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Risk management love.

February is the month of love and we all know strong relationships are built on a foundation of love. So if agents claim that the foundation of their businesses is strong client relationships, doesn't it logically follow that agents and clients should be in love?

No, not the "might as well face it, you're addicted to love" kind of love. Maybe more like the wonderful song from "Fiddler on the Roof: "Do you love me? Do I what?" When Tevye and his wife eventually realize that after 25 years, "I suppose I do" is the answer, their discovery is still as warm and glowing as any Romeo and Juliet may have conjured in their wildest teenage angst. Similarly, in the beginning your relationship with your customers was more like Tevye's arranged marriage. But after all these years, do they suppose you love them, too?

Specifically, with apologies to the Mindbenders, would your clients sing "Wouldn't you agree, agent, you and me, we got a groovy risk management kind of love?"

Some of you are no doubt thinking I could not be referring to the same risk management you have studied in your seminars and textbooks. How could this--what many consider a mechanical, analysis-driven process--be equated to emotional bonding on an exalted level?

Ah, grasshopper, open your eyes that you may see. Mayhap an example?

When I was in college, I spent a few of my summers digging ditches for a VA hospital construction site near Tampa, Fla. As if the ever-present threat of heatstroke wasn't already a risk, the fact that it was a federal project meant we had to wear hard hats. Just imagine shoveling away in the scorching sun and near 100 percent humidity with a portable microwave on your head and you have some sense of the experience. Did I love that job? Not a chance.

But was I truly grateful to my brother-in-law for getting me the job? For sure! Because that job was just a tool, a process (sound familiar?) for acquiring that which I did love: a new stereo!

Yes, even though at the time my concrete block jail cell of a college dorm room was currently being sonically well-served by a mere Bell & Howell cassette recorder, I dreamed of a brighter--and louder--world. One where the opening bass line of the Allman's "Whipping Post" literally blew the dust off the shelves. Where Spooky Tooth's "Evil Woman" would be shared with the entire wing of my dorm, yet the volume knob would only read "3" on a scale of 10. I wanted other Zeppelin freaks miles away to feel every anguished note as Plant wailed, "Since I've been loving you, I'm about to lose my worried mind" right along with me.

Needless to say, the tape recorder at full blast failed to scale such heights. But at the end of the summer, my digging earnings purchased several magical components such as a magnetic cartridge turntable, separate amp (and those watts were RMS, baby!), two killer air-suspension speakers and, of course, a stereo cassette tape deck for my vast Bell & Howell collection. As soon as I returned to the dorm, Radio Free Amrhein was on the air!

The west campus would never be the same.

Astute readers may now have gleaned one more detail of this process. The stereo was but another tool, the purchases another process. All directed to obtaining what I really loved: the emotional power of music!

In the same sense, it isn't risk management or the stellar products and services you offer that clients will love. Those are merely the tools and processes directed to obtaining what they really love: the emotional power of security and peace of mind.

Let's briefly review the 5 steps in the risk management process and see the love grow.

(1) Identify the risks. Where is the emotional connection in merely selling a product or answering a request for a quote? Such relationships are less "ain't no mountain high enough" and more like Rod Stewart: "You can even use my best cologne, just don't be here in the morning when I wake up." Nothing says romance quite like direct bill escrow.

If you are truly interested in a future with someone, you prove it by truly being interested in them. Ask questions. What is your favorite thing? What frightens you? What are your goals and dreams? If I could make one nightmare go away, what would it be? If you only had seconds to leap from your window to escape an exploding fire, what (or who--life and health are also risks of loss) would you grab to take with you?

(2) Consider possible alternatives. How may I help thee? Let us count the ways. And never forget true love is not "my way or the highway." In many risks of loss, insurance solutions are not the only, or even the best options. Consider such risk management tactics as avoidance (never buy a teenage male who's theme song is "I Can't Drive 55" an expensive, overpowered car) or retention (forget the computer insurance, get yourself an inexpensive massive storage drive and/or just back up the universe to the cloud).

(3) Price and select alternatives. If all you want is to sing in the sunshine and then be on your way, the best choice today will do. But if you are in this until the 12th of never, prices will change, markets will turn and new products and services will arise. Today, a soft market may make a high limits umbrella an easy choice. When markets get really hard down the road, maybe the price and available limits make this a bad idea. Property values rise and fall, families and lifestyles evolve, needs and risks of loss change. Regularly revisiting yesterday's answers for today's realities is part of any dynamic, growing relationship.

(4) Implement. Whatever the joint decisions made in the third step, no action means no future. Take it from the Trogs: If you really love them, come on and let it show. We've all known folks who talked a good game, but when it came to actually carrying through on the promises, vaporware replaced love and care. It may require some tough love, too, if the client is the one dragging his or her feet. But demonstrating your commitment by pushing clients to keep theirs is actually a confirmation you believe in and want the relationship. Anyone who has dealt with kids knows the name of this tune: they may not like (OK, they may actually hate) your ideas, but they need to know you haven't abandoned or given up on them.

(5) Monitor the results. Are your implemented alternatives working? Is your client's peace of mind and security improving? When losses occur, are promises fulfilled and thus commitments confirmed? Keeping your mind in the game turns the risk management process from a checklist to a virtuous cycle. As times and people change, as new ideas and possibilities arise, the natural next step is to return to the first step and work through the process again and again. The key to keeping the relationship healthy and growing is to prove you care how things are going and stay fully invested. ("I love you more today than yesterday"). Conversely, if you consider risk management to be a "once and done," then you risk your client's tune changing to, "I used to love her, but it's all over now."

We've come down to the crossroads. Time to flag a ride. So what is to be your commitment to your clients in building solid, love-based relationships? Will it be a third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous? Or love unlimited?

In this romantic month of February, I'm going with Barry White. P&B

By CHRIS AMRHEIN, AAI, president, Amrhein and Assocs.

Chris Amrhein is an insurance educator and speaker with more than 30 years in the industry. He also is chief fun officer of and author of "Yes, Virginia, There is Insurance." Contact Amrhein at
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Title Annotation:Policy Issues
Author:Amrhein, Chris
Publication:American Agent & Broker
Date:Feb 1, 2010
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