One Mass. Agent is upset with how the TrustedChoice.com site works
A couple of weeks ago after publishing an article about the surging popularity of the new TrustedChoice.com website and how Massachusetts agents were leading in the sign-ups to the site, we received the following comment from a Mass. agent:
Sadly the portal does not work – in fact it will hurt an agency – unless the agency is the lucky agency in the zip code closest to the “centroid” – that’s the crazy point from which the Trusted Choice agency locator measures an agency’s distance. It then orders the agencies by their distance from that point and reports that as the agency’s “miles away” even though the agency is inside the selected zip code and therefore “0 miles away”. Agencies in other zip codes can actually be listed above agencies within the selected zip code because of the way the “centroid” is calculated. Why doesn’t the agent locator simply treat all agencies within the selected zip code as “0” miles away and then just randomly display them on each refresh or new search? It is very easy to program that.
But until that is changed (and they don’t seem too interested) unless your agency is lucky enough to be the one closest to that “centroid” you might be wasting your money. CEO Bacciocco’s comment that “TrustedChoice.com is the national platform for independent agents who want to be visible online in their local communities” would be more accurate if it read “TrustedChoice.com is the national platform for the lucky independent agents who happen to be closest to the “Centroid” in their Zip Code”. Hopefully this programming glitch gets corrected soon as a lot of money is being spent to direct consumers to TrustedChoice.com without a benefit to many member agencies.
Frank Mancini of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents responds
Obviously, after receiving such a detailed comment we decided to find out more about this issue. In discussing the issue with Frank Mancini, of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, he noted that that is an issue that both Trusted Choice and Project CAP have been working on for a while.
Without getting into the technology aspect of it, Mancini said that being an agent in New England is a lot different from being an independent agent out West. “In the Northeast we are all clumped together, whereas in other parts of the country they are not clumped together. For example, if you put in a zip code here, you might want to see agents within 5 miles but, if you live in Wyoming it might have to be a 25 mile radius,” explained Mancini.
Mancini said he understood the agent’s frustrations and said that the MAIA has already asked that this issue be addressed at the Board of Trustees meeting for Project CAP being held this month. “They [Trusted Choice] realize it is an issue and our national director Ray Gallant is also on the board of trustees and has raised this issue with the Trusted Choice,” said Mancini.
Trusted Choice CEO Chip Bacciocco responds to the issue of zip codes
After speaking with Mr. Mancini, we decided to reach out to Project CAP to see what they had to say. Chip Bacciocco, the CEO of Project CAP was kind enough to respond to our request.
In response to the above criticism, Mr. Bacciocco said first off he was pleased to see agents caring about the online site. “This is all good news…it’s really great to see that we’re debating this now. TrustedChoice.com has had an agency locator on the site for the last three years and nobody has every taken the time to criticize it.” explained Bacciocco. “Now that the traffic is up over 1000% percent since last summer and real leads are coming from in from it, agents now see an advantage to being first second, etc.”
As such, Mr. Bacciocco says Project CAP now needs to focus on the next level which is to make it fairer for everyone. “I want to applaud this agent from getting engaged but… I also want to caution him that he is taking a static picture of a moving target.” says Bacciocco. “Of course, we’re going to be making improvements to it [the site].”
“Our aim in the beginning is to get out something simple and that can evolve. Please don’t look at TrustedChoice.com right now and think that this is it. We do a code update every two weeks… something every two weeks changes; sometimes they’re small and subtle and sometimes they’re are really big. We’re clearly working on this particular challenge.”
“As for the zip codes,” continues Bacciocco, “…The observation that the agent makes is that when you put in a zip code there is a little bit of luck involved.” While Bacciocco understands that is how it might appear at first blush to agents, for Project CAP the initial priority was to make it as easy as possible for consumers. “We wanted to make it easier for consumers, we only wanted to make them have to put in one darn thing,” explains Bacciocco. “We thought about having them put in their street address but decided to just go with the zip codes.”
But as the site goes forward, Bacciocco says that Project CAP is planning to develop different ways to help consumers connect with their local agents. “One thing we’re working on is maybe to just do a simple IP [Internet Protocol] check of a consumer’s computer id,” notes Bacciocco. With something like that, he adds, “We can say ‘We think you’re right here would you like an agent close by to you?'”
“Right now there is no doubt, if you happen to be the agency that is the most geometrically in the center of your zip code, by accident or by fortune, you have a slight advantage over those people that are on the border of their own zip code. And as you know, zip codes are not drawn in circles, they are often jagged-looking things, so it is possible from a radius standpoint that there is someone another zip code technically closer to the center of the zip code that your agency is in. Obviously we realize this is a less than perfect solution and we are working on a whole bunch of solutions to make it more fair, more equal, let’s say, between people within the same zip code.”
As such, Bacciocco asks agents to be patient as the site grows bigger and stronger. “The ranking algorithm is something that we will be tweaking for the rest of the life of this site.” Going forward, he says that Project CAP hopes to include more help for consumers by including agency ratings, comments and a live chat feature.
In the meantime, he thanks Massachusetts agents for their faith and support of the site. “I really do appreciate their support thus far…I thank them for their support and I promise continued improvement and evolution of the site.”