As I wrote this article, I felt a little nostalgic regarding how things used to be at Allstate. My affiliation with Allstate will reach 19 years in July. My have things have changed at Allstate! And I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you if current and future changes will be for the better or worse.
We simply have a few choices to make. We can decide to sell and hope that Allstate approves the buyer, or we can take TPP for those of us that qualify. An additional pathway is to “go for it” again and use best practices for our business to ride the waves. We are so fortunate to have a very good executive director, Ted Paris, who has great experience as a manager and former agency owner. He is ready and willing to discuss issues and help you plan for your future.
My history with Allstate is not as long as many of yours, but I do remember how Allstate tried to look like they really cared about the agents. As one of my board members said recently “they used to treat us like royalty.” This is not the case for many of the small-to-medium size agencies today. There is a long list of changes implemented by Allstate and I don’t need to go into the details of the new compensation plan, the integrated service option, the lack of executive advantage dollars and even the charge for marketing materials.
The industry is changing as many industries have changed and will continue to change in our lifetimes. Captive Allstate agents appear to be going the way of dinosaurs; they are disappearing. But we must face the era in which we live. The Baby Boomers still like to have a personal agent because they have assets and want them protected. Younger groups of people only want help when they need it. Insurance Companies are marketing more to these do-it-yourself techies. But of course, when things go wrong, we are the first to be called.
When I was young, there were pay phones in every corner. Today, I doubt many of us long for pay phones. I can remember when I was in high school and microwave ovens were the future of cooking. I don’t think many of us cook with them, but I would bet that just about every household in America has one. I was learning how to work with computers in high school and they were cumbersome and huge, no one knew that, in several years, they would be vital assets to maintain just about everything in our lives When I walked into McDonalds the other day, I was instructed that all orders MUST be placed at the kiosk instead of the counter. As I stood at the kiosk, I realized that they’ll replace the jobs of the 16- year-olds that used to work at McDonald’s during the summer months. When I thought about what they do now for extra cash, I noted that they certainly do not sell newspapers, because hardly anyone reads print and newspapers are going out of business. We used to receive our news from paper and three major network news channels. Now it is all about cable and social media.
Times have changed and we need to move with them. So, my advice is to make changes, move incrementally with the industry and have flexibility. Or maybe it’s time to move elsewhere. Smokey Bear said “only you can prevent forest fires.” Today, I want you to know that only you can decide what is right for your future.
There was a time when agents could set the goals they wanted to achieve in their agencies. But, like pay phones, those days are long gone. Since Allstate Corporation does not see the agent as an integral asset to the future and, in all fairness, considering online purchases for insurance is the rising tide of the industry, you need to consider what is good for you and Allstate Corporation will do what is good for it. I love what I do so I am here until Allstate decides it doesn’t want me or need me.
I do want to end on a positive note: when I was young, we had vinyl albums and turn tables (I actually still have one and my old albums). Those days were done due to technology but there is a current trend to own albums and turntables again. They are more costly than streaming music online, but young people are fascinated by them. My hope is that soon captive Allstate agents will be like albums and turntables and will be worth more to those that seek them in the future. Good luck and all the best to you.
I recently received a phone call from a very good friend who lives in California and works for Select Quote. To my surprise, he told me that he was flying to the Midwest to get training on selling Allstate Insurance. I then asked him if it was Allstate proper, Esurance or Encompass, and, with joy in his voice, he responded, “No Debe, I am actually selling Allstate Insurance!” I did not know what to say, except for wow! So much for agent exclusivity.
It appears the only thing about exclusivity in the world of Allstate is that exclusive agency owners are excluded from selling a plethora of products. At the same time, Allstate offers these products through different channels with higher commissions for sellers. Shouldn’t loyalty be a two-way street? Most agents I know, including myself, are extremely loyal to Allstate. Sometimes, I wonder if Allstate is loyal to us.
The above is just one of the many challenges agents face within their agencies. During September’s NAPAA conference, we highlighted not only the new Integrated Service Solution, but many other challenges that have plagued our agencies throughout the years. Most challenges are dealt with by coming up with creative solutions.
This particular issue, a requirement that new agencies under $1.5 million use Integrated Services, could be a detriment to reselling small to medium – size businesses from a cash flow basis. Allstate is requiring the new buyers to open their offices with three or more LSPs and to use Integrated Services, which is not cheap. At the current rate of 2 percent of written premium, this would cost a $1.5 million-size agency $2,500 a month. This number will probably change so agencies join, but nothing would stop Allstate from increasing the cost at a later time.
I would venture to say that, even if Allstate were offering Integrated Services at no cost, it would still possibly be a bad deal. There many reasons to hesitate, but here are just a few concerns: poor to bad customer service experience (based on past attempts), inability to cross-sell, and our personal relationship losses. We all have CIC horror stories, a lot of our new business comes from cross selling, and how many times do we talk to Betty or Jane about their children graduating, getting married or having a baby. Aren’t these the cues we use to talk about life insurance?
On the horizon, we see Advisor Pro lurking its malfunctioning head across our desks, causing hours of agony while writing one little ole renters’ policy, UGH!! When will the chains of technology torture ever end? On Aug. 24, 2019, agents and Allstate had tremendous losses of revenue when technology outages prevented our offices from writing any quotes in either Alliance or Advisor Pro. We will never know how many potential clients went to another company to get a quote. Surely, Allstate could not have been happy about this problem. No one was making money with this outage. It affects customer service as well. We were not able to complete any endorsements; they were not taking phone calls and the chat line was down.
Maybe the Company should fix existing problems before starting a new program. Just a thought!
If there was ever a time to come together and lock arms, it is now.
NAPAA is here to join forces with agents across the nation to open dialogue to share ideas and solutions that not only will be productive for agents but win/win solutions for agents and Allstate. We have weathered many storms, including: IPS, ABO, losing line 19, and requirements of LSP count.
Can we talk? Join NAPAA and let us work together and help Allstate help us.