By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The insurance business has gone through many changes in the past century-and-a-half, and Melcher & Prescott, headquartered at the corner of Court and South Main streets in Laconia, has adapted to them all. Some changes have been particularly challenging, such as the emergence of direct channel competitors, in the vein of GEICO and Progessive Insurance. Chris Volpe, chief executive officer at Melcher & Prescott, and Vincent “Butch” Schuck, chief operating officer, see another change about to crest. They think independent agencies are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this change – if they are able to adapt in time.
Melcher & Prescott has been around for more than 150 years but its prominence today is largely due to the leadership of the Volpe family. Tom Volpe – who still comes to work every day – bought the agency in 1959, when there were only five people working in the office. Chris, Tom’s son, has been involved in the business since 1987, and he said the company now employs 47 people, who work in offices in Laconia, Meredith, Moultonborough and Plymouth.
“I think we’re representative of a lot of independent businesses out there – a lot of things have changed,” said Schuck. Schuck joined Melcher & Prescott three years ago, and was promoted to cheif operating officer less than a month ago. He’s part of an influx of new energy to the well-known business, which is implementing strategy aimed at meeting the needs of a burgeoning class of customers – millenials, who have a different list of criteria they want their insurers to serve.
While the direct channel insurers were able to compete by offering a basic product at a basic price. Schuck said that might have worked for most consumers for a while, but that the customers who are now beginning to take over the market demand more from their insurers. Specifically, they want to be able to engage the services of an expert, and one who knows their customers as well as they know their product – and that’s something that GEICO will never be able to do as well as Melcher & Prescott.
“Our strategy is that we want to have deep expertise,” said Schuck. “It needs to go beyond price and product.”
Insurance, said Volpe, “is a personal relationship business – that’s what we’ve always been... Now we need to enhance our capabilities.” The local insurance office has long offered service through face-to-face or telephone interactions, and while those are still a part of Melcher & Prescott’s tool kit, that kit now also includes digital options such as web portals and webinars. Volpe said, “Consumers now want to play in any channel they wish – when they wish.”
Through these interactions, Schuck said the insurance company will get to know their clients, including which means they prefer to engage with their insurance professionals, and what products would best address each customer’s needs and concerns. “Instead of being an expert in (only) price and product, it’s being an expert in your customers. The person who knows their client best is the one who is going to be successful.”
Melcher & Prescott began developing this strategy in 2014, and is now seeing it completely in action. Bringing it to the fore hasn’t been easy, as it has required a signicant investment in human resources – Schuck estimates that the company’s hires within the past eight months have added 100 years worth of experience to the staff – but he and Volpe feel that keeping abreast of the wave is the best way to stay afloat.
“We’re putting a lot of energy into being a better agency, and I’m very proud of that,” said Volpe. “Our mindset is: How do we adapt to the consumer’s needs as pragmatically as possible?”
Chris Volpe, CEO, president and owner of Melcher & Prescott, and Vincent "Butch" Schuck, chief operating officer, have repositioned the insurance company to serve the requirements of a new generation of customers. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
- Written by Adam Drapcho
- Category: Business
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