When insurance firms launched social media initiatives, the results were rewarding.
Feb. 10--From the beginning, Kevin Hayward, who opened a State Farm insurance office in Lacey last year, has tried to run his business a little differently, hoping to convince potential clients that working with an agent is just as important as the cost of insurance.
That's not always an easy sell in a slow economy, he said, when many are most interested in the cheapest policy money can buy.
But a close relationship with an agent has its benefits, Hayward argues, pointing out that the strictly phone-based insurance experience -- when it comes to filing a claim -- can sometimes take too long or calls don't get returned.
"The level of care really isn't there," he said.
Hayward, 28, has rolled out the red carpet to his potential clients in the following ways:
--For his grand opening he had a little fun, calling it a "not your father's grand opening" which took place at 3:33 p.m.March 3.
--On baseball's opening day, his office served hot dogs to customers, plus showed a game and played video baseball games on TV.
--In October, his office served coffee and desserts at a nearby cafe. A client played music, he said.
--An upcoming event is to organize a family day at Charlie's Safari, an indoor playground for children.
Hayward joined State Farm nearly six years ago in DuPont, the Northwest headquarters for the insurance company. He worked in insurance claims for nearly three years, then moved on to public affairs before being encouraged to run his own agency.
The last time he sold anything were candy bars to generate funds for Little League Baseball, but Hayward dove headfirst into the sales experience, spending 100 hours going door-to-door to try to drum up sales leads. The experience was mostly positive, although a few people did slam doors in his face.
Jennifer Havlisch of Olympia, who started working with Hayward last summer, said she switched to him after a bad experience with her previous insurer.
She had been with her previous insurance company for 20 years, and had never been in an accident, but finally called one day to inquire about windshield repairs.
"Your rates are going to go up," the person on the phone matter-of-factly explained. Havlisch was stunned that was the insurance company's first response to her after being a loyal customer for so long. She decided to start shopping around and signed up with Hayward, eventually switching her home and both vehicles to State Farm.
"I feel like I made a connection with him," she said, adding that he was personable and avoided using a lot of insurance jargon in explaining State Farm policies.
She's not sure she saved a ton of money, but the coverage is better, Havlisch said.
"He (Hayward) has been Johnny-on-the-spot with everything," she said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403
Kevin Hayward, State Farm Agent
Location: 700 Sleater Kinney Road SE, Suite A, Lacey.
Years in business: One.
Employees: Two full time, one part time.
Services: Sells auto, home, life, business and health care insurance, as well as financial services.
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
Did you know? Hayward has spent nearly six years with State Farm, beginning in claims, followed by a stint in public affairs. Hayward, who grew up near Fresno, Calif., also is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants. His two favorite players are Buster Posey and Will Clark. His office is decorated with Giants' photos, bobbleheads and other memorabilia. He's also a former freelance sports writer.
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