annual retirement benefit from an employer pension, profitsharing, savings, or deferred compensation plan, or any combination of those plans, which equals in the aggregate at least $44,000 per year. According to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations, the exemption for executives does not apply to middle management employees, no matter how great their retirement income. It applies only to top-level employees who exercise substantial executive authority over a significant number of employees and a large volume of business. Continued on page 15


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More Information about AIANC Membership at Similarly, the phrase “high policymaking position” is limited to certain top level employees who have little or no line authority but whose position and responsibility are such that they play a significant role in the development and implementation of corporate policy. The second ADEA exemption allows you to require employees to retire at a certain age if you can show that age is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business.” Like the exemption for certain highly compensated executives, the age BFOQ is limited in scope and application and must be narrowly applied. The EEOC regulations implementing the ADEA indicate that any employer using the BFOQ exemption must prove that: (1) the age limit is reasonably necessary to the essence of the business; and either (2) all or substantially all individuals excluded from the particular job are in fact disqualified; or (3) some of the excluded individuals possess a disqualifying trait that cannot be ascertained except by reference to age. Mandatory retirement at a specified age rarely has been upheld under the BFOQ exemption, though the courts have recognized the BFOQ defense when safety issues are involved. However, you have the burden of proving that age materially affects an employee’s job performance. In addition, you must show that


substantially all older employees are similarly affected or that there is no way, other than basing the decision on age, to determine the capabilities of individual older employees. If you cannot meet either one of these exceptions to the ADEA, you should not impose a retirement age on your employees. Of course, you can take action based on any performance problems as long as you treat your older employees consistently under your policies and procedures. So, for example, if you have a progressive disciplinary policy, you should use it to address older employee performance problems. Normally, you would alert the employee to the specific problem, give an opportunity to improve, warn of the consequences of failing to improve, and then follow up with any appropriate disciplinary action. Just make sure you are not treating your older employees more harshly than younger employees with similar performance problems, or you could face ADEA claims. © 2014 Personnel Policy Service, Inc. All Rights Reserved. HR Matters is a registered trademark of: Personnel Policy Service, Inc. 4965 US Highway 42, Suite 1000, Louisville, KY 40222 Tel: 1-800-437-3735 - Fax: 1-800-755-7011 -

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remedy inconsistencies, simply go to that particular directory or site and edit your data. If we do not find your listing in a business directory, it may be that we could not find your NAP data or that we could not identify NAP data as belonging to you because of NAP inaccuracies. There are circumstances where a site might only post your name and URL, without your address or phone number. This is not considered a true citation. In this case, the report indicates a red X for "not present" even though a partial NAP exists. Competition Walkthrough The Competition Report looks at how visible your company is, compared to your most optimized competition online. The competitors shown here are based on a Google query using the primary keyword used in Google+Local (Google Places). This keyword is typically the most competitive for ranking. By understanding what your competition is doing, you can better determine what needs to be done to catch and outrank them. We analyze the presence of each competitor on the Big 3 search engines and identify which citations are highly related to your area and industry. We identify the most important local directories for your business. We will show you exactly how well each business is optimized, as well as provide additional citation sources where it would benefit you to add your NAP data (Name, Address and Phone #). This report provides a nice snapshot of everything you need to do to start to build an online marketing campaign designed to outrank your competitors.

Run Your Agency’s Free Visibility Report at Local Walkthrough The Local Report analyzes your local listings on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Based on the phone number, we are able to scan and identify listings in Google+Local (Google Places), Yahoo LocaI and Bing Local. Any duplicate listing can affect this score. In addition, we have identified factors that seem to influence rankings. These influences are based on analysis of over 4,000 Local Business Listings in order to understand how to achieve higher rankings for them in the Search Engine Report Pages (SERPS). Using these key factors, we assign a score to each individual section of your report. For example: Is your listing claimed? Do you have 5 categories? Do you have an adequate number of positive reviews to determine whether your listing meets the criteria proven to be important by our expert analysis?

Reputation Walkthrough

***PLUS: we are able to monitor your Google+Local. This is a big plus, because Google+Local is recognized in the industry as being notoriously buggy. Directories Walkthrough The Directories Report shows where your business is listed, how it is listed, and also where you are not listed. The purpose of this report is to identify citation acquisition problems, allowing them to be fixed successfully. Google looks at the consistency of your NAP (Name, Address and Phone #). The more consistent it is, the more trust Google has in your business, and this will typically result in a higher ranking. Creating consistencies across all directories has proven to be difficult, given all the different data aggregators and data entry points in use these days. It is important that your NAP matches exactly across all directories. We have identified any inconsistencies in your NAP by highlighting them in the name column, address column, or phone column. To AIANC’s STREET WISE

The Reputation Report scans several review sites and reports back on those reviews. We look for your business on various search engines, local directories, and review sites; analyze your 5-star reviews on each; display the 10 most recent reviews; report on the overall sentiment from each review site; and then display the average. You can quickly glean important data from this report, which allows you to discover possible reputation management issues and take immediate action to correct them. In addition, this report finds and displays online mentions of your business. These mentions are assigned a "sentiment score." The overall sentiment is displayed in the top section as a summary of all sentiment scores combined. Keyword Ranking Walkthrough The Keyword Ranking tool shows you where your keywords rank on Google, Google+ Local, Yahoo, Yahoo Local, Bing, and Bing Local.

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May, 2014

AIANC Membership has More Advantages! Here’s what you get for only $250.00 per year: Free Disaster Planning Toolkit: At least one in four small businesses that close because of a major disaster never reopen. Here’s a new tool for your agency (& your commercial policyholders). Free Micro-Mobile Site & QR Code Marketing Strategy. Scan this QR Code for a current example. This could be your agency! Free registration to Annual Convention Free Agency’s Online Visibility Report complete with improvement tips If your website looks like this on a Smartphone

It could look like this for Free if you join

Free 30 second Agency Promotional Video. Click here to enjoy the one I created for my brothers’ agency. This could be your agency!

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AIANC's STREET WISE - May 2014  

"Paving the Road to Success"

AIANC's STREET WISE - May 2014  

"Paving the Road to Success"