Breaking Up is Hard to Do
Have you ever wondered if you’re able to just “break up” with a client?
Are there clients whose name you dread seeing on the caller ID? Or those clients that you’re constantly trying to follow up with? What about those “oh, I forgot to mention” clients who love to give you important information at the last minute? Is it ok to tell them to find another agent?
In short, yes. But, as with any respectable breakup, you should be mindful of your timing, your language, and how it may impact the other party. (You don’t want them to ruin your chances of other relationships, right?)
What are some reasons why an agent may want to consider ending a relationship with a customer? Our partners at the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas published some helpful advice on this subject. An agency has the right to request nonrenewal of a policy for its own reasons, which may have nothing to do with company underwriting guidelines. For example:
The agency may wish to target a particular market segment through minimum standards with regard to account size, limits of liability, or the purchase of optional coverages.
In an effort to maintain a profitable book of business and maximize its opportunity to benefit from company profit-sharing arrangements, the agency may impose underwriting guidelines that are more stringent than the company's guidelines.
An agency, particularly in a small town, may be aware of an insured's personal reputation or characteristics, such as heavy drinking, that could increase the exposure to loss.
The insured may display disruptive behavior in the agent's office or be discourteous or even abusive to agency employees.
Here are a few simple things to keep in mind if you’re looking to end a customer relationship.
Timing: Send a notice to the insured well in advance of their renewal. This provides them with ample time to find a new agent.
Language: The notice should provide language regarding the reasons for ending the relationship. Perhaps the insureds needs may be better met by another agent.
Resources: Advise the client that they can continue with the same carrier by obtaining an agent of record letter. You may also want to provide the client with loss runs and a schedule of policies to make their transition easier.
There are also some internal business practices you may want to consider before you decide to end any relationships.
Develop internal criteria to help determine what customers are a “good fit” for the agency and would be better serviced elsewhere. Set standards for your book of business and then follow those standards.
Create a letter that can be used as a standard template for “referring” clients that don’t meet the criteria the agency has set.
Consider how an unhappy customer may be handled and the potential reputational risk. Is the individual in influential circles or a position to easily influence a large group of people?
Take steps to consider why the customer may not be profitable to the agency and consider ways to make that customer profitable instead of terminating the relationship.
Neil Sedaka said it best when he told us that “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”. An agent should not take relationships lightly but should consider the ideal book of business that will keep them profitable.
If you’re looking to end relationships but are worried about the legal ramifications due to past E&O claim activity or for any other reason, you should seek legal advice from your agency’s legal counsel.