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How to End Telephone Price Shopping

Author: VU Faculty


“I recently purchased an insurance agency that has a mix of both standard and nonstandard clients and an overall of 80% personal lines and 20% commercial lines. The agency has been in business for almost 50 years and has been primarily a nonstandard auto agency for a majority of those years. My goal is to bring the agency forward into a multi-line, multi-policy agency with an eye towards a more rounded 60% personal lines (standard only) and 40% small and mid-sized commercial book of business.

“One of my biggest hurdles thus far has been the call volume for price quotes over the phone. We receive nearly 80 calls per day wanting a quote over the phone. Out of that, we are learning that only 1 in 10 calls are from someone that would be qualified as a standard lines client. The rest are non-standard auto price shoppers. We are having to spend a good bit of resources answering phones instead of cross-selling and providing service to our A & B clients.

“What can I do to implement a strategy to weed out these price shoppers so that our personal lines agency staff can focus on cross-selling the standard customers we already have and to focus on acquiring the few qualified risks that call in? Is there a particular script/recording to use stating that we no longer offer price quotes over the phone? What would be my best solution?”

Answer?Assuming that there is no law in your state that requires you to provide telephone quotes, we ran this by the VU faculty and got the responses below.

Faculty Response:

Here’s one reply followed by a couple of practical “objections” and replies to the objections:

Agency: “Thanks you for calling us for a quotation. While we formerly provided telephone quotations, our experience is that the best combination of price and value are achieved for your benefit when we have the opportunity to sit down with you and make a complete assessment of the risks of loss that you face and then develop a comprehensive plan that will allow you to have all of your coverages placed in a one stop shop for your benefit.”

Caller: “Can you just give me an estimate of how much it will be?”

Agency: “The rating for automobile insurance has actually become very complicated and so it is not possible to give you just an estimate that would be reliable.””

Caller: “You mean you are REFUSING to provide me a telephone quotation?”

Agency: “We would like to have your business but we are unfortunately indeed unable to provide you a telephone quotation. We appreciate your understanding. Would you like to schedule an appointment?”

Caller: “You people really need to get a life. Lots of other agents will give me a quotation over the phone.”

Agency: “Well, I’m glad to hear that you have other alternatives that will perhaps serve you on your terms at this time. Our new focus is to make sure that you have a good outcome at the time of a claim and that is the reason for our policy position regarding telephone quotations.

This general area is my forte having built an agency over 40 years upon the value concept. The above are just warm-ups for me. There are a thousand ways to convert to a value based agency and the above will give you a start on how to shut down the telephone wasted time.

Faculty Response:

Please go to our website, to our archives and search for “Asset Protection Model of Relationship Selling.” It is made to respond to your exact question by stopping useless quoting. In our personal lines agencies who have adapted and moved from the Quote/Price Model of sales, any caller requesting a quote is invited in for a consultation with one of our representatives to make sure the prospect is properly protected. As you can imagine most people will not agree to this since their goal is simply to drive a quote to see if they have a good deal now or if they should jump to your (or someone else’s) policy until their next renewal, something you probably don’t want to do anyway….Those who come into your office are good potential clients.

Faculty Response:
If you would like some assistance in developing the agency, please give me a call. I will provide this one thought, you cannot convert a nonstandard to a standard…you will need to deal with both. I invite your conversation.

Faculty Response:
What a great question. The short answer is ‘YES’, you can definitely weed out the not-so-serious buyers. First of all, you should make sure that the messaging sent by the previous owner is eradicated. Make sure there is nothing out there in the public domain that says “call for a free quote” or “click here to get a free quote.” This sends the message that price is all that matters, and we know independent agents can’t win that war. Besides, no one actually charges for quotes, so the use of the word “free” is somewhat disingenuous.

Next, come up with a brief list of questions for your receptionist to ask “prospects.” Four or five questions should do, and they can do an initial qualifying, such as:

1)     How did you hear about our agency?

2)     Who is your current agent/company?

3)     How long have you been with them?

4)     When you chose them, what was that decision based on?

5)     Other than price, is there a reason you are thinking of leaving them?

If you get the “wrong” answers, the receptionist can simply say, “It seems as though you are looking for a lower price for your insurance, and frankly we have found that our customers end up spending even more money when they buy from us because we are focused on tailoring their insurance program to meet their financial objectives. I’m happy to transfer you to one of our personal insurance specialists who will spend about 30 minutes determining if what we have to offer is a good option for you.” That should put an end to the price-only shopper since they know it should NEVER take more than 15 minutes to save them 15%!

Faculty Response:
GREAT question and one I deal with all the time but it is not a quick email answer so if the questioner would like to give me a call, I would be happy to talk with him/her.

Faculty Response:
This will be a long process to make the transition to a more professional approach.

Remove ** ALL** advertising in the public domain that allows the buyer to perceive you as a non-standard market. When callers request a quote, inquire as to what they desire, such as an FR bond, or the lowest limits you will offer are 100/300 for example. Changing the mindset will take time but the rewards will produce the dividends you are seeking. Advise that you no longer accept late payments thru an afterhours mail slot…this would also include not accepting payments for those markets by the agency staff. You risking and accepting a potential E&O risk as THEIR rules do not bend for late payments! Finally, you could require that they must make an appointment for such a request. This will then determine their desire for a professional client for your new business model.

The alternative is to open a second shop where you would cater to the buy-here/pay-here mentality. This can be very lucrative when managed properly.

Last Updated: July 27, 2016​

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