5 Customer Service Skills That Every Agent Should Know

Customer Service - MiniCo

What do you do as an insurance agent to go above the norm for your clients? What steps do you take to see that your clients are satisfied with the service you provide? One fact in any industry is great customer service can be rewarded with referrals. Referrals are one of the best types of advertising methods in marketing – and it’s free!

Here are some steps you can take to become an excellent insurance agent and provide great customer service:

  1. Patience ~ This should be at the top of any customer service “must do” list. Patience is not only important to the client but it shows the client that you are there to help when they are frustrated or they don’t understand something.
  2. Clear communication ~ It’s great to take your time and get to know your client, but make sure you are addressing the client’s needs first. This way they know you are concerned about their needs and wants.
  3. Attentiveness ~ For a number of reasons attentiveness is very crucial for providing great customer service. Cultivate the ability to really listen to a client can be distracted.
  4. Product knowledge ~ Some of the best insurance agents have a deep knowledge for all the products they provide.
  5. Ability to use “Positive Language” ~ Making minor changes in your conversation pattern can go a long way when creating a satisfied client. Your language choices reflect positively on you and the company you represent.

Good customer service is about understanding your client, operating your business for your clients’ needs to make sure they are happy. Hopefully, they will pass on their great experience to a friend, family member or their business associates.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Why Do Your Clients Need Collectibles Insurance?

MiniCo Lunch box-JawaThere are many types of insurance needs in our very large world of business.  There are also questions, like what kind of coverage does my client need or what company is going to give my client the best coverage.  When dealing with collectibles insurance coverage, you need to make sure you have all the information to inform your clients of all their options.

What is collectibles insurance? Collectibles insurance is insurance that can be purchased for items that are special or unique. Collectibles insurance policies are important for items that may not be adequately covered under other insurance policies, like a client’s homeowners insurance.

If your clients collect it, collectibles insurance is for them! From a 1965 British Invasion lunch box to a rare 1978 Star Wars figurine. What is something rare that a client has collected and told you it meant the world to them? Wouldn’t you want the best protection for your clients?

Things to look for when finding the best coverage for your client:

  1. Does the policy offer full collectible value?
  2. What kinds of deductibles are available?
  3. Is an appraisal required for coverage?
  4. Can the account be quoted online?

MiniCo Collectibles Insurance has an expanded list of covered classes available for online self-service quoting and binding.

Visit http://www.minico.com/collectible.html for more great information.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Coverages in Action: Optional Coverages for Self-Storage Risks

MiniCo Insuance RiskSelf-storage businesses need property and liability coverage, but there are many optional and specialty coverages available that can offer valuable protection. You may have heard about coverages such as customers goods legal liability, sale and disposal liability, limited pollutant removal, and others, but do you understand what they cover and how they may protect a self-storage business owner from costly insurance claims and lawsuits?

Optional Coverages for Self-Storage Risks

MiniCo has prepared a brochure explaining the following optional coverages:

  • Customers Goods Legal Liability
  • Sale and Disposal Liability
  • Limited Pollutant Removal
  • Employment Practices Liability
  • Data Compromise
  • Employee Resident Manager’s Personal Liability

The “Coverages in Action” brochure provides a brief summary of the coverage provided along with a detailed example of how the coverage may apply in a real-life situation at a self-storage facility. It offers valuable information and can be a useful tool in conversations between an insurance agent and his or her client about potential exposures that may need to be addressed.

Download Brochure

How Can RSS Feed Help Your Business

MiniCo Insurance - RSS FeedWhat is an RSS feed? Why do you need one?

An RSS feed stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. It is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. It allows you to stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in.

Here are some ways an RSS feed can help increase traffic to your blog:

  1. Improve your search engine rankings.
  2. Automate delivery for your content.
  3. Easily generate new targeted subscribers.
  4. Drive quality traffic from other websites
  5. Broaden your marketing horizon.
  6. Widen your content distribution.

