Why I Left My (Insurance) Agent

The number-one complaint I hear from authors about their agents is that they don’t communicate with them. My understanding of this was renewed when I was on the side of needing an insurance agent to respond to me.

I needed an adjustment to my policy that will mean I’ll pay the company more money. Alas, and alack, the agency I’d been with for decades (which has been sold twice, by the way) never had someone available to pick up the phone during business hours. I’m at a particularly stressful and busy time in my life, and I have no time to engage in Byzantine voice-mail mazes on an 800 line. I expected a quick resolution with my agent.

Then again, not picking up the phone is better than feeling unwanted by a real live person. The second agent was snippy, treating me like a deadbeat until she saw we’d been paying premiums on time every time since my husband (then a bachelor) needed renter’s insurance in 1981. They wanted me to go back to the first unresponsive agent. That’s pretty much like an agent representing horror turning away Stephen King. Right?

A person answered the phone at the third place, changed the policy, and emailed documents to me literally five minutes after we hung up. Congratulations to them! They have a new paying customer!

I admit there are times I fail to communicate or to communicate well. But as your agent, I try to:

  • Remember that writers are the world’s busiest people.
  • Let clients know that email works best for me in most circumstances. By the way, I feel email imposes much less on clients’ time, too.
  • Return telephone calls as soon as possible.
  • Let clients know my office hours.
  • Acknowledge receipt of an email if I can’t give a helpful or informative response right away.
  • Attempt to treat all clients as I would want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12, anyone?)
  • Attempt to treat all clients well regardless of where they are in their careers.

I hope all of my clients feel special; and if they don’t, I hope they’ll communicate with me so we can stay on track!

Your turn:

What is the worst communication experience you’ve had? The best?

What tips can you offer anyone wanting to communicate effectively?




31 Responses to Why I Left My (Insurance) Agent

  1. Steve Watkins October 4, 2018 at 3:35 am #

    Several months ago a bank sent a notice they were charging me a fee for closing a checking account that had been inactive several months. The fee was around $4.

    I called once to remedy the situation. A live person picked up, asked if they could put me on hold and never returned. Days later, the same thing happened. On my next call an answering machine picked up. I informed them about the situation, and let them know I was now charging them $4 for time wasted and that our business should be considered even.

    Got a call from a branch manager hours later. We had a good chat, and all is well.

  2. Brennan McPherson October 4, 2018 at 4:12 am #

    The worst communication experience I had was with a Hollywood producer (I won’t name the name here to protect the non-innocent) who was interested in optioning one of my books. He called me, gushing, then we had a couple interchanges, and he promised certain things that never happened, and I haven’t been able to get a hold of him since. This is a legitimate producer, by the way. He was involved with The Passion of the Christ (not Mel Gibson), and directed two #1 box-office hits. I’ve since gotten work as a screenwriter on a different project, but have learned that the film industry is… bizarre. Someone said, “It’s the only place a writer can die from encouragement.” Meaning that people will tell you you’re the greatest, but it’s all fluff until they give you a paycheck.

  3. Shirlee Abbott October 4, 2018 at 5:18 am #

    A mortgage company agent repeatedly gave us faulty instructions,. I told her, “This is my once-in-20-years mortgage. It’s your full-time job. If you don’t already basic information I can find online in 10 minutes, what’s the point in paying you?” She was speechless.

    In the end, we got the mortgage from a different company.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 5:49 am #

      Very good point! I hope your conversation served as a learning experience for her.

  4. Damon J. Gray October 4, 2018 at 5:38 am #

    Worst Communication Experience: I had to think about this for a long time to even come up with one, because I tend to just let stuff like this go. I don’t need it clogging up my brain cells. That said, there was an online forum experience where I asked a simple question for some help with a software product. It was an older product that was being phased out and replaced (possibly with a current-generation version of the same application). The president of the company saw my request for help and became completely incensed and insulting toward me. It was completely out of line and exposed an exceedingly ugly side of this man. Ultimately, he removed himself and his company from the short list of about a $2 million software purchase.

