People respect insurance agents, but do they trust them?

Do People Trust Insurance Agents

A Gallup poll in 2012 indicated only 15% of those responding stated they rated the honesty and ethical standards of insurance salespeople as either “very high” or “high”. In comparison, 82% rated nurses as either “very high” or “high”.

To give you perspective here are some other professions and the percentage of people who rated them either “very high” or “high”.

Pharmacists 70%
Police Officers 54%
Clergy 47%
Auto Mechanics 29%
Bankers 27%
Local Officeholders 23%
Lawyers 20%
TV Reporters 20%
State Officeholders 14%
Car Salespeople 9%
Members of Congress 8%
Lobbyist 6%

Professions Ranked High

On the bright side only about 10% rated insurance salespeople as either “very high” or “high” for honesty and ethical standards ten and twenty years ago. However, do we really want to be considered less ethical than the average Lawyer?

Polls also show that 80% of all people who buy insurance want an agent involved. So how do we reconcile that with the 36% who state that we have either “very low” or “low” ethical standards?

My guess is that when people answer these polls that have the same dilemma people have when asked about congress. In a recent Rasmussen poll only 8% rated congress as doing a “good” or “excellent” job, yet 29% felt their representative deserved to be reelected.

The low ratings probably have something to do with insurance being an intangible product that breeds mistrust because so few understand it. The other day on the radio I was listening to a show that “warned” people to be careful because home insurance contracts take away coverage for flood and earthquake “in the fine print”.

I’m of the opinion that there are a lot of very, very good people who happen to be insurance agents. Having dealt with thousands of agents during my career I’m sorry to say that there are seemingly more bad ones than good.

Before you toss me into the caricature of the old geezer who is slipping into general nastiness, consider the following.

Many agents are too young to have formed solid ethical standards. In a few years, they will be just fine. At the other end of the spectrum are those who should have retired and have allowed the world to sour them.

About a fourth are just plain bad apples. I’ve been shocked over the years by some who have done things that we all would say were dishonest.

When the public thinks about insurance salespeople, they’re including a lot of people we wouldn’t necessarily think of as selling insurance. They might be including the appliance salesperson who tried to sell them a worthless warranty. They could have just had a bad experience with a pushy counterperson at a car rental agency. They may have encountered a car salesperson who also tried to add on insurance. You can hardly buy anything today without someone trying to sell you some sort of “policy”.

Some of our fellow agents are lazy and incompetent, which could easily be misinterpreted as dishonest.

So, how can you build trust with your customers?

Do what you say you will. Fulfill your promises. Don’t hedge on your promises.
Be honest. Tell the truth. If you do lie (everyone does), own up to it.
Be open. Tell the full truth. Offer information easily. Avoid secrets. Expect others to be honest. Don’t cover up the truth.
Keep Confidences. No gossip.
Wear your integrity proudly. Be fiercely loyal. Know what you’re doing. Always practice fairness.

John Wooden said it best, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

As the NFL is experiencing, even a $45 billion dollar empire can be shaken by bad publicity. On the other hand, Viking’s fans know that one good quarterback covers a lot of ills.

James Holm

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