Tell Us What You Think about InternetCE

We want to hear about your experience with our insurance continuing education courses and customer service.

A recent customer service experience…

I recently made some changes to my portfolio of insurance policies and mutual funds. My accounts span three different companies, and I had to contact each to make the changes. All of my transactions went smoothly. If I were asked to describe my interactions with the customer service representatives from each company, I’d say that two were fine and the third was really impressive.

What was so impressive about the third?

It had nothing to do with company policy. My request was quickly fulfilled by all three companies and no one offered me any incentives. The difference is actually quite simple – the third company interacted with me like a person. The service representative had a conversational tone, didn’t seem rushed, and sounded like she was smiling on the other end of the line. She also anticipated my needs by making sure I understood how to complete the form I needed to fill out and send back.

We all have stories of horrific and exemplary customer service. And realistically, the majority of our experiences are somewhere in between – satisfactory but not noteworthy.

At InternetCE, we believe that the quality of our insurance continuing education courses and our customer service is what differentiates us from our competitors. Your interactions with us should be noticeably positive. The feedback we’ve received suggests that our customers agree. But since it’s easy for any company to boast about it’s quality, we’d like to give everyone an opportunity to hear it from our customers.

We want to hear from you!

We’d like to start sharing customer experiences on this blog. What do you think of our insurance ce courses? What are your impressions of our service? If you’re willing to share your experience with readers, please email your story to info@internetce.com.

When sharing your story, we’d love for you to answer some of these questions:

  1. Which insurance ce courses have you taken recently?
  2. How have those courses benefited you and your professional development?
  3. What features of the courses appealed to you most?
  4. Would you recommend us to others? And if so, why?
  5. Did you have any concerns before signing up for our courses?
  6. Have you interacted with our staff? If so, what was the situation and how do you feel we handed it?

Want some free publicity?

If you let us share your experience on this blog, we’ll include a brief profile about you too (after all, we can all benefit from some extra mentions of our business and expertise!). So please be sure to write a little bit about yourself when you send your story – what you do, what products you work with, the company you work for, recent accomplishments – anything you’d like to share.

And of course, you’re also welcome to share your experiences by commenting on this (or any) article on this blog!

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Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Amp Up Learning with a Study Buddy

By Shelley A. Gable

Have you noticed that teachers and college professors often encourage students to form study groups? Whether it’s to study for an exam or simply keep up with what’s being taught in class, many students find that study groups, or even just a single study buddy, can help keep them on track.

Of course, this concept doesn’t just apply to full-time students. You, too, can benefit from having a study buddy to help you keep up with your insurance continuing education requirements or study for that upcoming licensing exam.

Structure

If you’re coordinating your continuing education with a study buddy, you’re likely to create structure for your learning. For instance, you might plan to take certain online courses together every few months. Maybe you meet for lunch every other Tuesday to discuss recent insurance ce courses or study for an exam.

Regardless of how you schedule these activities, the simple fact that they’re scheduled prompts you to approach your professional development more strategically. It also helps you avoid putting off your insurance ce requirements until the last minute so that you’re not stuck cramming too many classes into a short period of time.

Accountability

Coordinating learning activities with a study buddy also holds you accountable for following through. While it might be easy to delay an online course until “next week” for several weeks in a row if no one else is depending on you to get it done, you might feel a bit guilty if this also requires pushing back a meeting with your study buddy every time.

Furthermore, meeting with a study buddy to discuss an online course can help motivate you to pay attention and think critically about what you’re learning. If you’re meeting someone for coffee to discuss what you’ve learned about a recently changed law, you may be more likely look for interesting highlights about the law that you can discuss later. You might even find yourself jotting down the key points of an online course so you can feel more prepared to discuss them, even if you aren’t usually a note taker. Taking the time to think critically about the content in an online course and organizing that information for yourself is critical for ensuring that your new knowledge is saved in long-term memory.

Discussion

How many times have you had an “ah ha!” moment by talking through a situation out loud with someone? Several articles on this blog address the benefits of discussing newly learned knowledge with others. Talking about what you’ve learned from an online course prompts you explain new ideas in your own words and in a context that is relevant for you personally. Listening to someone else do the same can help you see that same information from a new perspective, which can deepen and/or broaden your understanding of a concept.

