Category Archives: Blog

Discover How Good Your Website Can Be

We received the following from Jim Mangold III, the President and Tina Pope, the Marketing Manager, over at Mangold Insurance Agency…

Mangold Insurance Website

We approached Thomas H. Wetzel and Associates because we wanted to revamp our website. Tom had helped us with our Facebook page and created our “roadmap” of what we felt our agency was about. We thought he would be a good resource to go to again and the result was exactly what we were looking for!

We liked the Tom’s expertise and knowledge of what independent agencies have to deal with in order to stand out. We wanted a website that personalized our agency and his firm was able to help put our vision to print. We found the experience very positive and rewarding, and were very happy with the outcome of our website!

We would recommend Thomas Wetzel & Associates to independent agencies because they know your time is valuable and will make the process easy for your agency.

Sincerely,

Jim Mangold III, President, Mangold Insurance, Inc. & Tina Pope, Marketing Manager

mangoldInsurance-383x77

Thomas H. Wetzel and Associates redesigned their website presence and have been assisting their marketing efforts. To say that we’re flattered by Jim & Tina’s kind words is an understatement. If you’d like our assistance with your website, contact us!

Pay Attention to Smartphone Security

Pay Attention to Smartphone Security

Digital security concerns related to the safety of computer systems and use of the Internet are a much discussed topic in this Tech Talk column. But what about Smartphone Security?

Now the go-to communications device for most of us, smartphone security risks gets less play for a reason – hacking incidents and breakdowns are infrequent. They do happen, however. And as agents rely on them to do business just as insurance buyers demand, the risks will increase.

Three smartphone security issues:

  1. The first involves the security of the device,
  2. the second covers the app’s security
    and
  3. the third deals with the security of the app’s code.

“Device security is more of a matter of personal choice,” says Matt Aaron, founder of a mobile app for agents, https://goinsuranceagent.com. “Some people lock their phones, others do not. If one does not lock the device, there is the potential that any data on the device can be accessed.”

Agents should be concerned with smartphone security issues.

Mike Howe, senior vice president of product management at Applied Systems, stresses that in many cases, the smartphone does not store data so much as it accesses data that is stored elsewhere.

“It’s important to know the difference,” Howe says. “In our case, we are not storing and delivering information on the phone itself. There is not a database of policy or private information on the device. We are able to securely draw and transmit that information from a secure server and then render it on the phone or tablet. The data is only viewed locally – not stored locally.”

Howe says it’s important for agency management to know which staff members have access to what information through their smartphones.

“System governance is determining information access and safeguarding on who should see what,” he continues. “For example, an agency can provide access to prospect and client information for producers through a mobile app while away from the office. The agency has the option to show just client and prospect information – client policy details, contact information, documentation, recent activities – that is transferred directly from the agency management system. The intent is you want that person to be armed with the exact information that they need in that moment, removing the need to carry paper files or call back to CSRs in the office.”

With regard to security of apps, Aaron says that “if a device is locked, all apps have an additional layer of security in addition to the login an app may require. But many apps do not have a forced or timed logout because it would make accessing the app in a time of need more difficult. But logout and sign-in capabilities are there if a user wants to take advantage of the features. It all comes down to personal choice.”

The last area of concern is security and reliability of an app’s code. In other words, how can you know for sure if an app contains malicious code, whether or not it is intentional?

Apple device users trust Apple to protect them. Android users must rely on third-party software such as “Lookout” to scan the apps as they are being downloaded from the Google Play Store to provide that additional level of protection.

A serious smartphone security app threat surfaced earlier this year from flashlight apps. Many versions request more personal information than necessary. One such app tries, without warning, to take control of the phone by requesting “superuser access.” Once installed, the flashlight app places shortcuts on the home screen, and when tapped, the app triggers prompts to install other apps, which was not good, experts say.

When considering an app to install, Aaron suggests doing simple research to find out the name of the developer and their physical location. If you can’t find that information, consider the app suspicious.

Customer Service Is Just Foreplay

Customer Service Is Not Just Foreplay — for Independent Agents

Jason Cass’ just released book, “Customer Service Is Just Foreplay,” is not just a “must-read” but a “must use” for every independent insurance agent. The book is packed with no-nonsense, practical tips and insights in this digital age. As Jason says, “Consumers are no longer concerned about coming to our offices and meeting our people like they used to be.” The fact is, agents must stay in touch with prospects and current clients using digital tools in the right way. Relying solely on shoe leather and cold-calling is not enough.

Jason Cass is a dynamic speaker, agency owner, and champion for the Agency System.  The book has been praised by many industry leaders and I wholeheartedly add my name to that list.  I am also privileged to have Jason’s endorsement of the Social Media Content Roadmap.  The book is available through Amazon and at http://insuranceforeplay.com

The Best Apps and Why for Independent Agents

There appears to be little dispute among agents about the importance of going mobile, particularly for younger clients who expect it. What’s in doubt, however, is which mobile applications, or apps, make the most sense for agents to use, both for themselves and their clients.

