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Like a Good Neighbor

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There is a popular perception that bloggers are all angry, ranting miscreants. I must admit that I do my share of complaining when I have a bad experience. Yet, I appreciate bloggers who consistently share positive examples of service. And so, let me give a shout out to a great experience I had with my insurance agent yesterday.

I have most all of my personal insurance policies with my local State Farm agent, Kevin Van Wyk. Between home, cars, recreational vehicles, life insurance and personal property, we have about eight policies that Kevin manages for us in representing State Farm. I received a letter from the folks at State Farm corporate stating that because of our college-aged daughter's gruesome list of recent driving mishaps, State Farm would not renew our policy for a car on which she's listed as a driver. Upon a little investigation, I then discovered that the underwriters at State Farm were going to cancel ALL of our auto insurance policies (including the policies for me and my wife) because of a list of issues related to our daughter. As you can imagine, this made no sense to me and I immediately began preparing my threats. I would take my business elsewhere if State Farm was intent on making such a shortsighted decision for a loyal customer.

  • I called my agent, Kevin Van Wyk to protest. As it happened, at the moment I called, he was already on the phone talking to the underwriter about their decision to drop us (Lesson: Anticipate your customer's question/issue before they ask/call).
  • Kevin explained that the underwriter he spoke with quickly understood that the issues on the report were all related to our daughter and that they had worked together to find a logical solution for us. "State Farm will be more than happy to continue to insure you and your wife and your cars, but we'll need to exclude your daughter and her car moving forward," he explained (Lesson: Focus on the solution, and represent your company and the situation in a positive light).
  • Kevin then added, "I would be happy to get on line and look at your daughter's options and try to find the best solution for her." (Lesson: Go the extra mile.) His time and effort to help our daughter find insurance would not make him any money, but the gesture and keeping us as loyal customers will profit him in the long run).

Our agent did an exemplary job of navigating what could have been an ugly, customer service nightmare and turning it into a tangible reason for my wife and I to remain his loyal customers. I know that I could likely find slightly cheaper rates elsewhere. I might be able to "save 15 percent or more on car insurance" if I wanted to pick up the phone and look for a deal, but I have no interest in making that call. Kevin takes good care of us, and he doesn't work for those other companies.

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Not so fast, Tom. Why did they cancel the policies? Why didn't your agent know about it ahead of time and work his magic without you even knowing about it? Why is it ok to drop a young person from a policy? Isn't that why they call it insurance? I'm sorry, I think it's still crappy service.

Maybe I should clarify, Claire. Because, I must respectfully disagree with you.

State Farm did not cancel the policy in the middle of the term, but advised us that they were choosing not renew the policy after the current term ran out. You can argue that this was a poor business decision, but as a business person, I understand this. Based on my daughters driving record, it was not an unreasonable business decision. If the company chose to continue to insure every young person who had proven they were a high risk and cost them more money than they'd received in premiums, then they would have to pass the cost on to all of the other safe drivers.

I can't blame my agent for not working his magic before I knew about it. If anything, State Farm corporate should have clued him in and discussed it with him before they sent the letter. That wasn't his fault. He did the best he could with what he was given.

While I grant that you may argue the practices and policies of State Farm corporate and underwriting, my post was about how my local agent played the hand that he was dealt. I still contend he played a winning hand.

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