Brett M Chittum is an aspiring voice over artist and insurance agent who owns The Chittum Agency; here is a link to his website:
Q: What made you interested in being in the insurance business?
A: My passion has always been to help and educate people. If someone would have told me I would be selling insurance in my adult life, I would have called them crazy. But in 1994 while working for an ambulance company, I was approached by my auto insurance agent with a job opportunity. We had conversed over the phone and in person many times before and he wanted me to come and work part-time in his agency and learn more about insurance. Since my schedule was open most days of the week, I took him up on the offer. In 1997 I began to work full time in insurance because I realized that I was helping people to protect their stuff and in that process, educating them on their coverage, which in turn gave me pride in a job well done. I have never consider myself a sales person, I feel that I am helping people protect what matters and educating them on their options to be a better informed consumer.
Q: What is the most challenging thing about selling auto insurance in Washington?
A: The most challenging thing about selling insurance in any part of our country is technology. I totally embrace technology when it comes to most things but not when purchasing something as important as insurance. So here is my reasoning; there are multiple companies out there that state you can “save money” by going online and purchasing your insurance. Although this can be true I go with the adage that you get what you pay for. I also say, you should never make a decision without talking with a trusted advisor. Insurance agents are trusted advisors and we take many courses and have to abide by many rules so the customer is protected. As a long time insurance agent, I talk with many potential and existing clients who have made an attempt to purchase an insurance policy online to find out that they are not fully covered in the case of a loss. There are so many nuances to an insurance policy and for an uninformed or even a moderately informed person; it is still a hard thing to understand. If you have ever truly read an insurance contract from any company you will see that the policy verbage is very confusing and most of the policy contracts will talk about “what is not covered” more so than “what is covered”. In the past few years I have seen many people turn to the internet to get their insurance taken care of and are making the insurance agent (trusted advisor) obsolete. This is a sad thing to have happen, especially in the litigious society we live in today. More and more I find that customers who purchase their insurance online pay a lower price but do not have the coverage they really need. With a trusted advisor you can get the coverage you need with a price that you can afford. In the long run, saving money can cost you more money when purchasing insurance online.
Q: Insurance companies offer lower insurance rates to married people because they are “more stable”, how was this determined?
A: As an insurance agent, I am not privy to rates nor do I even get the chance to offer my opinion; so I am glad you asked this question. Realistically, I am not sure how this was determined. Through the years I have had many clients file claims, married and unmarried, and I do not see how marriage actually makes a person “more stable” when it comes to accidents. Accidents are just that, “ACCIDENTS”, and I do not see how being married can help when you are driving down the road and you hit a sheet of ice, or traffic suddenly stops in front of you, and the list can go on. Thank you for asking this question.
Q: If you could change one insurance law what would it be?
A: Another good question; I think that the ability to offer lower or higher rates based on some ones credit history should be taken off the law books effective immediately. Again, through the years I have had many clients file claims, some with great credit, some with ok credit, and some with not so good credit. The only common denominator I see is that they either had and accident or something bad has happened to them, not that their credit is better or worse than the others filing claims.
Q: What is the most common kind of mayhem Washington drivers face?
A: I have heard it stated that only 1 in 5 people driving on the road in Washington State have insurance or enough insurance to cover an accident. This is why there is a need for every person who drives in Washington or the entire country to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. For a nominal fee, with any company, you can get protection to cover you, your family, and your car in case you are involved in an accident (or any mayhem) with one of those 4 other drivers on the road.
Q: What is your oddest work story?
A: Back in 1999 when I opened my first agency, a client called in to remove her vehicle from her auto insurance. The client had stated that her and her husband sold this vehicle a few days prior and it no longer needed to be on the policy. Two weeks later I get a call from my clients husband, who is very shaken up, letting me know that his wife was just killed in an auto accident. In asking the claims questions he states that she was driving the car that was removed from the policy two weeks earlier (the one I was told got sold). This was the hardest phone call I have ever been on, especially when I had to let him know that his wife had called to remove the vehicle prior to the accident. He was very upset about this information and I assured him I would do everything I could to get this resolved. I talked with our claims department and was able to get the car added back onto the policy so there would be coverage for the accident, since it would be my word against a person who had just died. A few months go by and come to find out, the wife was leaving her husband and was removing the car from his policy so that they would not have any ties together and she had purchased insurance elsewhere with another company for the car. The lesson I learned from this was to get every policy change in writing so that it would never be a “he said, she said” type of situation. Hard lesson learned.
Q: What is/are some common things people fake to get insurance?
A: If you are asking prior to the inception of the policy, it is usually not being truthful in regards to accidents or tickets as it would pertain to auto insurance. On the property side it is usually not letting us know about a prior claim. With life insurance, it is not giving us the entire medical history. People think that if they answer a certain question in a certain way, we are not going to check. EVERY insurance company will check your previous history and 99% of the time will find something if there is something to be found. One way I combat these issues is by the way I ask the question. Most agents will just ask if you have tickets, accidents, or a claim on your home. Like most people, we are all geared to say NO to any adverse questions that we are asked. If you ask a “yes” or “no” question, you will get a short response. Like I have said, I believe in the aspect of education. But how can I educate someone with just asking a “yes” or “no” question? The answer is, I can’t! To be able to get to educate someone you need to know who they are. You need to ask open ended questions so that you get a better picture of your clientele. The way I ask a question if I want to know if they have anything on their record is simple; I ask them if in the past 3-5 years, is there anything on your record that the insurance company will find. This provokes some thought into the question and can spear up a good conversation. But all in all the best answer is to be truthful so that you can get a proper and accurate quote, if not you will not be pleased with the result and please do not blame me.
Q: Do double indemnity situations really happen?
A: In the case of Life or Accident insurance, yes it can happen. In 2006, 5.01% of all deaths in the US were declared an accident. “Double Indemnity” is a clause in these policies where a company will agree to pay a multiple, usually stated and could be double a face amount, in a case where a death was caused by an accident or even wrongful death. Does this mean that someone should pay more to have this coverage? Well the odds are against you and there are so many exclusions it may not be in your best interest to purchase this coverage. But if you do purchase the coverage, the payout could be plentiful.
Q: Who are your voice over hero’s?
A: First and foremost, Don LaFontaine! Need I say more! He was the best in the business and all of us male voice talents strive to be as good as he was. His death created a big hole in the industry and he has been sorely missed since September 1st, 2008. My other heroes are Lisa Foster, a local radio personality in Seattle, and Deb Munro, a voice coach and talent in the industry. Lisa helped me get into the business long ago and helped me create my fist “demo”. I was introduced to Deb from a friend of mine in the industry when I was looking to get to the next level. Deb helped me to see the VO industry in a whole new light and how to make the best of my auditions.
Q: What voice over characters can you do?
A: I am not really known for my character voices. My voice is a real deep and full voice, and in the right setting, could really knock the socks off someone, or other things. I can do a great Southern accent and I am getting better at my British accent. I also can talk like “Donald Duck’”, but mostly with my children and friends. All my voice work has been about the deep booming voice and not characters. I hope to delve in that area soon though.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)