Jimmy Breslin: "Why, it's an honor"
I watched a documentary about the late writers Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill. I was too young and too distant (my local papers did not often carry their columns) to read their work in their heydays. However, when I later read some of their writings, even when I completely disagreed with their perspectives, I admired their work, especially Jimmy Breslin's writing. I appreciated how he enjoyed fighting for regular people and what was right. I often disagreed with what he thought was "right" but regular people need a voice and he gave them a voice without screeching and with reason. That is to be admired.
The documentary included a line from Breslin, "Why, it's an honor..." in response to why he would go to, seek out, and even fight for what he saw as right, as a need to help people when in reality, he did not have to do anything. He did not get anything from it other than his joy of fighting the authorities.
That line, "Why, it's an honor..." really struck me from a different angle, when considering the fight as just the same as the fight for what is right in insurance. And what is wrong with insurance.
I had a boss a few decades ago whom I detested. He once asked me with a perfectly straight face and true bewilderment, "Why do you have to be honest?" He literally did not see the contradiction. In other words, he did not understand he had crossed an ethical boundary because "dishonest" to him did not mean unethical. It was a bizarre meeting for me, especially after having come from another industry where honesty was prized.
What I see many account managers fighting against, and a reason some agencies cannot keep good account managers, is that they are not being given the opportunity to honestly tell a client, "Why, it's an honor to get you the coverage/service you deserve." Many account managers I have met, and I have met thousands, deep in their hearts genuinely want to help clients get the coverage and the service they know their clients need. When they experience daily corner cutting -- whether because management has decided not to check renewals or turn smaller accounts over to faceless and sometimes unlicensed service centers, or producers who are not being completely straightforward about coverages, they look for work elsewhere.
Whereas in other agencies, "Why, it's an honor to serve you" can honestly be heard in every client communication. I love working with those agencies.
Yet the honest producers who work hard as heck to truly serve, are often beaten by producers who are slicker, somewhat dishonest, and more often than not just incompetent people who possess excessive self confidence relative to their IQ's. Incompetent agents often make sales because clients believe the much lower price that has been offered was derived through strategy rather than a reduction in coverage. In other words, the clients are too ignorant of insurance and coverages to discern the truth. This is not a slam because why would anyone expect lay people to be experts and if they were experts, they probably would not need an agent in the first place. Ignorant consumers plus ignorant agents do not usually result in good coverage solutions, but it can result in significant sales. In fact, I was at a conference recently where someone from private equity declared that this is the perfect environment in which to make a fortune. And, like my former boss, saw absolutely no ethical issue whatsoever.
Therefore, producers, and agents in general, who consider it an Honor to Serve Customers with the right coverages and solutions, must know coverages inside and out and work hard to develop their communication skills so they can convince clients to buy from them even if the price they offer is higher because the coverages are better.
It's an honor for me to advise clients who are working to build a more constructive environment in which insureds get the protection required, an environment in which meritocracy exists within the agencies and carriers with which I'm privileged to work.
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