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Effective Complaining – Getting Your Issue Resolved

  
  
  
© tashka2000 - Fotolia.com

All of us have a story about an altercation with a company or individual.  These encounters can be frustrating and occasionally don’t get the desired result.  We want to offer some tips on getting results without getting steamed. 

Begin by sitting on the other side of the communication.  The person you are contacting probably didn’t cause your problem and is most likely charged with resolving your issue satisfactorily.  You want to encourage this person to respond positively your complaint. 

  • Concise – state your concern clearly without paragraphs or unnecessary information

  • Professional – letters and calls that are presented reasonably have more creditability and are taken seriously

  • Factual – allow your audience to see immediately the relevant details, dates, requirements, etc., and to justify action to resolve the complaint.  Long, wandering accounts of your situation will not get your issue resolved quickly.  Bullet points are a great way to organize your information.

  • Constructive – being reasonable and suggesting positive actions will encourage faster resolution. 

  • Friendly – communications presented with a considerate, cooperative and complimentary tone - are prioritized because the recipient responds positively to the request and wants to help.   Note to people who yell in writing or over the phone:  Stop.  It’s the quickest way to get moved to the bottom of a great big pile.  

Next, let’s think about how to get your written communication read or phone call heard.  A great idea is to follow the AIDA pattern – attention, interest, desire, and action.  This process of persuasion can be used both in written complaints and verbal interactions.  After all, aren’t you persuading the person or company to see your point and take action?

In the heading identify the issue, the product, service, person, and reference code or transaction number.  State the simple facts and dates.

Tell the reader the result you want.  Dropping a complaint bomb without clearly stating what would make you happy is just piling on the misery.  The recipient isn’t a mind reader – tell them what you want or expect them to do.

If the situation is complicated, make your main point(s) in a short letter or email and attach the details.  Then you have allowed the reader to understand your main point without reading multiple pages of information.

If you are very angry, sleep on it before you send any communication.  Threatening people seldom produces good results. Also remember that the person reading your letter just wants to do a good job, be happy, to get through the day without being upset. Be nice to people.  The person reading the letter is your best ally - keep them on your side and they will do everything they can to resolve the problem - it's their job.

Keep it simple.  Tell your reader that you'd like to find a way forward, rather than terminate the relationship. When you say that you're taking your business elsewhere, and that you're never using them again, etc., then you have removed their incentive to look for a good outcome.  

Businesses worth patronizing work harder for loyal customers.  They also want customers to let them know when the company has disappointed the customer.  So it helps to be seen as a positive and constructive customer rather than a negative, critical one. It helps for your complaint to be seen as an opportunity to improve things, rather than an arena for confrontation and divorce.  You are helping improve companies when you constructively complain.

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 34 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  ContactUs.

Gross Things to Throw Away – Tips for Spring Cleaning Your House

  
  
  
© Mitarart - Fotolia.com

April is a great month for Spring cleaning.  Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22, and is a perfect time to think about recycling.  National Take-Back Initiative Day is on Saturday, April 26, when you can safely bring in expired or unused drugs. Here are some ideas for cleaning and disposing of your unwanted items.

Hazardous Waste

Surprisingly, our homes actually contain hazardous waste - aerosol cans, batteries, motor oil, antifreeze, paint, and pesticides are just a few.  To avoid contaminating the environment or harming children or pets, all of these items need to be disposed of properly.  Earth911.com, is a huge clearinghouse for recycling info, great tips, and interesting DIY projects.  In Houston, check out the solid waste website for disposal locations.  http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/hhw.htm 

Piled-Up Plastic Containers

You probably have a cabinet in your kitchen full of plastic containers.  April is a great time to play the matching game and see just how many containers you have with a lid that fits. 

Check for recycle codes 3 or 7.  Those containers may contain BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical that leaches into food as containers age or get heated in the microwave or dishwasher. Tupperware made before 2010 can also have BPA.  Replace with new plastic or glass containers, which do not contain the chemical. For more information on recycling in your area, click on http://www.houstontx.gov/solidwaste/recycling.htm

Expired or Unused Drugs

Got some old medications taking up space?  Get rid of your old drugs in a safe, legal, eco-friendly way. Empty the pills into a ziptop plastic bag and take them to official collection sites on National Take-Back Initiative Day, Saturday, April 26, from 10:00 – 2:00. Call 1-800-882-9539 for locations in your neighborhood.  The pill bottles can be recycled, too.  Be sure to remove the personal information on the labels first.

