John Bachmann, vice president of client relations at
Norwood Insurance in Groveland, Massachusetts, is a claims leader, author and a self-professed insurance nerd.
Vice President of Client Relations
Twenty-two years ago, John Bachmann was head manager of the University of Massachusetts Amherst women’s basketball team. Life was good—he had plans to be an assistant coach for a Division 1 level women’s basketball team. But when the head coach’s contract was not renewed, his life was completely upended.
Bachmann didn’t know what to do. “When I moved back home, a friend of mine, who was working in the mailroom of an insurance company, said, ‘Why don’t you sign up with this temp agency, and we might work in the mail room together,’” he recalls. “As fate would have it, that temp agency got me into that insurance company, but they got me a position with the claims department.”
Fast forward 22 years, Bachmann is known as a claims leader, author and a self-professed insurance nerd.
What do you enjoy most about working in insurance?
Insurance is a people business, and I love developing those relationships. I worked in the claims field for the first 17 years of my insurance career, and some of the worst conversations I’ve ever had have been telling people they don’t have coverage. Now, I can prevent those conversations from happening. I can have conversations and say I’m tacking on this coverage because I’ve seen this happen.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
I share the same problems that most other agents are having right now with the way we’re doing business and customers’ changing preferences. The way that they want to interact with us is changing, and we have to change with them. However, we still have to be mindful of those folks that don’t want to change.
What advice would you give other independent agents?
As agents, we don’t interact with carrier claims teams—and that’s bad. Establishing those relationships with your carrier partner claims folks is vital because then you can understand who’s best suited for your client. That’s one of the first things we should be thinking about.
One of the things I used to speak about at agent conferences was getting staff to work remotely—COVID-19 took care of that. The other thing I talked about was payments and how if you're not working with a company with an e-payment policy and you're not taking electronic payments there's something wrong with your agency. That was shortsighted on my part because I was an outsider telling people they had been doing something wrong.
When I joined Norwood Insurance in August and I started seeing the people coming in and paying in cash—they wanted the personal interaction. They come in week after week and they want that. Who am I to tell them they are wrong and they should be paying with a card? They are coming in here for the community aspect and, as agents, we are and should be a big part of our local communities.
How can independent agents enhance their customer service experience?
You always have to start with the customer. Let's think about the client's journey before they even meet us and try to understand that journey. Always focus on the client's journey and then make changes to your processes from there.
What tips do you have for independent agents looking to start vlogging or video marketing?
The biggest tip that I've ever received was to just do it. Just start recording. We're not talking full production videos, but the ones where you jump on your phone and you just start talking. Just hit the record button and send it out. Don't watch it because you're going to see yourself and try to change it. When you're sitting across the table from a client, you don't get to pull back those “ums," right? So just send it out. The first few are not going to be very good and not many people are going to see them either. Just understand that with each one that you record it is going to get better.
What books would you recommend independent agents to read?
My book! “Successful Adjuster's Playbook." But that's a claims focused book. Because insurance is relationship-driven, I try to think back to the old classics, like Stephen Covey. We need to understand how to interact with other individuals and how to work best with them. And what better way to start is with people like Stephen Covey or John Maxwell. I would start there, and then obviously go for “Successful Adjuster's Playbook" second.
I would also suggest “The 8 Characteristics of the Awesome Adjuster" by Carl Van. He talks about the important interpersonal skills that are necessary when dealing with people going through the worst parts of their life. This might be a good crossover book for agents to understand what their claims people should be doing to provide the best service to their clients.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.