Expert Commentary

Use Content To Serve Consumers as an Expert Resource

To contrast our greater value with those working to commoditize our business, we've recently examined the importance of demonstrating to consumers how protection varies among different personal insurance policies and clearly defining the "something more" a risk adviser provides. In this third and final installment on providing consumers a more valuable client experience, we examine the need to also serve consumers as an expert resource by providing helpful content to enhance their protection from many personal risks.


Personal Risk Management
February 2015

As personal risk advisers, we know our true value to consumers is far greater than functioning solely as an intermediary to procure insurance coverage. To broaden our positive impact, we have previously examined how to help consumers reduce their exposure to many risks through the many risk management services available by a select group of insurers ("Personal Risk Management Services: More Than Just Insurance"). Meanwhile, if we rely only on the risk management services provided by insurers to add value, at least some consumers will rightly question who is providing them with value.

Given how essential it is to personally deliver value that enhances the client experience, risk advisers need to also provide quality risk management advice and services from other credible sources. For inspiration on how to do so, some readers may recall that, before the Internet evolved to become a virtual and universal information resource, many relied on reference librarians to help us locate almost any information that was needed. Real reference librarians, the ones who worked in buildings called libraries, selflessly served the public as expert resources on all manner of information.

Expanding our role to also serve as expert resources on managing personal risk, we are ideally positioned to direct consumers to information that can help them better protect their families and assets from a wide range of personal risks. Are we consistently doing this with skill and passion?

Helping consumers understand that insurance only enables them to transfer specified risks provides risk advisers the perfect opportunity to introduce fresh ideas to help those we serve avoid or reduce their exposure to many different risks. Risk advisers who take this extra step should be fortified knowing they are providing a differentiated value that consumers are not expecting or receiving from those peddling insurance as a commodity. To examine the topics on which a risk adviser can become an expert resource, simply consider the many personal risks that can be reduced when consumers are better informed on how to do so. Surely all readers have a process to provide consumers with information and guidance on how to reduce a large number of personal risks. To assess whether your organization's process to collect, store, and distribute such content can be further enhanced, readers should ask at least these few questions:

  • Is there a process to collect and store valuable risk management information so that it can be easily retrieved and efficiently distributed by all who serve clients?
  • Are all staff members who advise clients aware of the information?
  • Is there an opportunity to expand upon or improve the quality of the information that has been collected?
  • Have all service staff members been trained to turn a client's service request into an opportunity to provide valuable risk management guidance?
  • Is there an opportunity to make this information available as a service to online visitors?

Organize Content So It Can Be Found and Distributed by All

There are a remarkable number of "personal risk management" topics that are ideal for providing consumers with valuable content to help them better understand and manage their personal risks. Among the challenges in having so much content is deciding how best to collect, organize, and store it for easy retrieval and distribution. Of course, when distributing documents published by any third party, it is essential to do so with the full consent of the publisher and with clear attribution. Although most agencies have shared drives to file commonly used documents, it can be challenging to distribute third-party content with clear attribution and the full consent of the publisher.

Since consistently executing this step can be quite involved, consider the greater ease of collecting and distributing content by providing hyperlinks to valuable online content. This approach is not also without challenges. While most agencies designate a preferred Internet browser for storing online content, very few have developed uniform folders in their Internet browser to store and clearly catalogue Internet content for easy distribution. Developing an approach to organize online content in a consistent and shared format so it can be located easily by all who serve consumers is essential. Once the information is properly organized, the ease of copying and pasting hyperlinks into email correspondence cannot be overstated, and this is very well received by most consumers.

Below are examples of online content that provides consumers with helpful information to better understand and manage a variety of personal risks and enable risk advisers to provide a differentiated and more valuable client experience.