Here are some ways we at MiniCo Insurance Agency improve our search engine ranking. Search engines are looking for:

  1. Content that is very fresh.
  2. Content that is updated on a regular basis.
  3. Content that is relevant enough.

An RSS feed makes your content delivery automatic. Delivering your content manually can create many hassles and more work than is necessary. If you are not offering feeds, you are missing out on an opportunity to keep your clients and associates informed on what your business is up to. This is a great tool. When you start receiving subscribers, you will not have to wait for them to come to you. You will be going straight to them!

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Answering Client Questions In Terms They Will Understand

MiniCo ClientsDo you remember before you were an insurance agent? How well did you know terms in our industry? Did someone take the time to explain them to you so that you would understand?

Sometimes it is hard for the client to understand terms like property and casualty, why they need it or that it may be required to operate their business. It is up to you, the agent/broker to explain why they should have it and what will happen if they do not have it.

We at MiniCo Insurance Agency believe that it is important to make sure the client understands everything about their coverage, including information on who to contact if they do not understand something or if they need to file a claim. It is up to you to make sure they receive the right information.

Here are a few tips to help you help them:

  1. If they don’t understand a term, look up the definition so that they can read it for themselves.
  2. Think of a situation that has happened in the past and give them an example.
  3. Remember, you are the agent/broker and they expect you to help them make the right decision for what is best for their business. You are there to guide them through this process.
  4. Make sure they understand the value they are receiving for their coverage.
  5. Be passionate about wanting to help them chose the coverage that is best for their business.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

 

MiniCo Collectibles Insurance Program Enrolls Over 1,000 Agents

Insurance_BusinessOver 1,000 agents have now enrolled in the MiniCo Collectibles Insurance program since it launched in late 2011. MiniCo Collectibles Insurance provides all-risk coverage for private collections of any size in a home or storage facility. Collections are insured for their full collectible value, and no appraisal is required at the time of application.

Keith McConnell, MiniCo’s Vice President of Business Development, said that feedback the company has received about MiniCo Collectibles Insurance demonstrates that agents are increasingly choosing the program as an alternative coverage solution for clients with valuable collections. “Agents report that they enjoy the ease of use of our online agent portal and the ability to get a quick quote to insure collections in a number of popular categories,” he said. “They also tell us that they appreciate the wide range of eligible collectibles such as fine art, wine, sports memorabilia, stamps, guns and related equipment, comic books and action figures, model trains, rare books, and hundreds of others.”

MiniCo President and CEO Mike Schofield commented, “The high quality of the coverage combined with its affordability for the policyholder and ease of use for the agent makes MiniCo Collectibles Insurance an ideal solution for agents to offer to their personal lines clients, many of whom may have collections of valuable items that require specialized coverage.”

MiniCo Collectibles Insurance is offered nationwide in partnership with AXA Insurance Company, the only globally operating specialty art and collectibles insurance company offering tailor-made coverage solutions for private and corporate collections, museums, galleries and artists. AXA Insurance Company has been assigned a rating of “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best.

More information is available by calling 888-873-6931 or at www.minico.com.

Always Speak With A Smile

Minico Insurance SmileWhen you answer the phone, do you smile? When you are having a face-to-face conversation, do you portray that you are in a great mood?

A smile isn’t just about happiness; it is also a sign of social status. A 1998 study in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that high-powered people, as well as people interacting with others of equal power, smiled when they felt happy. People with less social status interact with a smile regardless of their emotions.

It is important when doing business that you leave your personal issues where they started. Do not let them affect your work and your goals. Your clients are your business, and they depend on you to make sure that you are there for them. That smile can create a lasting business relationship and years of trust. As an insurance agent, trust is your middle name!

Here are a few tips from MiniCo Insurance Agency to keep you smiling:

  1. Smile when you answer your business phone.
  2. Always listen to the details your client or future client tells you.
  3. Treat others as you would want to be treated by others if you were in their shoes.
  4. Be sincere when you are responding to a client’s needs, mean what you say and follow through.
  5. Always smile when ending the conversation.

Remember, how you carry yourself can say a lot about you as a business influence. Positivity and goals can go a long way when showing the pearly whites. Stay focused on the opportunities and mean what you say. Smiling can be contagious, so proceed enthusiasm as you help others create a better way to conduct business. Lead by example.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

How to be a Prepared Agent

MiniCo Insurance Agency - Are You PreparedAs an agent, what do you think is important to your client? How will you be prepared for them?

