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The "Farmers Insurance News-Alert" website is dedicated to providing the consumer and general public with detailed information concerning the Farmers Insurance Group. This includes fraud reports, consumer complaints, lawsuit's and other legal actions taken against this company. All information contained herein is for educational purposes only. Original sources, when known are sited.

 

HONEST AGENT VENTS FRUSTRATION

October 2, 1998

Paul N. Hopkins, Chief Marketing Officer
4680 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, Calif. 90010

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your "personal" form letter I got in my mail today..

You gave two reasons why I should be truly EXCITED about auto insurance. Let me share a little reality so you don't actually get caught up believing Farmers' "spin" and "double speak."

Yesterday I worked from 7:00 a.m. until about 10:00 p.m. and had lunch in the back of my office. Today I decided to work a half-day; I'm only working from 8:45 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. I did take the same 30-minute lunch break in the back of my office. I have so far today spent:

  1. One hour this morning trying to solve a FPPS problem on a message that I got when entering new business.
  1. One hour on hold and talking to fire PL/PS trying to resolve the same problem. Their solution was to tell me that the "system" dumped the whole transaction, so I was to call Home Office to resolve the problem.
  1. Fifteen minutes waiting on hold for Prematic with no success. I had to get off hold to talk to a client I have had since 1988. He just wanted to let me know he is changing his car insurance to Geico. Their six-month premium for his two cars is about $400 semi-annually; ours is about $600. Yes, I do have his house and life insurance . . . for now!!
  1. I then spent long conversations with two clients about two Easy Pay problems. In this case I was spared the frustration of waiting on hold as we can not even call Easy Pay. I called my District Manager instead.

While I was talking to him I got another request from a long-time "good family account" for an experience letter to be sent to them for their car insurance. For the benefit of "management" who have never been agents, that generally means the people are shopping around or have already bought insurance elsewhere.

During the time I was doing this, my office partner was spending about an hour explaining coverage to a foreign exchange student who was buying insurance from him. I guess we were competitive! Unfortunately, the person will be going back home in a year. I checked with my partner; he was definitely "excited," though, that he got double production count!!!

I'm glad I left early today because I spent the last 15 minutes on hold again for Prematic. I was lucky this time; I got through. It would have made my day if they had actually been able to help me.

My day was also higlighted by my "opportunity" to explain the Customer Loyalty Certificate. I explained that it was Farmers' guarantee that if the client's circumstances didn't change and his driving record didn't deteriorate, we would not cancel him. He was "excited," but then asked how that was different from before. I confirmed it wasn't, but now he had a nice certificate to prove it.

Paul, as you may be able to tell from the tone of this letter, I am currently feeling frustration and a certain amount of hostility towards the management at Farmers. You amaze me in your continued absolute lack of respect for the agency force.

Here are my reasons why I'm not excited:

  1. A management decision was made to shift a large portion of the Regional Office workload to the agency force by implementing data entry of auto, home and monthly-pay functions that would be done in the agents' offices.
  1. Since that implementation my staff cost has gone up by 50%. My "interaction share" compensation for that shift amounts to about $100 per month. If that's what it's worth, then you can have it back anytime. In fact, I will not only sacrifice the $100, I'll pay you $100 to take it back.
  1. You continue to introduce computer programs, in particular APPS, FPPS and Easy Pay that are;
  1. Improperly tested for use
  2. Complicated to the point of frustration
  3. Delivered with very inadequate customer service
  4. Currently incompatible with existing programs within the computer system.

APPS still continues to have significant problems as witnessed by the steady stream of communication from Home Office detailing problems and the continued inability to get immediate help from either the Regional Office or Home Office.

FPPS was a step in the right direction and appeared to have been designed with a little more consideration for the user. However functions that should be a help still don't work properly (for example, the Evidence of Insurance).

Easy Pay is again an example of Farmers determination to introduce an idea well before it has been tested properly, hence the recent delay in conversion.

At the risk of writing "a book" about the particular problems, they all fall into the category of poor planning. Had these programs been released for sale as retail computer programs, they would have been withdrawn virtually immediately because the problems associated with them, the lack of technical support and difficulty in using them would have been totally unacceptable to a public that has "a choice." In fact, the developer and marketing executive responsible for the failure would, and should, probably have been fired.

  1. Our current market position in auto insurance is having a very unsatisfactory impact on my business. It would appear that I am not alone. The management company's strong focus on retention and the bonus Auto Production count would not be necessary if we were already in a strong position and not losing market share. We are losing good insureds, the ones we have spent years developing--the members of our PTAs, our Rotary Clubs and our churches. The transient student and single car minimum liability policies seem to be the business we are attracting. To be "Premier" the management company has to act like it. Your agents are certainly worth paying extra for . . . but 50%? I doubt it. In order to be Premier and more expensive, we have to offer more; you've said it many times. Service, however, must come from both you and us. When Farmers can't get the billing correct or sends incorrect face sheets and we have to wait on hold for an hour to get an answer, that's not service -- to anyone.

This is a soft competitive market. Double production count is meaningless. We need agressive rate changes and, more importantly, "PREMIER SERVICE." If you do your part and treat us with some respect, we may surprise you.

  1. Horizontal marketing and financial services are obviously the focus of the future. Hopefully a lot of thought goes into their introduction; being Premier means "being the customer's first choice," not coming out with the first thing that you think the agents can make you a few dollars on. It's interesting to compare the service we get from the carriers of some of the horizontal products we now use compared, say, to Farmers' New World Life:
  1. Toll-free telephone numbers
  2. Available, responsive sales support
  3. Aggressive service on new business, not "look it up on the computer if you have time."
  4. Products designed to compete in a very competitive, more sophisticated marketplace. We can no longer rely on the strength of our relationship insulating our clients from agressive sales techniques. Our products must be able to stand up to competitive scrutiny.

Paul, as a 20-year Farmers agent with 5-6 Toppers, Life Masters and Commercial Masters under my belt, I understand change is necessary and I welcome it. I will embrace the new technology. I will welcome the new products. I know that we will go through good times and bad. In return, I ask for only three things and I will stand by your side on the road to Premier.

  1. Don't treat me like a third-grader. Tell me the truth. When you screw up, don't call it "my challenge." Take responsibility for your mistakes.
  1. Provide me with the same service that you expect me to give my clients. If they call me they don't expect to be on hold for half an hour and neither do I; that shows a complete lack of respect for my time.
  1. Show me some respect. Without me and my fellow agents, Farmers would not have grown to the position it currently holds in the market and the management company would not be making large amounts of money. Respect my time. Respect my decision as a field underwriter and respect my opinions occasionally.

Am I excited right now? NO! Hopefully you'll do the "right thing" and together we will be Premier and EXCITED together. 

Sincerely, 

David Groom, LUTCF

cc: Martin Feinstein ceo

 

 

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