Craig & Heather Jones, award winning owners of Carolina Planning Insurance agency, are interviewed by Don Matheson, CEO of Fayetteville Business Connection, a group of local businesses committed to the modern trend of providing industry-specific information to help consumers make better choices.
Don Matheson: Craig and Heather, I appreciate your taking the time to visit with me today. I see you guys busy and I can hear your phone ringing as well.
Heather: It’s crazy this time of year. Thanks for coming over to talk with us.
Craig Jones: Thanks. Yes, and we have a great staff, so we’re good.
Don Matheson: You’ve been the ‘go-to’ insurance people in our group for some months now and you have really helped us to better understand the mechanics of efficient insurance coverage. My first question might seem a little esoteric, but tell me what motivates you to be independent insurance agents?
Heather Jones: Well, our main motivation is to help people avoid pitfalls in insurance coverage. We aim to provide excellent information as more than a ‘value added’ bonus. Acquiring insurance is a necessity that people purchase to institute a transfer of risk. If the policy is not set up properly, that transfer does not occur and the policy holders suffer the risk they thought was covered. We help people avoid that situation and it is most satisfying.
Craig Jones: That is a good summary. Since we have the experience, and insurance can be complicated, we’re motivated to provide good information so people can make the right choices for themselves.
Don Matheson: You have certainly opened my eyes to variables I hadn’t considered. What would you say to people who think all vehicle insurance coverage is the same?
Craig Jones: I understand where they are coming from. It could certainly seem that way to someone. Auto liability insurance generally only differs by the amount. In North Carolina the required limits are arbitrarily set by the state. The problem occurs when people have claims that exceed the property damage on basic liability. In that case when an accident occurs, the policy holder pays that difference.
Heather Jones: We take the time to match coverage with the customer’s unique situation so they don’t get left ‘holding the bag’.
Don Matheson: My experience has been that a few minutes of questioning by you, pertaining to each situation, is very valuable to the decision process. Is it possible for a person to attain high quality personal, home, auto or business insurance through an impersonal online quote?
Craig Jones: It may be possible, but it is not probable. When consumers get one quote from one company without the benefit of an informed professional’s perspective, they can’t be sure all of their risk is covered. If they omit one or two pieces of information, they could easily end up with the wrong policy.
Heather Jones: As independent agents we can shop multiple good carriers to find the best fit for each consumer’s situation. Additionally, and this is important to people, the way the policy is structured can drastically affect the premiums. We know of ‘niche’ companies that do not market directly to consumers. We frequently offer people more coverage for less money because they qualify for unadvertised discounts.
Don Matheson: That would be a very positive result. So tell me, what constitutes successful coverage for someone?
Heather Jones: All effective insurance policies cover a need based on a specific set of individual circumstances. That usually follows a consultative interview session to determine what coverage would be the most effective.
Craig Jones: That’s right. Heather is very good at asking the right questions to get the right coverage.
Don Matheson: On the other side, what disqualifies someone for auto coverage?
Heather Jones: Drivers cannot be turned down for liability coverage. Comprehensive and collision coverage can be refused based on not having a valid driver’s license or a negative driving history with excessive points against their license, or even not-at-fault accidents.
Craig Jones: Some of it just depends on the company.
Don Matheson: Different companies, different criteria, rules and regulations for all. Can you give an example of how you educate someone who is not familiar with the insurance coverage process?
Heather Jones: We begin with a consultative interview process in which we ask questions that most prospective customers don’t think about. This usually leads to information that would not be considered without this series of questions. So between us we have established exactly what they will need for successful coverage.
Don Matheson: I’ve seen the way your business runs and it is very structured. What do you differently that separates your process from your competitors?
Heather Jones: We go beyond the obvious to bring out some small but important criteria that, if overlooked, could keep the policy holder at risk. That process plus the intangible aspects of showing care and concern, really resonate with our customers. Once they become customers, they stay with us.
Craig Jones: Yes and one of the reasons is that we value our customers and look out for them. Circumstances change for companies and I recently moved a longtime client to another carrier with the same coverage for half the cost. Needless to say, he was delighted.
Don Matheson: I have really been impressed by the solid business platform you employ. What is the first thing someone would do to begin the process?
Heather Jones: We used to say think about exactly what you need and then call, but we’ve changed that to just pick up the phone or come visit and between us we’ll find out if what you think you want is really what you need, based on questions you might not even know to ask.
Craig Jones: Yes, that is a major factor in achieving success for the customer.
Don Matheson: In your experience, what is the biggest or most common problem that you solve for the consuming public?
Heather Jones: It’s more of a challenge than a problem. Everyone wants the most they can get for the least investment. It is human nature. Many times we get the perfect match. Sometimes you just have to pay the price. All of the time we get as close as we can, which is much better than you can do on your own.