You should think about how you will be prepared for business every day, and what will you do to get prepared.  Your day depends on how well you “dress for success”.  At MiniCo we believe that there are a few key factors that come into play. We want to help you be prepared for a day full of opportunity and create new ways to grow your business and professionalism.

  1. Wake up in the morning, dress for success and eat a healthy breakfast. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day too. This will keep your mind clear and working to achieve your goals.
  2. Know what you want to accomplish for the day and create an agenda. Go over any appointments you have and when. Make sure you have everything you need to present the right information to your client.
  3. Know your product and be honest; you do not want to present a product to a client if you know very little about what you are offering them. You are creating relationship and you want to gain their trust as well as their respect. If you don’t know the answer to something, make a note and let them know you will find out the right answer for them. Make sure you get the information and update your client.
  4. Believe in your product. Don’t just sell it.
  5. Always be early to your appointments. Have two working pens and blank sheet paper for notes.

If you are prepared, you show others that they should be prepared as well. The better prepared you are, the better perception you will give to your client that you know what you are talking about.  A strong perception can earn you creditability in your industry and help you achieve your future business goals.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Data Compromise Coverage for Self-Storage Risks

Hacking bypass securityThe 2013 holiday season was marred by headlines announcing a huge data breach of credit and debit card data at Target stores in the three weeks following Thanksgiving. This report was followed in 2014 by a number of large-scale data breaches at other retailers including Home Depot, SuperValu, Kmart and Staples.

 

Cyber crime is one of the fastest-growing threats to business operations and one that can result in expensive claims and lawsuits. To address this type of exposure, MiniCo Insurance Agency offers data compromise coverage as an option for its self-storage insurance BOP.

 

MiniCo’s data compromise coverage is an affordable option that provides up to $50,000 in coverage to provide a variety of assistance to insureds pertaining to a wide range of possible data breaches such as electronic theft or hacking. The coverage includes legal services, forensic information technology review services, notification to and services for affected individuals, credit report and monitoring, and identity restoration case management.

 

If you are writing self-storage risks, MiniCo invites you to learn more about the benefits of data compromise coverage for your clients. Contact a MiniCo representative at 800-447-8383 or customercare@minico.com.

Always Say Thank you ~ Email vs. Handwritten Letters

MiniCo Insurance AgencyIn our fast-moving world of Insurance, do you write a personal thank you letter or send a simple email, to thank your clients for their business? When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you from anyone? What would it mean to you if you received a handwritten thank you from your insurance agent?

First off, why is it important to say thank you to your clients for their business? A simple thank you for your business is a great way to differentiate you from other competitors and show that you care about your clients’ needs. It is a great way to say, “I am here for you and I care.”

Email Thank You

Sometimes when writing an email to say thank you, it detracts from the sincerity of the message. It does not give that feeling that you went the extra mile for a client. Although email can be a great way to communicate information, it does not give that extra special feeling like a handwritten letter. The business world moves quickly, and as technology advances, our world will become even busier and we’ll find less time for the little things that mean a lot to our clients.

Handwritten Thank You

A handwritten thank you note gives you the opportunity to be creative, take the extra step and build a lasting relationship with your clients. They will always remember that you took a moment to make something special just for them. Grab a nice professional blank card or something creative, a favorite colored pen you have been waiting to use and start writing! What are you waiting for? A small effort on your part can make a world of difference in the strength of your relationship with your clients.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Building Lasting Relationships

When building a relationship with a client, what does it mean to you? What steps do you take to build a lasting relationship? What can you do to be a better agent?

MiniCo Insurance Agency wants to help you become better at building a lasting relationship with all of your clients. Your clients can potentially lead you to the best reward for any business – word of mouth! We all know that the best source of marketing is by word Of mouth. We have given you a few ideas below to help you build and keep that relationship strong for years to come.

