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From the Front Lines: Personal Auto

"Auto insurance is often the first product that brings people into our agency," says Brittany Hardin, independent agent. "If I can find a balance between offering coverage that is appropriate at an affordable premium, the other lines of business will usually follow."
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From the Front Lines: Personal AutoBrittany Hardin

Personal Lines Support Agent

Flowers Insurance Agency

Dothan, Alabama

How did you get started at your agency? 

I have a friend who knew of an opening in their personal lines department and thought this agency would be a perfect fit for me. I took their advice and scheduled an interview to get more information. It turns out my friend was right!

Why personal auto insurance? 

Since I write all types of personal lines products, auto insurance is just part of the bundle. However, auto insurance is often the first product that brings people into our agency. If I can find a balance between offering coverage that is appropriate at an affordable premium, the other lines of business will usually follow. 

Biggest changes in the auto insurance industry?

The use of technology is continually on the rise. It has become common for companies to use predictive analytics to accurately rate auto policies, offer smart phone apps to manage policies on a day-to-day basis, and encourage the use of telematics programs to track driving habits. Customers now have the ability to access policy documents, make payments and even file claims right at their fingertips.

Biggest challenges?

Again, the use of technology. All of these great new tools have significantly decreased the need for human interaction. Not only has the local agent been somewhat replaced by a smart phone app, but within just a few minutes customers can go online and shop rates from several other companies. Without face-to-face communication, it is extremely hard to maintain customer loyalty.

Future trends in personal auto? 

I expect companies will continue to expand self-service capabilities. I have noticed that very few of my younger customers prefer to handle business over the phone—most of them would rather email or even send a text message. However, if they could conduct simple transactions on their own, that would be most preferred.

Methods of communication are certainly evolving and companies have already begun taking steps to adapt. For example, most now have a chat feature available on their website so that customers can get an instant response to questions without ever having to make a phone call.

Advice for fellow agents?

Always follow up. Follow up on the new business quotes you send, follow up on renewals for existing customers, and especially follow up on all of the little things in between. Making a mental note of weddings, new babies, retirements and more really goes a long way in building and maintaining customer loyalty. It's a great way to set yourself apart as more than just the person who writes insurance, but as someone who truly cares.

Favorite success story? 

There is one customer I will always remember. He came into our office wanting a quote on auto insurance, like several other people that day, but his story was unique. At almost 50 years old, he had just purchased his first vehicle. He knew nothing about insurance, liability limits, or deductibles. He seemed to be a little bit overwhelmed with the terminology so before we finalized his policy, he gave me the opportunity to sit down and explain what everything meant, line by line.

He was so appreciative that I took the time to educate him on the policy language and offer coverage that was appropriate to his needs. He referred every friend and family member he had to me so that I could sit down with them too. He saw value in what I was doing and helped me realize how important it is to take the extra time when needed. We both learned a lot that day.

Olivia Overman is IA content editor.