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Is there anything new at Ken May Insurance Services?
Yes, a couple of things! First, we have a new customer service representative. Her name is Paige and she recently graduated from Cal State San Marcos. We also signed up with the Hartford a few months ago. We are authorized to offer AARP products through the Hartford and the program has been on fire for us. The company has been a real joy to work with.

What do you like about owning an insurance agency?
It’s really a fascinating business which is constantly changing and challenging but the best part has always been the opportunity to help people protect their assets. Most people don’t know a lot about insurance nor do they want to (laughing) but I really like to sit down with somebody, go over their needs, and give them options to make informed decisions. Though some see it only as a necessary evil to conform to the law, it is a very important decision that they must make. I like helping others in making good, value-based decisions which give them peace of mind.

You gave up being one of Shamu’s trainers to get into insurance?
Yeah, crazy huh? During the time was at Sea World, I graduated from college, got married, and had my first child. I wasn’t getting paid much and it came time to think of the needs of my family. My mom, dad, and brother each had agencies in different parts of San Diego County and I grew up around the business so I thought I’d give it a try. And being a business major, the idea of running my own business appealed to me.

You recently wrote an article about the Blackfish controversy. How did that turn out?
I’ve written a number of articles about my experiences at Sea World and they have been the most popular and widely read articles in our newsletter with a lot of positive feedback. The Blackfish article resulted in mostly positive feedback, some negative feedback, and even a few really strange responses. It generated by far the most feedback of anything we have published before and the feedback was the most passionate we’ve ever received. The way I look at it is that everybody is entitled to their opinion and I appreciated the fact that so many people read the article and cared enough to give me their thoughts.

What do you least like about your job?
That’s easy. I hate seeing any of our clients leave us because they buy into some kind of scam or are hoodwinked by an unethical agent who will lie, cheat, and steal to get the business. We recently lost a long-time client who moved to save $60 on a homeowner’s policy and didn’t care that the agent lowered the replacement cost on their home $100,000. What will she do the next time fires rage out of control and she is short $100,000 to rebuild her home? These Fisher-Price policies (as I call them) might save a few bucks in the short term but can devastate a person’s finances for 40 years or more! These short-sighted people don’t understand until it’s time to file a claim that it is all about value and proper protection.

Has marketing changed a lot in the past 32 years that you have been doing this?
Oh yeah, it’s totally different now and lately, it seems to change on a weekly basis. I used to put a quarter page ad in the Yellow Pages for $625 per month and the phones would ring off the hook. Now, I’m having trouble figuring out how to get the phones to ring. We don’t have the budget to advertise like the big direct writers who advertise nationally. We are just trying to be relevant in North County but it seems like the rules change every day. Now, as much of my time is spent trying to figure out how to obtain new business as the time I put into the actual selling of insurance.
 
How is today’s consumer different than consumers in the 1980’s and even the 1990’s?
The biggest difference is the younger generation doesn’t seem to have the time or patience to sit down and have an actual conversation about their insurance needs. It needs to be done on their smart phone while sitting in a coffee shop. In the 80’s and 90’s, we would sit down with a client, go over their needs, and create a bond based on trust which generates loyalty. There is not nearly as much loyalty anymore. Consumers are willing to jump around from insurance plan to insurance plan based on price or an ad they’ve seen on TV, or a pamphlet they received in the mail. It seems like the trust and goodwill earned over a number of years loses its meaning. The big conglomerates are killing the small businesses.

You are the President of a large trade group of insurance agents. Do you make a lot of money doing that?
Wow. You must have been talking to the same guy that thought I made a lot of money training killer whales! Yes, I am the President of the American Agents Alliance but no, I don’t make any money for my volunteer work with the Alliance. The Alliance helps thousands of insurance agents and consumers throughout the state through advocacy, education, member benefits, and networking. I even had the opportunity to meet with legislators in Sacramento to help kill a bill that would have harmed consumers which was really an exciting thing to do. Believe me; I have gotten a lot more from the Alliance than what I have given in return.

Can’t people just buy car insurance online? Isn’t it all the same?
That’s two questions! The big direct writers like Geico and Progressive would like you to think that all auto insurance is the same and to make it into a commodity but for most people, this is dangerous thinking. All people aren’t the same and all situations aren’t the same. My nephew recently graduated in the top 5% of his law school (yeah Anthony!). His auto insurance needs are different than somebody who is an E3 in the military living out of his foot locker. If an attorney sees somebody with a lot of assets or even future assets, in the event that the person is uninsured or underinsured, he will garnish the person’s wages for 20 years with an option to renew for an additional 20 years if necessary. No, it isn’t all the same but that’s why we are here to help.

What’s your most favorite and least favorite auto insurance commercial?
Though I really like the Geico ad with Rocky and Bullwinkle, my favorite is still the one with the camel walking through the office. Hump Day! My least favorite is the “name your own price” ad by Progressive. Do people really think that they are naming their own price without cutting coverage? This is a way of driving people away from their agents by enticing them to buy directly through them even if it means they are putting the client at risk. 
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