MiniCo has been a leading specialty insurance provider for over 40 years, from self-storage to collectibles and many other specialized exposures. We know what it takes to keep building lasting relationships.

Communication

is a key factor. Clients depend on you to keep them informed; that is why you are their agent. This is your chance to make a great impression from the very beginning. Communication should be a top priority for all your clients. This includes letting them know the status of any projects you are working on for them. Even if there are bumps in the road, be sure to communicate that. Email is great, but remember to pick up the phone or set a face-to-face meeting, too. This reminds them that you are on top of their project.

Reward Your Loyal Clients

while gaining new ones. We know that it is always on our mind to gain new clients; sometimes we forget that the existing clients need attention, too. Reward your current clients by doing a Loyalty Program that fits with your company or even just by picking up the phone and saying a simple thank you for your business. This can go a very long way.

Create a Vision

of partnership that the client can see. A potential lasting client wants to see that you are in it for the long haul, and you are actively motivated to see them grow and be successful in their business. That is when they will see you as more than just a vendor or a supplier. You become a partner and help create value today, tomorrow and for many years to come.

 

Lhea Inzalaco

MiniCo Insurance Agency

Planning Ahead for Winter Storms

Risk Management Plan The first severe winter storms of the year left their mark on the Northeast even before Thanksgiving, and the outlook for the 2015 season calls for plenty of snow and ice. Winter storms can be devastating, resulting in property loss and threatening both lives and livelihoods. Planning ahead for winter storms can help reduce the risk of costly damage to your self-storage facility and mitigate slips and falls on your premises.

Assemble Emergency Supplies

Before a storm arrives, take the time to assemble equipment and ensure that emergency supplies are on hand and ready for use if needed. Items to consider include a first-aid kit, rock salt or ice melt, sand, snow shovels, emergency supplies of water and nonperishable food, flashlights, battery-powered radio, batteries, hand and power tools, portable pumps and hoses, and plastic covers and tarps. It is also an excellent idea to store a copy of important documents in an off-site location such as insurance policy numbers and contact information for employees, customers and vendors.

Inspect the Facility

During winter months, increase the frequency of your property inspections. Inspecting the property multiple times each day allows you to identify potential hazards quickly as weather conditions change. Pay extra attention to surfaces that may become wet or icy. Use entryway mats on interior floors and spread sand or kitty litter on outdoor walkways to increase traction. If a hazard is identified, employ safety cones, “wet floor” signs or other devices to alert customers and staff. Also inspect facility lighting at various times throughout the day to ensure that fixtures are in proper working order.

Prepare for Freezing Temperatures

When temperatures drop below freezing, the risk of damage from burst pipes increases. Frozen pipes can cause extensive damage requiring substantial cost to repair, and the potential for lengthy business interruption is considerable. Sprinkler systems, HVAC, and water-filled equipment lines should be monitored every few hours during freezing conditions. To prevent freezing, use heaters where possible in susceptible areas, open water faucets slightly to keep water flowing, and use tarps as needed to protect vulnerable equipment. If pipes freeze, it is important to turn off the water supply to avoid leaks.

Monitor and Maintain Roofs

Excessive snow load increases the potential for roof collapse and structural damage, so it is important to plan ahead to monitor and maintain roofs during winter storms. Prior to storm season, provide cold weather safety training for employees and ensure that proper equipment is on hand to safely remove snow during extreme conditions. During storms, monitor snow depths at regular intervals paying close attention to areas where snow accumulates. Be sure to remove snow accumulation uniformly across the roof to prevent unbalanced loads. If you contract with a business to perform snow removal, request documentation of evidence of insurance.

Winter storms can present many challenges for business owners. Implementing a risk management strategy to address severe winter weather can help prevent costly property damage and potential lawsuits. Your insurance agent is an excellent resource for risk management information as well as advice on insurance coverages and limits to help protect your investment.

Mike Schofield

President and CEO

MiniCo’s Corporate Holiday Schedule

MiniCoThe holidays are fast approaching, and MiniCo Insurance Agency wants to ensure that you and your insureds receive the highest quality customer service throughout this hectic time of year. Our regular corporate hours are listed below, along with a schedule of the days MiniCo’s corporate offices will be closed for the holidays.

