The floodwaters that recently raged in and around Boulder, Colo., underscored the value of emergency supplies, well-trained first responders and a good sump pump.
However, they also spotlighted the value of a good insurance agent — and how that can sometimes get lost on consumers enthralled with price comparisons.
“One of the problems that we face in trying to educate our clients is that the industry as a whole has done a lot to commoditize our product,” said Doug Bollman of the Boulder-based Taggart Insurance. “Oftentimes the education we put out there is … tossed aside and people are more concerned in many cases with their premium and saving five dollars here or ten dollars there versus really understanding the protection we’re trying to put together for them.”
Nothing works better than disaster to prod a client into thoroughly reading a policy — but agents say that may be too late. And if the consumer shopped online for the coverage — or glazed over an agent’s presentation while waiting for the bottom line — some crucial details and considerations could have been overlooked. That can cause friction at claim time.
“A lot of times people think that (the insurance companies) should pay” just because the customer has paid the premiums, said Doug Grande, a certified work comp advisor at Taggart. Agents really have to educate “clients that this is a legal contract you are signing it’s not just a loaf of bread that you are buying. You really need to pay attention and work with your agent and understand the coverage that you purchased.”
In a commoditized environment that education can get lost and insureds can find themselves thinking they have apples in a cart is full of oranges. “That’s one of our struggles,” said Grande.
Julie Metish, who manages Taggart’s personal lines said that the human element that an agent can bring is also very important when catastrophe calls. It’s good “just being able to just walk people through the process (of filing claims, working with adjusters or even wading into FEMA bureaucracy),” Metish said. “People appreciate having someone local, that they know” to lean on.
That, of course, can be a two-way street.
“By the end of the day most days (during and after the historic flooding) we all felt like we could probably cry just hearing the devastation from our clients,” said Taggart’s Tamara McGrew. “It’s heart wrenching.”
Added Metish: “It has been a very emotional week. A very stressful week.”