Driving Safety

The most common question risk advisers receive from parents with new teenage drivers concerns the cost of insurance coverage. How much?! Providing parents with third-party information that explains the factors for the higher costs to insure youthful operators can enable risk advisers to gradually shift the conversation to a far more important concern: the safety of their child. These sites (and many others) can help parents examine the safety features of a car they may be considering for their child:

There are also many sites that help promote a more impactful conversation with parents of newly licensed drivers. All parents know the use of cell phones presents a safety risk while driving, and many appreciate learning about tools and strategies to help manage the risk of distracted driving and other risks common among teen drivers. For example, many parents welcome knowing of this device that prevents cell phones from receiving or sending text messages while the car is being operated (also helpful for those with commercial fleets to improve their risk profile and reduce their insurance costs).

These sites offer a variety of other suggestions to help parents better understand and manage the risks facing youthful drivers:

Of course, there are many other safe driving topics for all drivers that also merit attention, and the Insurance Information Institute provides great content on virtually all aspects of safe driving. Be sure to browse the wide range of information available on the Insurance Information Institute "Highway Safety" site.

Cybersecurity and Social Media Safety

Helping consumers to stay safe online is such an essential service that there should be a website on how to do so. There is, and it is called "Stay Safe Online."

For those who do not understand what a truly significant risk this is, consider sending any of the numerous topics addressed by the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team.

Do you recall McGruff, the crime-stopping dog who is the mascot of the National Crime Prevention Council? Consider providing consumers with social media safety tips from McGruff.

Our federal government has an entire site dedicated to helping parents understand how to manage the growing risk of cyberbullying.

Residential Loss Prevention

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides a wide range of fire prevention and other home safety information. Incidentally, the official mascot of NFPA, Sparky the Fire Dog, will turn 65 next year. About 50 years ago, I recall learning about Sparky and fire prevention lessons in school during the NFPA's Fire Prevention Week campaign each year. It seems our industry is not as active as it once was working with the NFPA and local fire departments to promote fire prevention education in our nation's schools.

As many readers know, YouTube is among the websites most frequently searched by consumers. There is a surprising amount of helpful risk management content on YouTube, and Roto-Rooter provides a great video tutorial on how to protect a home's plumbing system from cold weather. (Check out the other great home maintenance videos made available by this company.)

Readers surely know the Internet is full of content on how to reduce the risk of a wide range of residential losses. Performing different key word searches simply by inserting the word "preventing" in front of the risk of your choice will yield numerous sources of online content. As an example, a Google search using the words "preventing chimney fire" yields more than 88,000 results, including one from the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Protecting Valuable Items

As all risk advisers know, while all consumers should have a complete inventory of the possessions they own, very few actually take this step. Consider the many daily conversations that enable risk advisers to introduce solutions that can help make this important task easier. The Insurance Information Institute provides free online home inventory software, Know Your Stuff®—Home Inventory.

The company Trov provides a free mobile app that automatically enables users to create a photo inventory and actually track the value of many of the items a user owns.

For those with more elaborate collections who prefer greater ease of use and documentation capabilities, Collectify offers a free trial version of its modestly priced software program.

There are numerous sites with tips on preventing common losses to a wide range of collectibles, including this article for those with wine cellars and a great video featuring an art expert being interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

Domestic Help

While risk advisers must be careful not to provide consumers with guidance on matters requiring a legal or accounting opinion, there are good sources of information to guide consumers on the insurable risks associated with domestic employees. As readers know, there are both federal and state laws for those who employ household help to be aware of. This Fact Sheet for the US Department of Labor can be helpful.

Others may wish to benefit from a broader-based legal perspective like in this article, "Hiring Workers in Your Home: Legal Requirements."

Risk advisers should also encourage consumers to take steps to protect their assets and the safety of their family members from the possible misdeeds of household employees and others they trust. Many have found the following white paper that examines this topic in detail to be helpful: "Reducing Vulnerability to Crime From Those You Trust: Strategies for the Wealthy."

Flood/Earthquake/Natural Disaster Preparedness

Know Your Plan™ is a free award-winning app from the Insurance Information Institute designed to help consumers prepare for natural disasters. This app will help consumers plan ahead to better protect their family, homes, and even their pets from hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, severe cold, or evacuations.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides a great series of "how-to" articles to share, with tips on preparing for all manner of natural disasters.