MiniCo’s Corporate Hours

  • Eastern time zone – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Central time zone – 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Mountain time zone – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Pacific time zone – 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

MiniCo’s Corporate Holiday Closures

MiniCo’s corporate offices will be closed on the following days:

  • December 25th
  • December 26th
  • January 1st

If you need to report a claim during our holiday closure, please call 800-528-1056 and follow the prompts to reach an adjuster.

We at MiniCo thank you for your business in 2014 and wish you a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

Focus on Risk Management Basics to Minimize Holiday Stress

Risk Management The holiday season is a joyful time, but it can also be stressful. The combination of holiday expenses and obligations, foul weather, cold and flu season, financial pressures, and end-of-year work deadlines can get the best of anyone at one time or other.

With that in mind, this is an excellent time to create increased awareness among your self-storage operator clients. Stressed-out customers may react harshly to anything that adds further problems to their lives at this time of year. For example, if a self-storage facility customer should slip and fall on the premises causing a painful injury, their reaction may be more severe due to some of the factors outlined above.

To avoid the risk of potentially serious claims or other negative occurrences, self-storage operators and managers should make the effort to minimize and prevent these situations by revisiting the basics of providing a safe and hazard-free facility. Here are some factors worth considering. And remember, since no list can be all-inclusive, consult with your self-storage clients individually to address the specific exposures found at their facilities.

Winter Risk Management Tips for Self-Storage Operators

    • Snow & Ice Removal – Slip-and-fall incidents on ice or in snow can cause severe injury. Additionally, heavy snow can cause roof collapses that can damage customers’ stored goods, seriously injure customers, damage your buildings, and cause disruption to your facility. Consider contracting with a properly insured and licensed snow/ice removal company that can remove snow and ice from walkways, driveways, and rooftops. Many of these companies will agree to come to your facility automatically when certain weather conditions occur, such as an agreed-upon amount of snowfall or an ice storm. Check with your insurance agent and attorney for proper contract wording between your facility and the snow/ice removal company.
    • Lighting – Be sure your facility has the proper lighting as may be required by local or other laws or ordinances. Consulting with a reputable lighting expert is always a worthwhile idea. Remember that daylight hours during the holiday season are shorter.
    • Walkways – Make sure all public areas are hazard free and clear of ice, snow, or accumulations of water or moisture. Make sure all walkway surfaces, including stairs, are in excellent repair.
    • Facility Security – Consider working with a security expert to evaluate your overall facility security system. Ask him for recommendations that you can discuss with your attorney and insurance agent. Your customers and the general public expect an environment that is safe and secure.
    • Security Gates – Security gates are often a source of bodily injury or damage to property and are often considered an attractive nuisance to children. Now is an excellent time to have them checked by a licensed expert to ensure they are serviced and operating properly. Also, make sure your moving security gates have the proper signage and operating instructions. Children should not be allowed to play with or on these devices, so proper signs, and even fencing, may be ideas worth considering.
    • Fencing – Check all facility fencing to be sure it is in good repair and suitable for its intended purpose.
    • Leak Prevention – Check structures to be sure no leak potential exists and that all doors and working parts are in good order. Nothing can be more stressful to a customer than discovering that their stored holiday items have been damaged due to leaks.
    • Fire Prevention – Be sure all fire prevention devices are serviced including documented checks on all fire extinguishers.
    • Tenant Lease Agreements – Review your lease agreement to ensure that it includes clearly worded language stating that your facility does not provide any insurance for stored goods. Also review language concerning the prohibition against storing hazardous, toxic or flammable materials inside storage spaces. It is wise to consult your attorney and insurance agent to ensure that your contract is in order.
    • Documentation – Talk with your insurance agent and attorney about what kind of records you should be keeping to document key activities such as inspecting fire safety equipment, maintenance and/or repairs to your powered security gate, and routine inspections of existing lighting to include repairs and bulb replacements.
    • Claims Reporting When a customer advises you of an incident that could be the basis for a claim, report it immediately to your insurance agent.
    • Patience and Understanding – People tend to expect patience and understanding from others during the holidays even when they sometimes do not demonstrate it themselves. When the stress mounts, take a deep breath and stay focused on providing excellent customer service.