Old Spices

Those old, dried up spices that are stuck to the jars won’t actually make you sick.  They’re also not going to be very tasty in your food or impart any nutrients either. The experts at McCormick say seasoning blends last 1 to 2 years; herbs and ground spices, 1 to 3 years; and whole spices, up to 4 years.

Moldy Makeup

Makeup can be a breeding ground for bacteria – especially in eye makeup.  Mascara has the shortest shelf life (2 to 3 months), followed by lip gloss (6 months). Replace foundation after 6 months to 1 year, at most.

Crusty Contact Lenses

Yuck!  Poor cleaning and hygiene means that up to 92% of contact lens cases are contaminated according to studies. Eye experts and the government say cases should be replaced every month to 3 months.  Be sure to clean and air-dry (facedown) daily. Ditch the soaking solution every day and start fresh — no topping off or reusing.

Pitiful Pillows

Grossed out by those commercials about old mattresses?  What about your pillow?  Allergies, asthma, and sinusitis can be aggravated the fungi, dead skin, and dust mites in pillows over 18 months old.  When you fold your pillow in half and squeeze out the air, if it doesn’t spring back it’s time to get a new one.   

Expired Canned Foods

Just because it’s in a can doesn’t mean going to last forever.  Canned meat and veggies are good for up to 5 years, canned tomatoes and veggies for about 18 months. 

Germy Kitchen Sponge

According to microbiologist Philip Tierno, Ph.D., of New York University, the kitchen sponge is harbors bacteria in damp crevices and is the yuckiest thing in most households.  To combat those germs, start fresh with a new kitchen sponge. To cut contamination, microwave your sponge daily in an inch of water for 60 seconds on high heat.  Set the sponge out to air dry.

At Dean & Draper we want to help you keep your home and family safe.  We hope you find these tips helpful. 

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 34 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  Contact Us.

Continuity and Executive Benefits – Business Owner Bulletin

  
  
  

© Rob - Fotolia.comBusiness owners face some intense questions each day.  The two below are likely to keep many business owners awake at night. 

In the event of the owner’s retirement, disability, or death is the corporation going to survive?

Is it desirable for assets purchased by the corporation to fund future executive benefits to be accessible to corporate creditors?

When the answer to either question is “no,” consider a type of selective executive benefit plan owner by the employee. 

Executive Bonus Plan

In this option, the corporation:

  • Pays a bonus to selected key executives in the form of life insurance premiums.

  • Deducts its contributions, which are taxable to the executive.

The executive owns the policy, making it secure from corporate creditors, and can accumulate substantial cash values.

Collateral Assignment Split Dollar Plan

In a split dollar arrangement:

  • The employer pays part of the cost.

  • Selected key executives are able to purchase cash value life insurance at reduced cost to them.  

The executive owns the contract, making it safe from corporate creditors. The executive assigns the policy to the corporation as security for the premium contributions.

Sound interesting?  We welcome your questions and would like to discuss good options to protect your family, company, and executives. 

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 33 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  

Contact Us.

Distracted Driving – More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving

  
  
  

describe the imageWe’ve all done it.  While we’re driving we hit those keys on our phones sending emails, texts, or making a call.  Most of us have been really lucky and haven’t had a wreck or injured anyone.  We don’t realize that sending or receiving that text takes our eyes off of the road for about 4.6 seconds.  That doesn’t seem long until you realize at 55 miles per hour it’s just like driving the length of a football field blindfolded. 

Texting while driving a vehicle has now replaced drinking while driving as the leading cause of accidents and deaths of teenage drivers.  Research done in 2012 by Texas A&M University’s Center for Transportation Safety found that 1 in 10 Texas drivers were talking on a phone, texting, or using some other electronic device while driving.  Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than non-texting drivers.

The Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that of 33,561 traffic fatalities nationwide in 2012 (the most recent statistics available), 3,328 were caused by distracted driving including talking or texting while underway. 

Texas had a total of 90,937 crashes statewide in 2012 involved distracted driving such as driver inattention or cell phone use, resulting in 471 deaths and 18,594 serious injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation - a 13% increase in distracted driving fatalities in a single year.  And in Houston one death and 791 serious injuries resulted from 4,662 distracted driving crashes. 

Texas leaves decisions about cell phone use up to drivers. The Lone Star State is one of 29 states that have no restrictions on the use of hand-held phones by drivers. Twelve other states ban the use of hand-held phones by drivers, nine states have some restrictions, and 41 ban texting by drivers. 

