"If you educate clients and help them understand the coverages that are needed—and not at just the minimum limits—they see the bigger picture," says independent agent Stephanie Ehman. "The gratefulness that they feel and express when you insure them correctly is worthwhile."
How did you get started at your agency?
Thirty-seven years ago, a friend of mine who worked at the agency got me an interview, and I started as a receptionist. The same year, I obtained my insurance license and was given a full book of business. Today, I'm a risk consultant, team leader and account manager. Every day offers something new and challenging, which has kept it fun and rewarding. The agency is very family oriented, so it doesn't just feel like a “job" to me.
Why auto insurance?
Auto insurance is one of those necessary evils. You hear many clients say, “I've had it my whole life, but I've never had to use it." If you educate clients and help them understand the coverages that are needed—and not at just the minimum limits—they see the bigger picture. The gratefulness that they feel and express when you insure them correctly is worthwhile.
Challenges in the auto insurance market?
Increasing rates have been a challenge, especially when trying to explain it to clients. You can use everything you know as an agent—from the increased cost of cars and their repairs to the shortage of available parts—to help them understand, but in the end, it boils down to price for many clients.
Another big challenge this year is trying to insure the Kia and Hyundai models due to the increased number of thefts. Many companies have stopped writing them until you send pictures and proof of the factory recall. This delays policy issuance or even just obtaining a quote. I am looking forward to seeing how that problem is solved.
Advice for a fellow agent in the auto insurance market?
I would tell them to always educate themselves. In the beginning, they may think it is only about the 40 hours of class work to obtain their state license, but there is so much more education out there to help an agent be a better protector of someone's assets and livelihood. Also, speak to the prospect or client in ways they can understand and not just insurance lingo—it's not all about the sale.
Favorite success story?
I educated a client about why higher limits of liability and an umbrella liability policy were necessary. A few years later, she had just lost her job and was distraught and distracted. She didn't see the stop sign and pulled out in front of a semi-truck, which tipped onto another car. Her liability was enough to cover the semi, his load and eight months of injuries to the claimant. She called me every month for the next couple of years thanking me because she was able to keep her home because of the insurance coverage.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.