These suggestions are important to businesses and customers year‑round. At this time of year, in particular, they can help you and your customers have a wonderful holiday season.

Don’t Miss Out on MiniCo’s Annual Agent Contest and Commission Incentives

Time is running out for insurance agents to participate in two MiniCo promotions. Don’t miss out!

Las Vegas Contest – Deadline is December 31, 2014

MiniCo Insurance Agency is giving away a free trip to Las Vegas, and one lucky insurance agent could be the winner! For every full quote request for self-storage commercial insurance you submit through MiniCo’s agent portal between October 1 and December 31, 2014, you will be entered to win our fantastic free trip to Las Vegas.

MiniCo Agent Portal

The winner will receive:

  •  A trip for two to the largest self-storage industry expo in Las Vegas, April 7-8, 2015
  •  Two round-trip airline tickets
  • Two nights in a hotel
  • $300

Each full quote request you submit via the online agent portal equals one entry into the prize drawing (latest eligible account effective date is March 31st). MiniCo will draw the winning entry on January 7, 2015. (Please see the Official Rules and Regulations for details.)

Don’t miss your opportunity to learn more about the growing self-storage market while enjoying the excitement and hospitality of Las Vegas!

Sweepstakes is open to all legal residents of the United States who, at of the time of entry, are licensed independent insurance agents. Participant must be at least 21 years of age or older. Please see the Official Rules and Regulations for details.

Commission Incentives – Deadline is December 31, 2014

Starting July 1, 2014, MiniCo is offering additional commission incentives to agents writing new business in the MiniCo Collectibles Insurance program. The tiered commission program outlined below will be in effect from July 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014, for all new business written through MiniCo’s online agent portal.

Production Tiers

Once an agent reaches a new commission tier, the increased commission percentage will be applied retroactively to all business written during the promotion period. Renewal business is not eligible for the tiered incentive program.

MiniCo Collectibles Insurance provides all-risk coverage for private collections of any size in a home, office or art storage facility. Collections are insured for their full collectible value, and no appraisal is required at the time of application. Coverage is offered nationwide in partnership with AXA Insurance Company.

For more information, contact MiniCo’s Collectibles Insurance Department at 888-873-6931 or collectibles@minico.com.

   Get a Quote

Communication as a Risk Management Tool

dv1492011Customer service is always a key concern for self-storage operators, and experienced professionals know that on-site managers can be an integral factor in the success of a facility. The interpersonal communication skills that managers bring to each face-to-face interaction and telephone conversation are critical to the success and reputation of a self-storage operation. A self-storage manager’s communication skills also may provide a risk management benefit by helping to reduce the risk of lawsuits.

Tenants who discover that their units have been burglarized or damaged by water or other events are naturally going to be upset and predisposed to look for someone to blame and make them whole. Facility managers have an opportunity to give these customers an experience that is as positive as possible under the circumstances. Succeeding at providing a “wow” experience for a tenant following a loss can go a long way toward reducing the chance that the tenant will file a lawsuit against the facility.

When a tenant experiences a loss, the most important first step is to show empathy.

While a manager should avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as an admission of culpability on the part of the facility, for example, “I should have checked the lights at that end of the building” or “We always have trouble with the roof leaking this time of year,” it is always a good idea to empathize with the customer’s frustration, anger, and sadness at having experienced a loss. Statements such as, “I can see that you’re upset” and “This must be very frustrating,” are appropriate and can be helpful.

The manager will need to establish initially whether the customer has purchased the tenant insurance (contents insurance) offered by the facility. If so, the manager should provide the customer with the phone number to report the claim. If not, avoid being dismissive as in, “Sorry, I can’t help you if you didn’t purchase our insurance.” Instead, use good communication skills to assist the customer to understand how to file the claim. If they are relying on their homeowner’s insurance coverage, advise them to contact their insurance agent or carrier. If the customer has no insurance at all, it is even more important to take great care in your communications with them to avoid the appearance of making promises on behalf of the facility.