Another benefit of discussing learning with a study buddy is that it can be more fun and interesting than simply reviewing content on your own. Enjoying your review sessions is not only motivational, but it can also make information easier to remember later.

Peer pressure can be good.

Although peer pressure often has a negative connotation, peer pressure and peer support can be powerful tools in helping you accomplish your goals. If you’re skeptical, give it a try. And please be sure to come back and let us know how it works out!

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Coach Cliff Records His First Podcast – I've Got Dad Dialed In..

It wasn’t easy.  In fact, it’s been about as hard as getting beer out of a lemon..but, I’ve done it!  I’ve coaxed my dad into recording podcasts on his Blackberry and zapping them to me.  I’ve been telling him since we started this whole “Internetz” side of the business, that he was our biggest asset and the more we could get out of his head and onto the internetz for free, the better off we’d be :)

So, without further ado, here’s Cliff (Dad)

[audio:http://internetce.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/vn00002.mp3|titles=vn00002]

InternetCE gets gold star for customer service!

We got a wonderful kernel of sentiment a couple days ago:

Gold Star for customer service. That is the second time you replied to a question of mine in the after hours, long after the bankers had gone home for the day. Keep up the good work !

Regards,

Tom Slaughter

Of course, I was on the west coast at the time, thus helping a valued student on the east coast was not to difficult.

But, I take the credit in stride, as it pales in comparison to that which Linda Sorrell, our business manager, has for over 17 years.  She is nothing short of extraordinary and we, as a company, would certainly not be where we are without her.

So, thank you Tom and thank you Linda!  You make InternetCE great!!

4 Time-Wasting Study Habits to Avoid

By Shelley A. Gable

Have you ever wished you had more hours in a day? Between appointments with clients, other professional obligations, and personal priorities, it can be challenging to find time for insurance ce and studying for licensing exams.

When it comes to professional development, use your time wisely. Avoid learning strategies that don’t work.

Below are four time-wasting study habits you should ditch.

Time-wasting study habit #1: Cramming Sessions

Why this study habit is a time-waster…

Regardless of how smart you are, your brain can only process and retain a limited amount of information at a time. If you run a marathon cramming session the day before your licensing exam, only a portion of what you study is likely to make it into your long-term memory.

What you should do instead…

Your brain learns best in short bursts. Start studying well in advance of that insurance licensing exam, and plan to review exam content a couple times a day for 15 minutes at a time. How about once at breakfast and again over lunch? Limiting the amount of information you study in a single sitting helps ensure that most of what you’re reviewing will anchor into your long-term memory. Shorter study times also helps you avoid mental fatigue.

Time-wasting study habit #2: Nothing But Repetition

Why this study habit is a time-waster…

Repetition is a critical component of learning, but you must find ways to make the information you’re repeating meaningful. If you’re doing little more than reciting rules and definitions to yourself, you’re not giving your memory anything concrete to latch onto. You may be able to remember some information this way, but you probably won’t remember everything you need to by using this method alone.

What you should do instead…

Make a concerted effort to think critically about the information you’re trying to learn. Organize the information in ways that make sense to you, find opportunities to apply newly learned knowledge on the job, and discuss what you’re trying to learn with peers or clients. These types of activities go beyond rote memorization and breathe life into information, which should make it easier to remember later.

Time-wasting study habit #3: Sleep Learning

Why this study habit is a time-waster…

Wouldn’t it be great if learning were as easy as playing an audio recording while you sleep? Although there are products on the market that claim to do just this, their effectiveness is not supported by objective research. After all, if this method were backed by the scientific community, it would probably already be widespread on college campuses around the world. Alas, you must complete that online insurance continuing education course during your waking hours.

What you should do instead…

Schedule time to focus on your online course when you’re most likely to be alert and free from distractions. If it’s challenging to find a large chunk of time that meets these qualifications, consider completing the course over multiple sittings. The great thing about online courses is that you set the schedule and pace – if you need to spread the course over a few days because of your busy schedule, you can.

