Consumers frequently don’t discuss travel insurance protection with their agent because they think they’re already covered, or they don’t think they would ever need it. At the same time, travel agents are sometimes reluctant to introduce insurance options because interjecting the prospect of a catastrophe during a booking discussion doesn’t feel right.
As a result, travelers often head out on their trip less than fully protected in the event of an unforeseen trip cancellation or medical event, while agents lose an opportunity to close on a high margin sale. According to ASTA member surveys, travel agencies generate $3,619 in insurance-related revenue, or about 3.1% of median annual revenue.
“It’s a balancing act,” said CSA Insurance operations vice president, Bob Chambers. “Travel agents sell dreams, and finding the appropriate timing to discuss insurance can be difficult. The good agents recognize that insurance is good for their customers.” CSA Travel Protection is based in San Diego, CA.
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One of the ways that agents can introduce travel insurance is by helping do an inventory of existing insurance a traveler may already own and helping explain where there might be coverage gaps.
Agents can also make a sales pitch based on their client’s itinerary. “If they’re going on a cruise and not getting off much, and there is access to a ship’s doctor, the cruise line’s insurance might be enough,” said insuranceQuotes.com senior analyst, Laura Adams. “But if your clients are getting off and doing strenuous activities, they likely should get additional insurance.”
Adams also advised agents to consider their client’s age as an opportunity to sell insurance for a trip. “Seniors are a big target of travel insurance because they might be on Medicare. They are not going to be covered overseas,” so travel insurance would be beneficial to them for an international trip, Adams said.
Dan Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance, believes that “the best time to offer travel insurance is when the client is initially booking their trip and the agent knows the cost. The agent can then suggest a travel insurance policy that is best suited to the customer and can provide a quote.”
Durazo also reminded agents to focus on a simple value proposition, like easing the more commonplace travel worries. For example, in a survey conducted this summer by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s GeoBranding Center and AIG Travel, 66.5% of travelers rated flight delays and cancellations as the number one stressor, an event travel insurance can cover.
“Travel insurance provides real peace of mind,” Durazo said.
Don’t worry about having every answer
Some travel agents are hesitant to offer travel insurance because policies and coverage can vary from company to company, and agents may not feel comfortable answering detailed client questions. Isaac Cymrot, vice president of industry relations, Travel Insured International, said, that’s when it’s completely appropriate to conference in an insurance provider’s customer service representative.
“We coach agents to say things like, ‘Those are great questions about the plan details, do you mind if I get my travel insurance expert on the line to help answer your questions?’” Cymrot said.
Many insurers, like Allianz Global Assist, offer online tools that agents can use while on the phone with a client. Allianz’s AgentMax platform helps agents access and present policies to their customers and easily follow up a consultation by e-mailing the customer a quote or confirmation.
“The customer is coming to you because you provide a value they can’t find purchasing their travel online. If you portray confidence when discussing the importance of insurance, that can carry more weight than the actual words you choose,” Cymrot said.
Some clients are initially averse to accepting travel insurance, either thinking that their medical plan or their credit card provides insurance. Others may simply not expect to need it. That’s when agents need to use their objection handling skills.
Cymrot suggests a reply something like this: “Many of my clients have shared the same feeling about not needing insurance but were glad they reconsidered. If it’s ok, I would like to send you an email quote so you have the information should you choose to reconsider also.”
“Agents should remind customers that medical evacuations can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and travel insurance is usually the only insurance product that will arrange and pay for an evacuation,” Durazo said. “Traditional health insurance may or may not pay for medical treatment abroad (Medicare will not), but foreign healthcare providers often demand full payment in advance, leaving travelers to scramble for funds.”
If a client still resists, there might still be an opportunity to offer travel insurance after an itinerary has been purchased. Allianz’s AgentMax platform offers an email marketing tool called MaxMail, to send clients a co-branded reminder about purchasing travel insurance. Agents can plan a series of emails that coincide with the client’s complete travel decision making process.
Finally, Durazo and others recommend that agents ask clients who decline coverage to sign a waiver. “This may cause them to reconsider and at least will provide a record that insurance was offered and declined,” he said.