During the initial conversation with the customer, managers should complete a detailed incident report documenting the loss, the conversation with the tenant, and the tenant’s contact information and insurance status. Within 24 hours of the loss report, it is an excellent idea to follow up with the tenant and maintain an open line of communication until the claim is resolved. E-mails are effective, but a personal phone call is perceived as quality customer service.

When communicating with a customer who has experienced a loss, the primary objective is to resolve the incident quickly and satisfactorily for both the self-storage business and the tenant. Maintaining clear communication throughout the claims process helps the manager to provide excellent service to the customer while protecting the interests of the operation.

For more detailed examples of effective communication in these types of situations – including what NOT to say – consult your insurance agent directly. Taking the time to prepare managers and practice effective communications may help to reduce the risk of costly and time-consuming lawsuits in the future.

Mike Schofield
President and CEO

Attention Insurance Agents: Earn Commission Incentives with MiniCo’s Fine Art and Collectibles Insurance Program

Whether it is fine art, baseball cards, stamps, a wine collection, or movie memorabilia, serious collectors take great pride in their collections.

Collectors devote large amounts of time, effort and care to their valuables – not to mention sometimes large monetary investments. These collections need insurance coverage that addresses the appreciating value of the collections.

Many of your personal lines clients may have valuable collections that require insurance. Now, for a limited time, MiniCo Insurance Agency has an incentive program that rewards agents.

Starting July 1, 2014, MiniCo is offering additional commission incentives to agents writing new business in the MiniCo Collectibles Insurance program. The tiered commission program outlined below will be in effect from July 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014, for all new business written through MiniCo’s online agent portal.
Production Tiers
Once an agent reaches a new commission tier, the increased commission percentage will be applied retroactively to all business written during the promotion period. Renewal business is not eligible for the tiered incentive program.

MiniCo Collectibles Insurance provides all-risk coverage for private collections of any size in a home, office or art storage facility. Collections are insured for their full collectible value, and no appraisal is required at the time of application. Coverage is offered nationwide in partnership with AXA Insurance Company.

For more information, contact MiniCo’s Collectibles Insurance Department at 888-873-6931 or collectibles@minico.com.

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Special Event Insurance: Affordable Coverage to Protect Your Business

Special Event InsuranceTelevision programs like Storage Wars often show large groups of people gathered at a self-storage facility for lien sales, events that were generally sparsely attended in the days before the self-storage industry found itself in the reality TV spotlight.

Lien sales are not the only reason your facility may draw a crowd. Hosting events at a self-storage facility is an excellent way to market your business to the public, network with prospective customers and spread some goodwill within the local community. Whether you’re planning an open house, charitable event, carnival, picnic, holiday party or other type of event, the goal is to encourage people to visit your property.

Beyond the necessities of lien sales and positive marketing benefits of neighborhood events, these situations could expose your business to risk that may not be covered by your existing businessowner’s insurance policy (BOP). The good news is that there are some simple and affordable steps you can take in advance of the event to protect your organization.

  • Special Event Insurance – Many companies offer property and liability coverage for special events. These policies may address third-party property claims, host liquor liability, personal injury claims and many other event-day disasters that might occur related to the special event. Special event insurance policies typically are relatively inexpensive and many can be purchased the same day. This coverage benefits you by addressing the exposures of the event without putting your BOP coverage at risk. Your insurance agent will help you identify a policy that will address potential exposures for your specific event.
  • Vendors and Concessionaires – If your event includes the use of vendors, food and beverage concessionaires, ride operators or other service providers, take precautions when contracting for their services. Each vendor should hold the appropriate licenses and insurance to operate at your event.
  • Facility Preparation – The whole point of hosting an event is to draw a crowd, so take the time to prepare your facility for a large number of guests who are not visiting your property for normal business reasons. Be aware of occupancy restrictions and plan ahead to control attendees’ access to the facility where appropriate. Use signage and cones to direct members of the public to the area where the event will take place, make sure the parking area for attendees is clearly marked, and remove attractive nuisances such as golf carts.

