During college, I interned for a while within my state insurance fraud unit. I was assigned to a seasoned investigator who identified ‘interview skills’ as my weakness. He ran me all over the state interviewing witnesses and criminals alike. I learned that active listening is the most important factor.
However, the agency and underwriting side of the house should always be on their toes. The face to face every day conversations divulge a lot about a potential client or an existing customer. Unfortunately, we cannot meet with all the clients all the time.
Many carriers, Health, Life and Property-Casualty alike have phone sales and service divisions. As a phone representative, you learn active listening and using your resources are key to conducting an interview.
For instance, as a phone representative, I had a client I was signing up for auto and home insurance. Every time I mentioned his wife or asked for her name and information he became extremely upset and anxious to the point of vulgarity and threats. Since he gave no reason for his behavior, once I had him calmed down, I was able to run a basic asset check in the household which revealed his wife’s information.
Of course upon doing this, I was able to discern there was a divorce in the household and that my perspective client also had several arrests and motor vehicle violations. Based on my company guidelines, I was then able to deny the policy application. Not all cases are this cut and dry.
On the other hand, as a phone representative, I received a call from a couple wanting to insure a new home they had just purchased. According to them, they had never owned a home before. I could hear dogs and young children in the background, so I wondered why they were just now purchasing a new home.
I obtained a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report which showed little information, so I requested a risk report, thereby sending out an experienced adjuster/home inspector to look over the house and potential clientele.
That report revealed they had been renting the home for two months, but had determined to buy it. The report also disclosed the couple were both in the military and had just moved back to the United States after four years abroad. That turned into an exceptional risk.
One last issue to consider is your Insurtech or SAAS companies who do not interview, but instead utilize behavior, CLUE, and municipal information to formulate a policy and premium. Maybe they will prove to be better than interview skills — maybe not.
There is no doubt that as sales people, insurance agents have a leg up on the influence and persuasion; however, that may lead to a poor book of business. Selling insurance is not like selling a car, there are guidelines and restrictions that have to be honored. It is always best to take your time, interview your clients, work with your underwriter, and do your research before writing that business.