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Restoration contractors know that they must market their services to insurance adjusters, creating healthy working relationships that help their companies grow and become profitable.
What we often forget about are the insurance agents, who typically receive the initial telephone call when a loss occurs. As contractors, we need to change the way we look at marketing our services.
Let''s take a closer look at the insurance industry as a whole, and see if it makes sense to expand our marketing to both adjusters and agents alike.
Have you noticed how many insurance commercials are being shown on television these days? There is actually a war going on between the insurance industries. There is one side, the Internet insurance industry, and the other, the traditional insurance agent (State Farm, Allstate, etc).
The Internet side is telling you to give them 15 minutes and they will save you 15 percent, and that you don''t need to have a personal agent. They will save you money and you can do it all online. Interestingly enough, Allstate bought out Esurance, an Internet insurance company.
The traditional side of the insurance industry tells you that you must have an agent. The "big three" educating us is Farmers Insurance, Allstate and State Farm. You can probably remember all their jingles.
So what does all this have to do with marketing to agents?
What agents fear
Agents are afraid of Internet insurance wars. For example, when was the last time you went to a travel agent to book your airline tickets, rental car and hotel? We can do everything ourselves on the Internet.
The insurance agent knows that if they lose a customer to the Internet insurance world, more than likely they will never get them back and they will lose that customer forever. So it is very important to the agents to keep their clients happy.
And, because they want to keep their clients happy, they have to deliver a service that can''t be found with Internet insurance companies. You can capitalize on this.
I have been in the restoration industry for more than 21 years, and during that time I gained a perspective view from both the restoration side and the insurance side.
For the last two years, I have been providing continuing education credit (CECs) classes for the insurance industry, and I have asked specific questions with responses that will benefit your marketing campaigns.
Competing with vendor lists
One of the comments that I always hear from restoration companies is that they are told by insurance agents, "I can''t refer your restoration company right now until you are on our approved vendor list."
So I conducted surveys and more than 70 percent of insurance agents — even from major insurance companies that work with national restoration franchises — have told me that they could refer any restoration company if they knew them and liked them.
So I asked them, "If you can refer any company you want to, why do you say the restoration company has to be on a vendor list?"
The answer they provided me was interesting. But before we get to that, we have to look at it from the side of the agent.
Insurance agents get sales reps from restoration companies, auto glass and auto body companies every week, every month and every year. So imagine in your company that you had three different industry sales representatives coming into your office wanting to get business from you — how would you feel? You would get irritated, and you would make sure your office manager, secretary or whoever watches the front door makes sure they don''t get through.
That is… unless you trusted them. That is the key. Insurance agents saying, "You must be on our vendor list before we can recommend your company" is simply a way to keep the sales reps away. The fact is they do have the ability to refer you if they want to.
The power of the agent
Do agents carry any power over the claim? Can they help you get paid faster? Can they refer you more claims in the future?
The answer is yes to all three questions, let''s find out how and why.
One of my friends is a trainer for adjusters for one of the largest insurance carriers, and I had asked him one day, "Who has more power over a claim… an agent or an adjuster?" For decades, the restoration industry never looked at agents as the one with some power over a claim. So you can imagine I was surprised when my friend said, "The agent has a lot of power over a claim."
Now, this does not mean the adjuster does not have a say or power over the claim. No. This was just a different perspective of the claim process. For decades, the restoration industry never looked at agents as the one with some power over a claim.
Rethink your strategy
Here is a synopsis of a real-life claim situation.
A restoration contractor called and told me that he had completed a water restoration job. The customer was happy and the agent was happy. He had saved the insurance company more than $10,000 because he was able to save quite a bit of the contents. During the process, he had kept in touch with the agent so the agent knew the customer was completely satisfied.
It was a win-win situation. But when the restoration contractor submitted his invoice, the adjuster denied $3,000 in special drying equipment fees.
He wanted to know what to do. Should he fight the adjuster? Should he try to collect that $3,000 from the customer?
I then suggested, "You need to call the agent and just tell her that you don''t think that the customer had the right insurance coverage."
When he did call the agent and made that comment, the agent stated, "Why do you think my customer did not have the right coverage? I''m the one that put the policy together." The contractor said, "Because when I submitted my bill to the adjuster, he stated that he was not going to pay for some of my special drying equipment. This equipment assisted me in drying the home faster than usual and this is the same equipment that helped me in saving you $10,000 in replacing the kitchen cabinets."
After the agent heard what had happened, she told the contractor that she would call him back later that day. In just 15 minutes, the adjuster called the contractor and told him the $3,000 in drying equipment fees was going to be paid and the check was being put in the mail.
Does the agent have power over the claim? You can bet your business on it.
Stressful events and a marketing opportunity
There was a study that stated the three most stressful events in a person''s life are cancer, taxes and remodeling their home.
Now, in my opinion, when a customer has gone through a fire or a flood in their personal home, that is more stressful than remodeling their home.
That homeowner planned to get a new kitchen or new addition. However, nobody plans on going through a traumatic event like a fire or a major flood in their home or business.
So here is your special marketing tip for your company.
Once the customer that had gone through their stressful event and they are back to pre-existing condition, send them a bouquet of flowers but do not put your company name on the card. You need to put the agent''s name on the card.
The reason we do this is so that the agent will get the special appreciative call from the customer/homeowner. So who received all the credit for a job well done? You got it, the agent!
But you inform the agent and let them know that you sent their customer a bouquet of flowers on their behalf, because you wanted to thank them for the mitigation job (regardless if they referred you or not) and look forward to future business together.
Who do you think the agent will want to refer mitigation or fire jobs in the future? That''s right — your company.
Remember, if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.
John Otero has 21 years'' experience in the restoration industry and is the national TES sales manager. Otero is a CEC approved instructor for agents and adjusters in the United States and Canada. He is a speaker at various industry events, including the Planning To Win symposium by Interlink Supply. For more information, e-mail him at John.Otero@tesDryingSystem.com or call (727) 657-1563. You can connect with Otero on LinkedIn and Facebook.