Call to Action

So, what can each of us do to make our roads safer?  Since 47% of adults admit to texting while driving, what if we simply waited until we’re safely stopped to play with our technology?  There isn’t a call, text, or email that’s important enough to risk injuring yourself or those around you. 

Cell Phone App

Teens, inexperienced drivers, and even experienced ones may need to be reminded to refrain from calling, texting, and emailing while driving.  Not surprisingly, there’s an app for that – several in fact.  In January Jeff Ehling with Channel 13 reported on distracted driving and evaluated three cell phone apps.  Click the link to see the complete story. http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/consumer&id=9415194

Take the Pledge

How about making a pledge to stop being a distracted driver?  Facebook is doing its part to provide an opportunity to get serious.  The link will take you to the Facebook pledge page.  https://www.facebook.com/PledgeNowTXTL8R

Get a Device

For parents and business owners alike, a device that blocks phone activity – except emergency calls – could be the answer.  Many devices are flexible on which activities are restricted as well as provide additional tracking information. 

If you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while you’re behind the wheel.

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 33 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  Contact Us

IIAH Honors the Late Bob Dean With Outstanding Service Award

  
  
  

Bob Dean

Houston, Texas, March 17, 2014 – Bob Dean, former President and CEO of Dean & Draper Insurance Agency LP, has received a posthumous award for his unparalleled service through the years. The Independent Insurance Agents of Houston (IIAH) honored the late Bob Dean with the Outstanding Service Award (OSA). Son Kyle Dean accepted the award on his father’s behalf.

The OSA is awarded to individuals who have given their time and expertise to the insurance industry and the community. Bob Dean epitomized the spirit of giving back to his community both personally and professionally.

A native Houstonian, Dean obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Houston in 1968. He went on to serve the industry in roles for major insurance companies, including Aetna and Crum and Forester. He started Dean & Draper in 1980 and continued to serve the industry through his home-grown, customer-focused agency for the rest of his life. His legacy of service and heart lives on through his son Kyle Dean who has succeeded his father in the family business.

In additional to his agency contributions, he served on the board of directors for both IIAT and IIAH. He was also a board member of the IIAH Charitable Foundation, and a trustee of the Harris County Insurance Policy Action Committee.

Perhaps his greatest legacy is the Insurance and Risk Management Degree Program at the University of Houston-Downtown. Bob Dean was instrumental in the founding and ongoing operation of the program. He was a lifelong supporter of both the University and the insurance industry, dedicated to helping develop the leaders of tomorrow. Today, the Bob Dean Memorial Fund recognizes this commitment to service, and continues to support future insurance professionals.

About the Bob Dean Memorial Fund

In memory of Bob Dean, the Bob Dean Memorial Fund was set up to benefit the Insurance & Risk Management Degree Program at the University of Houston-Downtown. Mr. Dean was a founder of the Insurance & Risk Management Degree Program and Chair of the IRM Center Advisory Council. Checks made payable to UH-Downtown may be mailed to Dr. Wendall Braniff, Director Insurance & Risk Management Center, University of Houston-Downtown, One Main, Suite B-488, Houston, TX 77002.

About Dean & Draper Insurance Agency LP

Founded in 1980, Dean & Draper caters to an international roster of clients from six offices, including its headquarters in Houston, Texas. Through a network of more than 200 diverse insurers, the independent company offers the most competitive, comprehensive policies for personal and commercial insurance needs. This National Top 100 agency in Property & Casualty and Top 50 agency in personal policies underwrites in excess of $150 million in annual auto, home, health and corporate premiums.

CryptoLocker – Tech Alert from Dean & Draper

  
  
  

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Ransomware – the Newest Cyber Threat for Business

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, cybercriminals add a stunning new twist.  CryptoLocker, a ransomware Trojan, targets computers running Microsoft Windows.  Taking kidnapping - a centuries old concept - into cyberspace is the new frontier for cybercriminals.  Detected in September, 2013, CryptoLocker encrypts your files with a private key stored only on the cybercriminal’s servers rendering the files unusable until a ransom is paid.  CryptoLocker even includes a countdown clock – usually 72 hours.  Refusing to pay the ransom means your files could be lost forever when the private key is deleted on the cybercriminal’s server. 

According to Dell SecureWorks the number of systems infected globally in the first 100 days of the threat is an estimated 250,000 systems.  The United States, Great Britain, Australia, and France have the top infection rates.  Currently the major targets have been small businesses.  The concern is that these cybercriminals will become more aggressive and target larger companies.