“Too many agents are buying an app just to say they have one,” says Chris Paradiso of Paradiso Insurance, based in Stafford, Conn. “There are so many poorly developed ones and almost none are designed specifically for insurance agents.”

“An app needs to serve both the agent and client,” he says. “It must deliver value or a client will never add it to his or her smartphone. For us, we want to communicate with our clients, to know who has downloaded it and to make it easier for them to do business with us, such as providing insurance cards and the ability to take photos and start the claims process.”

“Too many agents are buying an app just to say they have one.”

“There are so many poorly developed ones and almost none are designed specifically for insurance agent.”

“My criteria for what makes a good app is simple; does it allow me to accomplish something other than simple information lookup,” says Bruce Cochrane of Renaissance Alliance, a consortium based in Wellesley, Mass. “Mobility to me means productivity, so a good app allows me to do more in less time and conduct business transactions at the push of a button. Simple and intuitive – I don’t have time for a manual.”

Paradiso notes that a good app also contributes directly to an agent’s bottom-line.

“Every day a claim isn’t reported the payout increases, and that affects our income,” he says. “The claims reported through our app can occur within minutes, at most an hour. If we call in a claim, that can take three days.”

Ron Berg, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) stressed the need for an app to enhance productivity.

“Carriers have their apps for insureds to file claims and agents have theirs that allow customer access to carriers and limited business transactions,” Berg says. “That’s fine as another iteration of what their websites already offer, but there is a dearth of apps being developed to provide the productivity enhancement sought by agents and consumers.”

Many agree that one app that delivers benefits to both agents and consumers is www.goinsuranceagent.com.

“This app has a great accident data collection and reporting feature that uses many of the features found on a typical smartphone,” says Claudia McClain, founder and owner of McClain Insurance Services of Everett, Wash. “There is also a home inventory option, ability to store dec pages and ID cards.” Some agency management systems can actually download into the app, updating ID cards and decs automatically.

Mobile apps and the importance of mobile-optimizing agency websites was a much-discussed topic at a recent ACT meeting in Tampa, Fla.

“Half of all insurance shoppers start their searches on a smart phone,” Berg says. “If an agency website is not mobile-enabled, two-thirds of them drop off immediately, according to (comScore, 2014). Young agents say their clients rely on the smart phone as a primary means of communication – via app, text, email, and social.”

Last month, ACT also released a report and recommendations from its Customer Experience Work Group. The report includes a listing of mobile apps. (To access the report, visit: www.independentagent.com and then search for ACT Customer Experience Work Group – Recommendations – 2015.)

McClain, who also attended the February conference, said that the consensus among the young agents there focused on the most useful apps, including, in no specific order:
•Evernote (for organizing everything, synching across all platforms, absolutely the top vote getter!) or OneNote
•Hootsuite (for organizing social media)
•Dropbox
•LinkedIn (for contact management)
•Google Maps

Runners up include:
•DocuSign (mobile signatures anywhere)
•Redfin/Zillow (for looking up info on new homes being purchased by clients)
•Amazon (for quick purchase and delivery of office supplies and equipment)
•PdfExpert (document annotation and management

“Apps are a must…for the client and the agent,” says Jason Cass of JDC Insurance Group of Centralia, Ill. “The client will need and demand the ability to gather quotes and the agent will demand it because it is what they need to keep that client.”

This article originally appeared at: www.insurancejournal.com

Prospecting With Social Media – A Missed Opportunity

It’s astounding why more agents do not use social media for prospecting. Every connection developed via social media represents a solid prospect, not a faceless cold call. There is a growing trend in which consumers are more likely to skip browsing the Web (aka Googling) but instead to just visit the sites or platforms they favor. This trend underscores the need for agents to use social media as a critical means to reach out and be “found” on the sites their prospects regularly visit. Agents can speed up those connections by linking with businesses, groups and institutions with which they share a common passion, be it plumbers, jazz or the local schools.

For example, LinkedIn maintains hundreds of discussion groups that cover topics ranging from parenting to poets to photographers. Entire books have been written by agents who find interest groups with which they share a special passion or expertise and then join in the discussion, not to sell overtly but to participate as a “fellow traveler.” Then when an opportunity to demonstrate insurance expertise presents itself, the “fellow traveler” enjoys a powerful credibility.

Accenture, the management consulting, technology services firm, recently came out with a survey that reported that 48% of the respondents said they would consider comments on social media BEFORE making a buying decision. Why then, would any agency consciously ignore one communications tool that one out of every two buyers considers an important factor?