    Best Communication Experience: I sent a proposal to a literary agent (very busy woman, as you know) and unlike every other agent to whom I’d sent the same proposal, from whom I heard nothing to possibly five lines of “thanks but no thanks,” this agent wrote me about a three page single spaced response praising the work, noting good features and offering suggestions, and then graciously explaining why she could not take it on as a work to represent. I was shocked at the care given to crafting that response, and will be forever appreciative of the respect she showed my by putting that much time, thought and effort into responding to a writer she was NOT going to represent.

  5. Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 5:53 am #

    Damon, I’m being pestered to update a software program and the site doesn’t let the update download. Ugh.

    The agent who took that much time obviously connected with your work. That says great things about you as a writer!

  6. Daphne Woodall October 4, 2018 at 6:34 am #

    Ok you and I are on the same page! Since my insurance agent (ex-agent) won’t see this….. My agent failed to notify or call that he had sold his agency. I discovered when I noticed a new agent on my bill! Here’s the rub. I actually worked for the same insurance company for 15 years. I worked in the sales department when the agent was hired, assisted him and moved my policies to him. He was like a younger brother. I’ve been insured (auto/home/life) with same company for 40 years.

    He finally called days after I left a message. I’ve known I could save by switching companies but I was dedicated. I changed companies. Saved over $1000. a year (that’s a writing conference and more). Then he called me when he got word I had canceled. I value relationships.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 9:45 am #

      Wow, the fact he didn’t contact you until after you canceled says a lot. What a shame to be disappointed, especially since you were so loyal!
      See you at the “free” conference!

  7. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 4, 2018 at 7:18 am #

    Communication experiences…well, the nadir and the ultima thule both came during a single conversation hen I was learning about Christianity, and was talking with Barbara.

    My hearing was not very good, since I had spent a lot of time shooting guns without being able to use ear defenders, and I learned more by listening than by reading anyway, so…

    “Barb, I’m puzzled about something. Why didn’t Jesus like tigers?”

    Long silence. “Uh, what?”

    “Well,His friend Judas brought a lion to work, and He was always healing leopards, so what was his beef against tigers?”

    “Because tigers didn’t live in Israel, dear.”

    She could have humiliated me by turning this into a ‘teaching moment’, but Barb chose to preserve my dignity and let me find out gradually, and on my own, my error.

    That’s great communication, and it also tells you what kind of a person she is.

    And no, sorry, she doesn’t have a sister.

  8. Johnnie Alexander October 4, 2018 at 8:33 am #

    This isn’t what you asked for, but I’d like to share a few of our shared communication moments. You put out the fire when my hair was burning (figuratively). You were the voice of reason (and laughed with me) when I went through a rare bout of the uglies. We’ve talked when I was parked at a gas station after eight hours of driving, when I was in a grocery store parking lot, when I was inside a convenience store, and two or three times when I was on days-long road trips. A Zoom chat that could have taken twenty minutes lasted about an hour because we were laughing so much. You’ve heard my delighted gasps and my disappointed sighs. Through it all, you’ve been encouraging, delightful, wise, and steady. I’m blessed to have you walking this journey with me.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 9:47 am #

      Well, now I’m just going to weep with happiness. Thank you.

  9. Jaime October 4, 2018 at 9:41 am #

    I worked for years as a real estate agent and in insurance, and still work for that company in a different capacity, so I very much understand the value of an agent.
    Once, back when I was a real estate agent, my clients were struggling with their mortgage company to get any sort of response from them, after they had been approved just enough to lock them into a legally-binding contract, of course. These poor young first-time home-buyers didn’t know what else to do to move things along, so I went down and had an impromptu face to face meeting with the mortgage broker myself. Because I can’t stand such disrespectful service. Even if I don’t have an immediate answer for someone, I take their call to explain to them as much in person.
    And what a surprise, my client’s mortgage went through that same day. 😉

  10. Kristen Joy Wilks October 4, 2018 at 9:57 am #

    Ooooh, I remember doing the run around with a telemarketer once and hearing him give up on the other end of the line. He was pounding something against his desk … the phone maybe and growling in frustration. That was exactly how I felt after being called repeatedly. I wasn’t mean, I swear, just persistent. I considered that successful communication.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 10:02 am #

      Now that made me laugh!

      Tamela’s Blog Comments Review: “I laughed! I cried!”