To Pay or Not to Pay 

Isn’t that always the question?  At this point, researchers consider the encrypted files unbreakable.  So you would be left to determine how much data is lost and if your backup is recent enough to make a recovery possible. Note that payment is often, but not always, followed by the files being decrypted.

Protection

CryptoLocker typically shows up in your email as an attachment – frequently as a fake attachment to FedEx or UPS tracking notice.  Security software is designed to detect such threats, yet it may not detect CryptoLocker at all.   

Before an incident occurs, strengthen your computer defenses.  Check with your IT professionals about beefing up your security protection including enhanced firewalls, stronger passwords, and additional employee training on spotting questionable emails.

If you don’t have a relationship with an IT provider, take some time now to find a professional.  The CryptoLocker encryption takes some time to complete so quickly removing the malware – a fairly simple process – may limit the data damage.  If you suspect an attack in its early stages, contact your IT professionals immediately. 

At Dean & Draper, we think part of our relationship with clients and friends is to warn you about potential menaces to your success.  We hope that you will find these alerts useful to you and your business. 

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 34 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  Contact Us

How do I determine if I have sufficient flood insurance?

  
  
  

Flood Insurance

There are few points in U.S. history when floods and the havoc they wreak have garnered more attention than over the past decade. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina put New Orleans underwater. More recently, Hurricane Sandy revealed how vulnerable New York City is to storm-based flooding. And while both cities do abut large bodies of water, the risk they face is not unique: Since Katrina and before Sandy, numerous flood events have occurred elsewhere in the United States, including the noncoastal middle of the country.

Of course, most individuals and companies that own coastline property understand the risks of building a residence or business structure near a body of water the size of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. But people and firms expose themselves to the increased possibility of flood damage just by owning a property near a lake, a river or flood plain. Indeed, the destruction that occurs when water is whipped by hurricane-strength winds can reach far inland. Just ask the homeowners who live 50 miles from Manhattan and had flooded basements and water pouring through damaged roofs, compliments of Sandy.

Consider this revelation from the federal website floodsmart.gov: In February 2010, over two years before hurricane Sandy, the website reported that floods are the most destructive of all natural disasters in the United States, causing more than $2.4 billion of property damage every year.

So given the ubiquity of floods thus far in the 21st century, and a prediction by weather experts that wet-weather events will increase in the coming decade, the question seems to be not whether you should have flood insurance on your homes and businesses, but how much.

In 1968, the U.S. Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in an effort to make available hard-to-get coverage that was affordable and unavailable in the commercial marketplace. In fact, if you live or operate a business in a high-risk flood zone, but your community has taken measures to protect against future floods, you may qualify for NFIP. That’s the good news. The bad news, particularly for premium-priced high net worth residences, is the NFIP’s coverage levels.

For a “dwelling” structure (house), the coverage is $250,000, and for the personal property within it, $100,000. For commercial buildings, the coverage is $500,000 and another $500,000 for the company’s property inside the structure.

To make the math easy: Subtract $250,000 from the replacement value of your home and the difference is the amount you will have to come up with out of pocket in the event of a total loss. Even if the destruction is not total, for a beachfront home valued at, say, $1 million, a Katrina or Sandy would easily do a lot more than $250,000 worth of damage.

In short, while you should take advantage of the NFIP program if it is available, to fully protect your investment we suggest you supplement NFIP with excess flood insurance coverage, which offers limits as high as $15 million. Excess flood insurance also provides replacement costs for damaged property and possessions. Think of it this way: In a high net worth household, just one painting damaged or destroyed by flooding could equal the NFIP total of $100,000.

In sum, as with any insurance, determining whether your flood insurance is “sufficient” begins with finding out your current level of coverage. If it is not enough to rebuild your home and replace the items within it, an excess flood insurance policy will fill the gap.

Springing Forward Calls for a Battery Change

  
  
  
Cheryl Casey - Fotolia.com

While you probably remembered to “spring forward” by setting your clocks an hour ahead, we want to remind you to change the batteries in both your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.  Got the smoke detector?  Great!  Don’t have the carbon monoxide detector yet?  We’re sure that the information below will send you to the store right away.

Carbon monoxide poisoning sends nearly 20,000 people to the emergency room each year according to the Centers for Disease Control.  You may remember the popular Long Island restaurant where a deadly carbon monoxide leak sickened patrons and claimed the life of the manager a couple of weeks ago. 