Travel Safety

It is surprising that many who travel internationally often do so with little knowledge of the many risks that are involved or how to prepare for those risks. The US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs provides an interactive website full of information and suggestions on how to travel more safely while abroad.

Also included on this site is helpful information on how to obtain emergency medical assistance while abroad.

For those who travel frequently, obtaining fast access to quality medical assistance requires specialized insurance coverage that is often overlooked. Many without access to the important protection to address this risk will welcome an article that provides an overview of the risks and available solutions: "Emergency Medical Evacuation 101 — what overseas travelers need to know."

Risks Facing College Students

College Parents of America provides a series of checklists for students and parents to prepare for new risks facing students living away from home.

While not an easy topic for risk advisers to address, all parents should decide how they plan to address the risks associated with alcohol consumption for any child attending college. This award-winning website offers parents a thorough review of the topic.

Source of Additional Personal Risk Management Content

Quite understandably, the vast majority of the risk management content provided by insurers for consumers is designed to promote the value of the products and services the insurer has to offer. As a result, risk advisers should understand that providing content that is arguably promotional will cause at least some who receive it to question whether the information is being sent as a form of solicitation.

Two insurers in particular, Chubb and ACE Private Risk Services, are consistently producing content aimed at helping consumers to better understand their personal risks and how to manage them. Because the tone and substance of much of the content from these two insurance carriers is educational, risk advisers can distribute such content without being concerned their efforts will be viewed as just another sales solicitation.

ACE Private Risk Services organizes its content for public viewing under the heading "Learning Center" on its website. ACE offers educational tools and resources to help consumers better assess the risks to their family and lifestyle and to learn of the options for structuring an insurance program to maximize safety and value. A large amount of high-quality risk management content is organized and made available in the following formats:

Chubb Personal Insurance has become very active using social media to educate consumers. In 2011, Chubb introduced its corporate blog, branded Risk Conversation, Understanding and Managing the Risks Around You, including this personal risk management blog: Out of Harm's Way.

Understanding the value of diversifying the distribution and format of the content they produce, both Chubb and ACE also produce a significant amount of audio/video content for viewing on their robust YouTube channels. While the tone of some of the video content is more promotional than educational, risk advisers representing either insurer should closely examine the volume of helpful risk management content from Chubb and ACE Private Risk Services available on YouTube:

Another good source for personal lines coverage and underwriting trends, along with relevant court cases, is the IRMI e-zine Personal Lines Pilot. This newsletter also provides tips that agents can put on their websites or in their newsletters to educate their clients about personal lines risks. This opt-in e-zine is published once a month.

Conclusion

The explosive growth of the "do-it-yourself (DIY)" movement over the past decade reflects the high level of distrust consumers have for the opaque sales and marketing methods that have fueled such suspicion. The public's lack of trust is both a challenge and an opportunity for our industry. Fortunately, discerning consumers understand that one major challenge with the DIY approach is the gnawing realization that we often "don't know what we don't know." The modern shell game tactics used to sell the hoax that insurance is a commodity will become increasingly apparent to consumers who experience uncovered losses.

To prevail in a climate of increasing consumer distrust, risk advisers must provide a client experience that is differentiated, transparent, and consumer-centric. To do so, risk advisers should capitalize on the many teaching moments that arise to provide consumers with the "something more" that differentiates them. Serving as an expert resource and providing consumers with valuable content to help them better understand and manage their many risks is an approach worth embracing.

News that Google will soon be actively marketing personal insurance in the United States has renewed fears of "disintermediation" among many agents and brokers. Since the surest way to become disintermediated is to act merely as an intermediary, risk advisers who differentiate themselves by providing broadened personal risk management value have no reason to fear another new outlet that will function as just another intermediary.


Opinions expressed in Expert Commentary articles are those of the author and are not necessarily held by the author's employer or IRMI. Expert Commentary articles and other IRMI Online content do not purport to provide legal, accounting, or other professional advice or opinion. If such advice is needed, consult with your attorney, accountant, or other qualified adviser.

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