  11. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D October 4, 2018 at 10:29 am #

    Tamela, the worse communication experience I ever had was when I clicked through the telephone menu numbers in turn and then had the system kick me out 15 minutes later, returning me to the original prompts. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone….

    If someone wants to communicate effectively, he or she needs to do the following:

    All ways prove reed you’re writting. I dont kneed two due that, through, because my writtings prefect.

    Just sayin’….

  12. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 4, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Well, OK. Here’s an example of the absolute pit of communication.

    Shortly after my brother died, a telemarketer called and asked to speak to him.

    “You can’t,” I said.”He’s dead.”

    There s a long silence, and the lady stammered, “Oh, no, I am SO sorry…”

    And I realized that telemarketers were human, and I had just given this one a cruel sucker-punch.

    I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror, after that.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

      That’s a great big not your fault, Andrew!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 4, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

        Tamela, thanks. It’s haunted me for years, and this is the first time I have mentioned this – to anyone.

  13. claire o'sullivan October 4, 2018 at 11:54 am #

    Hi Tamela

    I have some similar responses to many of the comments. Perhaps one the funniest poor communicator was a man from the IRS who wanted proof that my husband died. I said, ‘huh? He’s not dead, in fact he just went to the grocery store.’ He insisted that he was dead. Over and again. The social security administration had declared him dead not once, but twice. I finally told my hubby just turn over your insurance money to me. Ha, ha. That went over well…

    My worst: usually, it’s me. In fact, I believe I was the needy writer from the pit of Hades for an agent looking at my work. I wasn’t mean or overly persistent, just well, question his judgment.

    My best: Same agent wrote me a wonderful rejection letter after reading my MS. I can’t tell you how positive the agent was, encouraging me to continue with suggestions he gave me. Despite the rejection, I was deeply touched and thanked him for taking the time to reach out to say he was reluctant to reject the MS for some content that could’ve turned some readers off. With such kind words, I have since changed said MS and am once again, wading the waters.

  14. Loretta Eidson October 4, 2018 at 2:24 pm #

    Let me just say that I frown upon businesses referring to me as a number on a chart versus acknowledging me as a human being. I love the fact that my auto/home insurance agent will pray with me should I need prayer. I may not know him personally, but at least he listens to what I have to say. As for you, Tamela, my agent, I have no, none, nada complaints. You always respond to my emails and you answer my questions. God is good all the time, and he confirmed it, even more, when he allowed our paths to merge together. Thank you for being real and loving the Lord.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm #

      You are so very sweet on the blog and in real life, Loretta!

  15. Judy Wallace October 4, 2018 at 4:00 pm #

    Hi Tamela,

    I loved your post on communication. I’ve had a bad experience with
    a hair stylist, who didn’t listen or do what I asked. She cut my hair so short I looked like a boy. It was the only time I cried over a haircut. but now many years later I have a really good hairstylist who listens and follows directions. Communication is essential and it refreshing to know that people still care about good communication.

  16. Crystal Caudill October 6, 2018 at 6:07 am #

    Unfortunately my worst communication experiences occurred with a previous boss. They did not communicate expectations, they berated me for going over and above with my students (tutoring a group after school), when there was an actual problem they gave me know direction on how to fix it and just tore me down, and if a parent had an issue, the parent was always right even if they were wrong and completely out of line.

    It was an awful experience that was a part of the decision to leave teaching (especially when family issues at home arose). It is also why while pursuing an agent I am adamant about meeting them and getting to know them a little bit. From everything I have heard, the agent/client relationship is a partnership with my agent having the better part of experience. I want a good partnership and not one that I “go home” in tears from or have anxiety attacks as I “head to work.”

    Tips for communication: Listen to understand not respond. Be clear, ask questions if you don’t understand, and if someone asks a question or comes to you for help, do NOT belittle them.

  17. Crystal Caudill October 6, 2018 at 6:08 am #


    • Crystal L Caudill November 4, 2018 at 3:26 pm #

      Today at church, God convicted me of holding on to a bitterness towards my old boss that has carries over and affected my interactions with others. Even though this response was made almost a month ago, I am afraid the above response was not a good reflection of Christ and I offer my sincere apologies. So to anyone who happens to read this, forgive me. I am always striving to walk closer to Christ but still stumble. God bless.

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