Time-wasting study habit #4: Brain Training Games

Why this study habit is a time-waster…

Many brain-training games claim to improve memory and brain functioning, but experts have been skeptical about this for a while. A recent study in published in Nature and covered by a plethora of major media outlets such as NPR, the Associated Press, BBC News, and others, suggests that this isn’t quite true. While brain training might improve your performance on the specific task you’re practicing, research does not support the idea that it can help improve memory in other ways.

What you should do instead…

To improve your ability to remember what you learn from online insurance continuing education courses, practice the productive study habits described above and in other posts on this blog.

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Health Reform: Extinction or Opportunity for Brokers?

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

Depending on what insurance venues you frequent, the health reform law means the extinction of insurance brokers or new opportunities. Without a crystal ball, predicting future changes for the insurance broker is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain – we have not heard the last of health reform changes.

Let’s look at some of the areas of health reform with potential impact on the role of the insurance broker.

State Health Exchanges

Targeted for implementation in 2014, the government-run health insurance exchanges appear the most threatening to many brokers. The creation of the exchanges happens at the same time as a significant expansion of Medicaid eligibility. Reality is, we have more questions than answers about the exchanges. Here are some things we do know:

  • By 2014, all states are required to have health insurance exchanges for individuals and small employers (up to 100 employees)
  • All health plans must be offered on a guaranteed issue basis – prohibits exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions
  • Exchanges and all health plans are prohibited from incorporating annual and lifetime maximums
  • Plans must abide by community rating standards – no experience rating – with specified variations for age, tobacco use, family demographics and regions

Some fear that the state exchanges will eliminate the need for insurance brokers. As noted in Part 3 of our 3-part series on health reform, the law does contain language specific to agents/brokers. The text is in Part II, Sec. 1311 of H.R. 3590.

In a nutshell, it states that procedures will be developed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) that allow agents and brokers to enroll and assist individuals with premium tax credit applications and cost-sharing reductions sold through the exchange. It goes on to state that the procedures “may include the establishment of rate schedules for broker commissions paid by health benefits plans offered through an exchange.”

What Happens to the Individual and Small Group Market?

By 2014, all individuals (with some exceptions) are required to have health insurance or incur a penalty for no insurance. Critics of the provision argue that the penalty is far less expensive than the cost of health insurance; therefore, it encourages individuals to forgo the mandated health insurance.

There is also speculation that small employers will decide to get out of offering health insurance and steer employees to the exchanges. Some of those employees may qualify for premium assistance. On the other hand, starting this year, small employers (no more than 25 full-time equivalents) are eligible for tax credits for offering health coverage.

So, what does this mean to the individual and small group market? Will the individual market completely go away for insurance brokers? Or does it mean that more individuals shift into group coverage as more small employers offer coverage? The answer – your guess is as good as mine (or probably better).

Jack Be Nimble

What this does say is that the insurance broker cannot afford to ignore the changes going on. Smart brokerage firms saw the handwriting on the wall. They started looking at the way they did business even before the signing of the health reform law. With the shrinking carrier market and skyrocketing health care costs, “better” service and annual plan design changes could take them only so far. 

The role of the insurance broker has already evolved into more of an advisor than one who simply secures health insurance. Health insurance is complicated and nothing in the health reform law indicates that is going to change – at least not anytime soon. Undoubtedly, broker compensation will change and it will not look like the commissions’ standards of today. It may mean compensation based on a per member basis or some other method. Only time will tell.

The successful insurance broker and agency knows the key to survival is staying educated and flexible for the long road of health reform that lies ahead.

Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel.

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell if you would share them (buttons below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online

Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours

Foods that Boost Brain Power

By Shelley A. Gable

If you follow this blog, you know that healthy sleep and exercise habits can help prime your brain for that next online insurance continuing education course. But what about food?

It turns out that eating healthy benefits your brain as well as the rest of your body.

Many of the foods that experts believe can improve brain functioning are easy to work into your diet. Consider planning some of your meals and snacks around brain boosting foods such as fish, eggs, berries, and cocoa.

Fish. Fish is abundant wtih omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the brain. Omega-3 is a key component of brain cells and plays a critical role in communication between cells. This communication is one of the primary functions that support learning. Insufficient levels of this fatty acid can lead to poor memory and depression, while a healthy intake can decrease the risk of stroke and dementia. Experts recommend eating two servings of fish each week.

