The subject that I interviewed was Mike Anderson from Allstate Insurance. Mike is an agent who owns his own office and has his own employees but at the same time is also an employee himself for the Allstate Corporation. The nature of Allstate is the sales of different lines of insurance policies. Mike’s office is very service oriented although they are in the sales business. He classifies his office as a retail business with the explanation that he is selling something that is not provided directly by him, rather by the company, and because what he is selling is being bought.
Allstate is a company that has many people that work for it. Each of these employees is a separate agent that works as a mediator between the customer buying the product and the company selling the product. Thus, Mike’s own business inside another business positions itself, as well as Mike, as an agency.
Since Mike is ultimately a salesperson, what he does most frequently during the day is to interact with people and sell them a policy or assist them with one he already provides them with. Even though this is what he does most often, he finds human relations to be the most difficult thing to do. Working with people isn’t the easiest thing to do and he informed me that in the insurance business the calming people down and making sure you do your best to try to satisfy the customer can sometimes become quite exhausting. What made this the most difficult for him was frequently having to this for customers who were upset with something that happened and trying to remain calm and pleasant after dealing with someone who refuses to be satisfied.
He uses trend exploration to determine his forecast. Since he is the sales person of his business he does his own forecasting. Trend exploration involves extending a pattern observed in past data into the future. He simply looks at the past sales of a few months or a year to try to come up with a projection for the next few months or year. This is a simple way of forecasting because trend exploration assumes that sales will remain the same, however, this may not always be the case.
Allstate is probably known best as the “good hands people”. This is their main advertising campaign. It commonly uses the sales pitch, “your in good hands with Allstate.” Beyond having a photo and name in the yellow pages, Mike himself doesn’t have a particular advertising campaign for his individual office. He does, however, supply his customers with his personalized pens, magnets, calendars, and business cards. Mike doesn’t supply any promotional things for his office; the company does it for him. They manufacture and send him any special promotional advertisements that he can place or hang in his office. The company informs him of what areas that the agents need to focus on selling but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a promotional campaign that will go along with it.
Prices for each policy are determined to specifically fit the individual who is buying the policy. Things such as the number of years a person has had his license, how many points are on ones record, and the type of vehicle being driven, along with other certain factors, help to determine the price of an auto policy. Certain features such as smoke detectors and an alarm system, again along with many other factors, contribute to a final cost of a home policy; and a person’s age, health, and length of the policy will all affect the price of a life insurance policy. In addition to the individual factors that help the agent find the premium that needs to be paid, the company also figures in how many losses, of money, there were due to claims, the salaries and benefits paid to the employees, and the cost of advertising and promotions. All of those factors contribute to the final cost that the customer has to pay.
The way the competition is analyzed is actually quite simple. Mike himself uses comparative rating. He merely notes the premium of his competitors compared to his own so he knows what the strong points, less expensive policy rates, that he should sell compared to the weaker, more expensive policy rates, points that he should concentrate less on.
The atmosphere of this office was very pleasant. The over all feeling that one feels when he enters this particular office is a feeling of being welcome. The entire staff was outgoing, friendly, and very precise in making sure each customer was acknowledged and taken care of as soon as possible. The staff was also quite knowledgeable about the way the computer systems operated and about the products that they had to offer to their clients. Not only was the staff in proper working order, the entire office seemed to be set up in an organized fashion also. Nothing, as far as an outsider could tell, seemed to be out of place. In addition to this the office was also somewhat strategically laid out. There were pretty much four different sections to it. The first was in the front and seemed to be for customers with payments or inquires. The second was to the left middle and served for customers who needed more time and something more in depth. The third was two offices to the right middle of the office and served as a place to talk to clients with an appointment. Finally, the fourth was all the way in back where employee meetings and conferences could be held. This seemed to work out quite well, but what was most functional about the office was the versatility. Each employee was set up that at any particular moment any one could do any thing a client might request without having to have them move to another location inside the office.
The owner of this business seemed to know very much about his business and its operations. Upon talking about it in depth, I found that his business was a priority of his and that he indeed knew what needed to be done to make it run smoothly. He answered every question without hesitation and with an explanation. Not only did he know what needed to be done to operate and manage the business and employees; he was also fully knowledgeable about the products and services he had to offer. If I had been a customer that had came into his office I believe that I would have confidence in him not only by listening to what he had to say, but also by noting the college diploma, license, and agent awards that were on the wall.
While I visited the office and talked with the owner I noticed that everyone always had something to do and someone to take care of. Although this in itself is a good thing, it seemed as if the business was about to reach or already has reached its maturity. Even although the business seemed to be doing well, I feel that more effort needs to be placed into finding new customers and opening new policies. From talking with the owner about pricing, I learned that there are discounts that customers can receive by having more than one policy with the company. Two of these were: a multiple car discount for customers with more than one car on one policy and a percentage discount for policy owners who have both their auto and home policy with the company. Since the multiple car discount is automatic, I would suggest profiling as many customers as possible looking for customers who only had an auto policy with them. These customers should then be given a call to find out if they indeed had a home. If they do, then the agent or whoever was calling should offer them a quote on the home and car together so the client could compare what they could pay to what they are paying. Hopefully this would show that there would be savings with the company, the client would switch coverage to them, and new business would have been created.