The main purpose of a special event is to have fun, raise money if it is a charitable event, and introduce your self-storage facility to the local community. In order to be sure that everything goes smoothly, it is highly recommended that you take these precautions and consult your insurance agent and attorney to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance coverage and properly written agreements in place to protect your business, your customers and your guests.

The Importance of Business Income Coverage

Business Income CoverageSevere weather events can happen at any time of year, and the odds seem to be stacked against business owners in a storm’s path. According the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40 percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail within one year. The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that 90 percent of businesses fail within two years following a disaster.

Large natural disasters – fire, flood, earthquake and wind – frequently come to mind when considering the type of occurrence that could shut down a business for good, but the truth is that smaller-scale events also can be devastating.

Disaster planning and preparation are critical concerns for business owners, and one key element is insurance. Business income insurance (or business interruption insurance) pays the policyholder for loss of income and expenses following damage to the property resulting in the partial or total suspension of operations.

As a program administrator with 40 years of experience writing self-storage risks, MiniCo understands both the importance and challenges of this coverage. Business income insurance is one of the most complex, least understood and most undersold coverages available to property owners. At the same time, it is absolutely critical to the survival of a business following a catastrophic loss.

If you are writing self-storage risks, MiniCo invites you to learn more about the benefits of business income insurance. Our self-storage BOP includes business income insurance up to 15 months of actual loss sustained with options of up to 18 months and up to 24 months. Contact a MiniCo representative at 800-447-8383 or customercare@minico.com.

Creating a Risk Management Plan to Address Wildfire

Risk Management Plan Fire is one of the costliest causes of loss for property owners and insurance carriers. In the western United States, wildfire is a serious annual concern. In addition to the potential for injury and loss of life, a single wildfire event can result in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The National Park Service reports that only 10 percent of wildfires result from natural causes such as lightning, volcanic eruption, and sparks from rockfalls. The remaining 90 percent are caused by humans. The leading causes of wildfires are unsafe fires, arson, sparks from equipment, power arc lines, and accidents.

It is important for self-storage business owners to address the risk of wildfire by planning ahead and taking steps to mitigate the risk of damage and loss from a fire event. Detailed checklists are available from several online sources to include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (www.ready.gov), the U.S. Fire Administration (www.usfa.fema.gov), and the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org).

In addition to checklists, consider some basic risk management principles to assist in preparing your facility.

  • Develop a Written Plan – Your facility’s written fire preparedness plan should be easy to understand, accessible, and updated on a regular basis. The plan may include property maps and diagrams, tenant information, building construction data, insurance policy numbers, and contact information for key personnel, tenants, insurance agents, local police and fire departments, utilities, and contractors. 
  • Practice Your Evacuation Plan – Implementing a facility evacuation plan can help avoid confusion and prevent injuries. Even with a small staff, provide documented training. Schedule periodic practice drills to ensure that your managers are ready in the event of a fire emergency to execute the plan including limiting tenants’ access to the property and mitigating the spread of fire. 
  • Mitigate by Communicating – Address fire prevention with your tenants on a regular basis. Flyers stuffed into monthly bills, e-mail, and signage placed throughout the facility are effective methods to remind tenants that the storage of flammable materials and use of items such as candles and heat lamps is prohibited at the facility. Signage also may be used to alert tenants to areas where smoking is prohibited. This step is critical if your facility is located in an area surrounded by brush and trees. You don’t want your tenant to be the cause of a wildfire. 
  • Get to Know Your Fire Department – During a fire, the fire department’s knowledge of your facility’s layout and buildings may help save lives and minimize damage. Invite your local fire department to visit your property for an inspection and consultation to discuss any issues they may identify during the walk-through that require remediation.

As with any risk that may affect your self-storage property, the key to preventing and managing the risk of fire is awareness. Educating yourself and your employees about fire preparedness, creating a written plan, and taking the appropriate steps to maintain the property to reduce the risk of fire are effective strategies to help minimize the risk of costly property damage in the event of fire. In addition, your insurance agent can advise you regarding insurance coverages and limits for your property.

Mike Schofield
President and CEO