Eggs. Although warnings about cholesterol often accompany health reports about eggs, they benefit us when eaten in moderation. Egg yolk contains choline, a B vitamin thought to enhance memory and reduce physical fatigue. Choline also plays a role in communication between brain cells and can help reduce the effects of aging on memory.

Berries. Oxygen is a critical element – without it, your brain would literally shut down. Berries are full of the nutrients needed to maintain oxygen levels in the brain. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries have a chemical that is used by the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for long-term memory. In animal studies, diets rich in blueberries improved motor skills and learning in aging rats. Wild blueberries are believed to be even more nutrient rich than what you typically buy in the store, which sounds like a good excuse for a weekend getaway for berry picking!

Cocoa. Does your upcoming insurance ce class offer you an excuse to grab a chocolate bar? Maybe. Cocoa is rich in flavonol, which can improve blood flow throughout the body and the brain. It can also reduce your risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks and strokes. Instead of reaching for the king size milk chocolate and caramel candy bar in the grocery store checkout line, grab a higher quality dark chocolate bar. If you choose carefully, you can reap cocoa’s benefits without as many calories. Dark chocolate also has caffeine, which can temporarily sharpen your focus and enhance concentration.

What about vitamins and supplements?  After all, there are supplements on the market for every memory enhancing nutrient mentioned here, not to mention the numerous supplements specifically formulated to improve brain functioning.

It seems that the jury is still out when it comes to the beneficial impact of supplements. While some health publications suggest that supplements can help, many seem unsure and point out that the research is inconclusive.

So for now, you may want to stick to the actual foods as much as possible. The many methods of preparing and flavoring fish allow for a variety of meals. Eggs offer a quick and easy dinner option, if you’re not already eating them for breakfast a couple days a week. Berries are an easy side dish or snack. And dark chocolate makes for a delightful snack or dessert.

Bon appétit!

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.

Delaying Retirement on the Rise

By Cathy Miller, Business Writer

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released its 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS). An increasing percentage of respondents (24 percent in 2010 compared to 14 percent in 2008) indicate they expect to retire later. Not surprisingly, the poor economy was cited as the number one reason (29 percent), followed by a change in their employment situation (22 percent).

Delaying retirement does not necessarily mean that individuals are getting better prepared financially. Financial advisors and agents face tough challenges. Understanding the source of the problem is a first step in figuring out a solution for their customers.

Here are additional findings from the RCS survey that may provide insight.

Preparing for Retirement - 69 percent have saved for retirement (down from 75 percent in 2009) -as one would expect, the household income plays a significant role in how prepared an individual or family is for retirement.

Generally, the following factors increase the likelihood for preparedness:

  • Higher education
  • Improved health status
  • Married individuals
  • Workers age 45 and older
  • Those participating in a work-sponsored retirement program

Little or No Savings – 27 percent have less than $1,000 in savings (up from 20 percent in 2009) – the percentage of workers with little or no savings in retirement increased on 2009. The chart below illustrates the decline.

Total Savings and Investments Reported by Workers, Among Those Providing a Response (not including value of primary residence or defined benefit plans)

 

 

 

 

 

 Knowledge of Savings Goal – 46 percent have not calculated how much they will need for retirement – the RCS reports that many workers (44 percent in 2009) guess at the amount of savings needed, rather than a systematic calculation. That may be the reason for the low amounts cited by workers as the amount needed for retirement (as shown below).

  • 29 percent of workers say they need less than $250,000
  • 17 percent set a goal between $250,000 and $499,999
  • 24 percent estimate they need between $500,000 and $999,999
  • 8 percent estimate between $1 million and $1.49 million
  • 9 percent estimate $1.5 million or higher

The questions and concerns regarding retirement are not limited to a specific age group. Younger workers need help planning. Older workers, often caught between the expenses of their children’s college education and caring for an aging parent, experience additional stress about retirement.

One effect of the struggling economy is a renewed focus on making well-planned investment choices and strategic retirement decisions. Financial advisors and agents offer a stabilizing influence to customers who are understandably nervous about their future. This study illustrates the critical role of financial advisors in helping customers through the tough economic times.

