The single most frustrating coverage question I get goes something like, “Does a(n) XXX policy cover….” Where “XXX” can mean “auto,” “homeowners,” “CGL,” “D&O,” and the list goes on and on and on and on (like some of my posts, as you will learn if you subscribe to my blog). The acronym “RTFP” stands for:

Read The _______ Policy!

You cannot answer coverage or claim questions without reading the policy. I repeat with emphasis: You CANNOT answer coverage or claim questions without reading the policy. It is a waste of your time and anyone who you pose the question to if you only want a generalization. Stop it. READ THE POLICY.

You’d be amazed at the sales advantage you can gain by knowing the products you sell, especially if you know the products of your competitor as well. And you can easily reduce your exposure to E&O claims by at least 50% just by knowing your products.

I had a friend who sold medical equipment, especially artificial knees and hips. He would go into the operating room with surgeons to answer any questions they had about how the parts work together and how they fit each unique individual’s needs. Could you imagine if he just guessed or generalized about how the products he sold worked? As the doctor or patient, would you stand for such ignorance?

The products you sell may mean the financial life or death of your customers. American families and businesses depend on you knowing what you’re doing. Every consumer and business has its own unique exposures to loss. Your task is to assist them in identifying those exposures and matching them with the best, and hopefully most cost effective, products to manage those exposures. But, sadly, the vast majority of agents don’t even use coverage checklists, a technique that has been demonstrably proven to significantly reduce E&O exposures, meaning that your customers are much less likely to have an uncovered or inadequately covered claim.

There are many sources of coverage form knowledge. You won’t find any better commercial lines reference materials than the products from the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI). They set the standard. They also have a personal lines reference product. In addition, you have National Underwriter’s FC&S Bulletins and RoughNotes’ PF&M manuals. If you are an agency member of the Big “I” you can access the RoughNotes material (including coverage checklists and more) at an incredible bargain through their Virtual Risk Consultant.

Speaking of the Big “I”, their Virtual University has some pretty good stuff, not to mention the VU’s “Ask an Expert” service… just don’t pose a question that begins with, “Does a(n) XXX policy cover….”

My experience has been that producers and CSRs increasingly lack the coverage skills necessary to properly service their customers. I don’t know what they’re spending their CE dollars on, but it does not appear to be the right stuff or the right amount of the right stuff. Too often, they have become slaves to their quoting systems and serve little more value than an online quoting web site, perhaps with the exception of advocacy at claims time, a service increasingly needed as coverage-based claims increase.

To get you started, I highly recommend reading the following two articles:

And, remember, RTFP!

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Bill Wilson

Founder at InsuranceCommentary.com
One of the premier insurance educators in America on form, coverage, and technical issues; Founder and director of the Big “I” Virtual University; Retired Assoc. VP of Education and Research from Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Reprint Request Information