Living in the small rural area of North Idaho has some definite perks for an insurance agent. Here the motto of a large insurer of living beside you, working for you has real meaning. You can’t go down town, out to lunch, to your kids’ concerts, sit in the stands of an athletic contest or any other public event without rubbing shoulders with one or more of your clients. Sandpoint, Priest River, and Clark Fork high schools have used insurance agents as a resource to enhance the educational experience of their students by having agents come into the classroom and share real life experiences regarding the insurance industry.
The close working relationship with families when they have births, graduations, weddings, and funerals are enriching to the business side of this association.
One of the most satisfying experiences I had as an insurance agent was sitting down one on one with a newly licensed teenage driver. They come in all sizes, shapes, and demeanor.
Sizes and shapes were relatively not an issue while demeanor told me a whole lot about how they would be as a driver. Some were pretty timid and somewhat intimidated with the prospect of sitting down with me to discuss purchasing insurance. They were reluctant to respond to questions for fear they might answer wrong and thereby not be able to get insurance or have me think less of them.
Others were, for the lack of a better way of describing it, belligerent and put out. They felt since they had their license nothing now should curtail their being able to “freely move about the country” as they willed. They just wanted to get the paperwork done, sign the application, get their certificate of liability, pay the least amount they could, and get out the door.
In either case, I enjoyed the interaction, for after all diversity is what makes the world go around.
As a parent, take advantage of the resource you have in your insurance agent. After all, he or she wants to earn the right to be your agent. What a wonderful way for you to have someone on your side when you want to convey your concern for the safety of your new driver. Let the agent do the preaching while you sit back and enjoy the ride.
I recall with a little bit of a chuckle the mom who brought her “feisty” little daughter in to discuss insurance with me. The girl did the roll-back-the-eyes and slouch-in-the-chair routine while I explained various aspects of insurance to her. All the way through she kept looking at her mother as if to say, “Do I have to listen to this guy?” Because of her curtness and snide remarks, I turned to her mother and exclaimed, “I don’t think I want to insure your daughter. Her attitude indicates to me she doesn’t understand the gravity of the responsibility of driving, and I don’t want the guilt hanging over my head of knowing I put someone on the road who doesn’t belong there. Young lady (called her by her name), when you come to understand driving is a privilege and not a right of passage then come back and we will talk some more.” She bolted upright in her chair and I don’t recall if she swallowed her gum or took it out of her mouth but she said, “Mom, can he do that?”
I didn’t wait for her mom to respond because I didn’t want the mother to have to be the bad guy, so I said, “Absolutely, I can do that. I am not obligated to just give you a rate quote and send you out the door. I have an obligation and a duty to every other driver on the road whether insured with me or some other company to put the safest drivers on the road as I possibly can. It is tragic enough when an honest mistake is made in driving and someone gets hurt, but it is unconscionable to know someone with poor judgement was allowed to exercise this privilege and then abused it.”
This daughter was not a bad child at all, but with the newness of her environment around me she just got off on the wrong foot. I asked the mother what she wanted me to do and she said she would like me to proceed with the insurance information because she was sure her daughter did understand the issue at hand.
We finished the review and wrote the insurance. When I handed the certificate of liability to the daughter, I gave her my business card and ask her to put it in her wallet. “Next to your parents, I care about you and your safety on the road. If you are ever in a compromising situation where you feel you need help, call me. I will come wherever you are.”
Then there was the parent who had his son come with him to talk to me about the privilege of driving who almost immediately upon sitting down in the office began talking about how fast he had driven across Montana. He told about the highway patrolman on the other side of the road who crossed the median in hot pursuit of him. He said when the patrolman finally caught him, he used the excuse that there is no posted speed limit in Montana in trying to convince the officer not to give him a ticket. The officer reminded him there may not be a posted sign, but there is also a difference between good judgment and reckless driving.
He then had me look out the office window at the little jeep parked in our parking lot. On the back window, in bold letters was written “If you see this vehicle being operated in a careless manner call 208-263-****.”
“That’s Cody’s jeep and I figure that should do the trick.”
The poor young man sat there totally ashamed and embarrassed.
I didn’t say anything about his father’s escapades, but I did tell him how much faith I had in him to use good judgement. I expressed confidence he would use common sense in his driving experience. Again, I gave him my business card with the same commitment that I would come anywhere to help him get out of a compromising situation. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m glad you trust me.”
Approximately, a year later, Dad was assigned by the court to attend defensive driving school because he was in position of losing his driver’s license due to the number of speeding tickets he had accrued. The “don’t do as I do” philosophy sure didn’t help this young man.
This interview for me wasn’t necessarily a time to preach about the abysmal statistics of young drivers nor shaking a finger at them to be good, but it was a good time to recognize the young driver for his or her decision to become a driver and to give them positive reinforcement for exercising good judgement. I found this to be a good time to show them how good grades give them discounts, how not getting tickets saves them money, and how driving with good judgement and common sense keeps Mom and Dad happy. And Mom and Dad just might help with the premiums due sometimes! A call to the agent’s office can make a tense experience of needing to personally instruct your young driver on the rules of the road a more congenial one for everybody concerned. If you are an agent interested in having a long career, this is an excellent way to build your client base for the future. A win-win for all!!