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Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller and InternetCE are not attorneys and cannot provide legal, investment or tax advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal or financial advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review information with your legal counsel, fiancial advisor or tax consultant.

Source: Ruth Helman, Craig Copeland, and Jack VanDerhei, “The 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey: Confidence Stabilizing, But Preparations Continue to Erode,” EBRI Issue Brief, no. 340, March 2010

If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell if you would share them (buttons below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online

Cathy Miller, Business Writer/Consultant has over 30 years of professional writing with a specialty in health care, employee benefits and wellness. Cathy also has an active Life/Accident/Health insurance license. Visit Cathy at her business writing blog, Simply stated business to Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours.

10 Factors that Affect Learning

By Shelley A. Gable

Several articles on this blog offer advice for how to get the most from an online insurance continuing education course. Many factors affect our learning, and while it might not be feasible to try to control all of those factors, some are likely within reach.

So in a nutshell, what can you do to improve your ability to learn from online courses?

This quick-hit list offers ten ideas for improving your learning experience.

  1. Take frequent breaks. With a busy schedule, it can be tempting to plow through an online course as quickly as possible. But if you’re skimming the content and clicking ahead quickly, how much can you really expect to remember later? If you genuinely want to learn, slow down your pace and take frequent breaks. The breaks allow time to process segments of new information and help keep you attentive.
  2. Leverage your learning strengths. Are you a visual learner? An auditory learner? A tactile learner? Knowing how you learn best can offer insight on how to complete online insurance ce courses in a way that makes the most sense for you.
  3. Get some sleep. Research suggests that sleep plays a critical role in working new information into your long-term memory. This process, referred to as memory consolidation, can even occur during a mid-day nap. And of course, if you’re well rested, it’s easier to focus and stay attentive longer.
  4. Exercise regularly. The health benefits of exercise impact the body and the mind. Light exercise oxygenates the brain, which improves your ability to concentrate. Intense exercise can prompt new brain cell growth, which can improve brain functioning.
  5. Take notes. Even if note taking hasn’t helped you in the past, and even if you don’t think you’d revisit your notes later, the simple act of organizing information on paper can help you remember that content later.
  6. Set goals. Why are taking this course? What do you want to get out of it? How will it help you on the job? Answer these questions before you begin an online course and think back to them during the course. This will help you focus on the content that is most relevant for you and help motivate you to continue.
  7. Avoid multitasking. Almost all of us are guilty of trying to divide our attention between a few tasks at once. However, research suggests that we’re not as good at multitasking as we think. If you want to remember most of the information presented in an online course, close the email and other web browsers so you can focus exclusively on your learning.
  8. Manage stress. Although this is sometimes easier said than done, keeping stress levels at a low and reasonable level can make it easier to learn. Not only is stress distracting, but it can also impede the functioning of your short-term memory.
  9. Choose the right setting. Plan to complete your online course at a time and place with few distractions. If the office is quiet first thing in the morning, this might be an ideal time for online learning. If the office is always teeming with interruptions, then it might make more sense to complete the course at a cafe over lunch or at home in the evening.
  10. Apply newly learned knowledge as soon as possible. Ideally, you should apply new learnings to your job almost immediately after completing an online course. After all, you’re probably taking the online course because of your job. But if that’s not feasible, you also benefit from discussing what you’ve learned. Whether in the form of online discussion or a verbal conversation, exploring that information with others can deepen and broaden your understanding of a topic (and make it more memorable!).

If a cluster of online insurance continuing education courses is in your future, select three suggestions (or more!) from the list above to focus on for the sake of enhancing your learning experience.

Naturally, this isn’t an all-encompassing list. If you know of other factors that readers should consider, please leave a comment!

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If you appreciate these ideas, it’d be swell for you would share them (button below) or subscribe via the feed.

Click here for 5 reasons why you should subscribe!

Interested in sales?  Perhaps Insurance, Real Estate, or Finance is your calling..  Click here to get licensed.

Need your Insurance Continuing Education?..Click here to take your continuing education classes online.

Shelley A. Gable is an instructional designer and freelance writer. She has developed training for functions such as financial services, call centers, and engineering education. Shelley writes articles on topics related to training and management for print and online publications. Visit Shelley’s website at http://shelleygable.wordpress.com.