This post is part of a series sponsored by Old Republic Surety.
Sarabeth Scott provides an unusual perspective for independent agents: She speaks as a surety company representative, but she spent 20 years on the agency side of the surety business. She explains what independent agents should look for in a surety company when placing their clients’ bonds.
In today’s world, we are surrounded by advertisements. And whatever the product is, advertising consistently drives price to hook new customers. But is that the best approach?
Think about advertising through the eyes of a consumer. I like to use the example of purchasing a new vehicle, which many of us can relate to. It can be stressful and time-consuming to search for a car that is reliable, safe and affordable. After you’ve researched online and know what you want, which dealership do you turn to?
It’s easy to be drawn toward the place offering the best price or the lowest loan rate, but rarely do we hear about the service and experience these companies offer when you choose them.
Important value-added service questions
If I purchase a new truck from a dealership offering to beat its competitor’s price by $1,000, of course that sounds great for my wallet, but what is my experience going to be like when working with this dealer versus others?Will they go above and beyond to provide me with an easy car buying experience? Are they able to educate me about my options? Can I rely on them to provide me with a positive experience for any servicing and maintenance down the road? Will they treat me as a valuable customer, or will they be looking for a quick sale to rush me out the door?
It’s important to think about what matters most to you, and although price, rates and discounts are a factor, the value-added services provided by a company should also play a key role in your decision.
Now, to bring this concept to surety bonds
There are numerous markets available today for surety bonds, and each company has its own rates and services — so your toughest decision as an agent can be choosing the best surety company or companies. It can be easy to be drawn toward the companies with the best rates, especially when your customers are driven on price — which I can relate to from my time working on the agency side. However, if you take the time to evaluate each surety company’s ratings, services and products, claims process, underwriting support, communication and reliability, you will quickly realize which companies will provide you with the most valuable service.
A principal trusts their agent to place their bond with a surety company that will value them and provide superior service when they need it. If an agent then chooses the surety company with the cheapest rate, but the service is slow and claims processing is time-consuming, is that cheap rate really worth it? No. More often than not, both the agent and their principal will be frustrated, and the final cost will exceed the initial savings from the lower rate. This can harm the agent’s reputation and their relationship with the principal.
Poor surety company service can also damage the principal-obligee relationship. If the obligee has issues with the principal’s surety company, the obligee could be hesitant to do business with the principal in the future.
What does a surety bond company with superior service provide?Experts who are superior communicators. They are bonding experts who also are expert communicators. They ask the right questions and effectively listen to the needs of their agents and their principals. They effectively communicate the value their surety company can bring to their agency to meet specific needs and goals. Experts who are excellent educators. A superior surety company will be able to offer a clear understanding of their bond program, underwriting processes, claims processes, contact information for easy communication and support, and will train agency staff on bonds including utilization of online bond portals. Experts who are diligent researchers. A superior surety company will provide great value to their agents by looking for new opportunities to help grow their bonding book of business and provide them with a consistent level of superior service every step of the way.
Every surety company has experts who can talk about everything they know. But a superior bonding company has bonding experts who are exceptional communicators, educators and researchers. They allow a surety company to build trust with its clients and then grow strong relationships based on that trust.
If you have any questions about anything regarding surety, reach out to an Old Republic Surety branch nearest you.