9 Tips on Making a Good "First Impression" to Bind New Business

By Ken Kukral

There is nothing better to hear from a customer than to go ahead and bind the account.  Getting the order is a vote of confidence and trust and means you have met or exceeded the expectation of your customer.

At such an important time, there is no room to slip up and make the customer regret their decision.  This is your time to make a good “first impression” and to cement your new client and agent relationship.  A few tips to consider:

1.   Just like the closing on a mortgage, there is paperwork to be signed.  It is best to get it all together and have it all signed in one sitting.  Many clients are less motivated to sign and return paperwork the longer after the transaction is consummated.  At the time of binding they want to get it all done.

2.   Make sure you have gone through the binding procedures for the carrier or wholesaler you are dealing with.  They all differ.  Make sure you have conveyed to the customer the specific details required for the carrier to bind.  “Subject to” need to be taken seriously since it is possible that the carrier may NOT bind without all of them in hand.  This creates an E&O situation and a bad taste in the customers mind.

3. Payment.  I have a client who gives the potential insured two choices, full payment up front OR a down payment check and a signed finance agreement.  There are NO other options in his mind.  This keeps it clean and does not put him at risk since many policies in the excess and surplus lines market are 25% minimum earned.  This means the agent has to pay, even if the insured doesn’t pay him.  Is it worth the risk?

4.   Have you prepared the client for how things will be handled going forward?  Who to contact for endorsements?  Details of whom to submit claims to?  Many policies lay out specific procedures for claims. Where to go for questions?  Preparing your client will help them more smoothly deal with your office in the future and help with customer satisfaction.

5.   Have you prepared them for the post binding inspection (on most E&S policies this is the way they confirm the underwriting information)?  That loss control recommendations may result and they will have to respond to those recommendations?  What documentation they will need to satisfy the carrier that the recommendations have been completed?

6.   If the policy is auditable,  have you explained to them what the premium basis is?  Have you explained what minimum and deposit means?  How the carrier will handle the audit and how much time they will have to pay it?  Audit time is when many an agent/client relationship “goes south” and never recovers.

7.   Have you discussed that you are attempting to go paperless and that most likely most communications including policy deliver will be done via e-mail?

8. If there IS a snag in binding, let the client know.  Clients tend to think everything is OK and they are good to go unless you let them know otherwise.  Huge E&O issue if you don’t do this.  Having had a $2,000,000 claim (total loss) on an account 2 hours after binding, I know how important this is.  Lucky (smartly) enough I followed binding direction properly and did not have an issue.

9.   Last of all, if you have questions, ask.  There are no stupid questions and anything you don’t understand has the potential for become an “issue” later on.

As I said, the moment of truth is at the time of binding.  A problem here can turn a new client off and make it tough to recover.  Be systematic about it and make sure you take care of the details!

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