From the Front Lines: Personal Auto


Sally Fabre

Owner and President
Agape Community Ins. Agency, Inc.
Aloha, Oregon

How did you get started at your agency?

I founded the agency in 2003. It is first an independent insurance agency, but second, a personal ministry. My passion is serving my community in any way I can and being a resource to help people. I’ve been in the insurance industry since I was 17 years old and have worked for various insurance companies, including Safeco Insurance.

Why focus on personal auto?

It is one of the main insurance products most individuals need to purchase in a household. Building a quote is a great time to educate them and find out more about them and their family. That builds trust, which allows an easy way to offer additional lines of coverage.

Biggest personal auto changes?

When I started in the industry, I rated from a manual. You only had to ask a few questions to rate the policy. You knew how the premium was built, which made it easy to explain the price to a prospect or client. Now, with computers calculating the premium, it is very difficult to explain the pricing. I call it "roulette rating." You enter the data and spin the wheel!

Tracking devices are another area that is changing auto insurance pricing. Each company now has a device or app that allows the client to track their driving habits. You just hope and pray that a client’s rates don't go up based on what is found out with these devices. Some clients don't like to feel like Big Brother is watching them so promoting the option is a balancing act.

Biggest personal auto challenges?

Direct online quoting and policy issuance is one of the biggest challenges and is one that can hurt the industry image. Customers who are quoting online are only looking at the price and don't understand the coverages. If they experience an accident, they often suffer because their limits weren't high enough to cover the loss or their out of pocket expense is much more than they can afford.

Another challenge is competing with our own appointed companies who offer lower rates. Competition between our own companies shouldn't be an issue, but it is. I've lost clients at renewal time due to my client’s ability to quote online direct.

Other challenges include getting all members of a household listed on the policy. With many split households, it can be a challenge to get this information. And then many choose not to list younger drivers until they are discovered. Also, with clients using their personal cars to work for the likes of Uber, Lift, DoorDash, and Grubhub, coverage gaps are a big concern.

Future of personal auto?

With rates increasing due to distracted driving and credit scores being used in the rating process, I predict there will be more uninsured drivers because people simply can’t afford it anymore. Clients are already being overwhelmed by the rising price of rent, healthcare and food. That means car insurance is a huge moral and financial dilemma for some people. Also, I believe it will be a long time before everyone is using a driverless car, which would eliminate the need for auto insurance.

Personal auto advice for a fellow agent?

Build relationships. People are hungry to do business with a person who cares and will take the time to make sure they understand what is being sold to them. Also, don't be afraid to handle the more challenging customers, such as people who have had their coverage canceled by the carrier. I enjoy working on those accounts because they sense that you care and refer others.

Favorite personal auto success story?

I'll never forget the day a prospect called asking a lot of detailed questions about the companies I worked with, what was covered and how good the claims service was—she went on and on. Her tone of voice was so intimidating that told her I couldn't work with her. I went to lunch and decided I'd call her back and see if we could meet face to face instead.

That afternoon, we met at her home. I found out she had a distinct lack of trust in the industry and had concerns about finding a good auto insurance company. Years later, she was in a very bad accident, which ended up totaling her car. She was so upset because she had just paid cash for it and she knew she would not be completely reimbursed. She decided to submit a claim through her insurer instead of the other party’s. To her surprise, she came out ahead and found the same car with better options.

Will Jones is IA senior editor.