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?  CO is found in combustion fumes.  CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing it.  Some sources include:

  • Cars and trucks

  • Small gasoline engines

  • Lanterns

  • Burning charcoal and wood

  • Gas ranges

  • Heating systems

To keep you and your family safe, here are some tips and guidelines:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms & other living areas. Replace batteries regularly – like every time you change your clocks for daylight savings time.
  • We’ve been experiencing the hot, cold, hot, cold temperature cycle our area is famous for, so using your gas range or oven to heat your home may sound like a good idea.  It’s not. 
  • During Ike, we all heard those generators running in our neighborhoods.  If you’re using a generator during a power outage, keep at least 25 feet or farther away from your house.

The signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headache, nausea, or loss of consciousness.

Taking action.  If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of CO poisoning:

  • Get outside to fresh air immediately.

  • After calling 911, do a head count to check that all persons are accounted for. DO NOT reenter the premises until the emergency services responders have given you permission. You could lose consciousness and die if you go in the home.

  • Contact a doctor immediately to confirm the diagnosis. Tell your doctor that you suspect CO poisoning is causing your problems.

  • Make sure a qualified service person checks the appliances for proper operation before reusing them if CO poisoning is confirmed. 

At Dean & Draper we are invested in your safety.  For more tips and information, watch this short video from the CDC on carbon monoxide poisoning and prevention.

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 34 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  ContactUs. 

OUR OFFICE WILL DELAY OPENING (3/4/2014)

  
  
  

Due to inclement weather our office will delay opening until 10:00am. Please refer to our website for claim information. Thanks.

http://www.deandraper.com/auxiliary-links/file-a-claim/#.UxW8QOddV3Y

Target Corp. Cyber Breach Update

  
  
  
© Sikov - Fotolia.com

Just a month ago we published a blog on Cyber Breach Insurance in the wake of the Target Corp. major cyber crisis.  The economic impact on Target Corp is still in the early stages and we thought an update is in order.

Target shares, which had fallen 11 percent since news of the breach, were up 6.8 percent at $60.37 on Wednesday, 1/26/14.  Target also reported a 46 percent drop in net profit in the crucial holiday quarter.

Insurance Offsets Expenses

Target said of the $61 million in expenses related to the breach during the quarter, $44 million were offset by an insurance payment, bringing the impact to $17 million. 

Cyber insurance policies can cover costs for items such as investigating breaches and repairing networks, compensating credit card issuers for fraudulent activity, fighting lawsuits and responding to regulatory probes.

Target said additional breach-related expenses may include costs for reissuing cards, lawsuits, government probes and enforcement proceedings, legal expenses, investigative and consulting fees, and capital investments.

Collateral Damage

Sean Naughton, of Piper Jaffray, said that Target's reputation for having a top-rate shopping experience had been tarnished by the fact that many customers have either had to have payment cards replaced or find themselves checking their monthly statements more closely, giving them a negative association with the retailer.

Cyber Attack Point

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity reported that investigators believe the source of the Target intrusion traces back to network credentials that Target had issued to Fazio Mechanical, a heating, air conditioning and refrigeration firm in Sharpsburg, Pa.  Investigators believe that those credentials were stolen in an email malware attack at Fazio begining at least two months before thieves started stealing card data from thousands of Target cash registers.

While Target and Fazio continue their debate on compliance and access issues, the fact remains that cyber breaches are costly not only in remediation costs but also in damage to a company’s reputation, current and future sales, stock value, and customer retention. 

Is Your Business Prepared for a Cyber Attack?

Cyber risk is not limited to large businesses.  In fact, any business storing confidential information - social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, credit or debit card numbers and passwords, or medical data - should be concerned with cyber threats and have a plan for cyber breaches.  Part of that plan should be cyber liability insurance.  So, what are the risks businesses are facing?

  • Expense of privacy notification, crisis management, and disaster recovery.

  • Identity Theft from lost or stolen Social Security numbers or credit card, driver’s license, or financial information

  • Lawsuits for damages to customers stemming from a security failure or alleged technology error or omission.  Or alleging invasion of privacy, defamation, or product disparagement involving information residing as email; on laptops, PDAs, flash drives, or servers; or on the Internet.

  • Fines or Penalties as a result of actual or potential unauthorized access to private information.

  • Security Failure or Internet Virus interrupting business.

  • Cyber Extortion threat. 

Information is Key

If you would like more information on Cyber Liability Insurance or have questions, please let us know. For more information on policies available for your specific needs, please contact us and we can guide you on the way to a safer, well protected business.

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 33 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  ContactUs.

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