The local Luke Billingsley State Farm office at 405 E. Collin Raye Dr. in De Queen has been open at that location since Dec. 1, 2015. The office is managed by Zachary Battiest, a former nursing home CNA who still finds time to help out at the local home when needed.
In addition to Billingsley and Battiest, the office has three other agents, two with 10 years experience each: Mandy Davis and Erica Sellers; and Andrea Pioquinto, who has worked for the office for two years. All of them are from De Queen except Billingsley, who hails from nearby Horatio.
Set back in a strip mall just west of Hwy. 71/41, the interior is an open and relaxing place where office staff is quick to greet the many clients that arrive daily, some to pay their bills, some wanting changes to their policies, and others looking to compare rates with their current insurers.
“We strive to provide a warm and welcoming environment where you know you’re going to get helped,” Battiest said. “You’ll find a lot of local names and faces at out office.”
Battiest said that the company offers a variety of life, auto, banking and health services to match the many needs today’s clients have and that State Farm is the largest life and auto insurer in the country. As part of their health services, State Farm offers disability insurance plans that can pay your mortgage if you’re disabled, or just provide clients a check to help out with other needs they may have.
“We pay the mortgage for six months or longer, depending on how long you are disabled, so you don’t lose your home” Battiest said. “Or we write a check just to help with day to day expenses, hospital expenses, whatever you need it for. It’s your money.”
While his career change from CNA to insurance office manager was an unconventional career change, Battiest said that what was similar to both careers was treating people right.
“In the nursing home you took care of them like they were your mother and father,” he said, noting that the insurance business followed the same guidelines.
Battiest said that it was the people that came into the office that made the job rewarding; helping them understand what they were getting and why.
“I see all the time the lack of knowledge when it comes to insurance,” he said. “Helping them understand the process is still rewarding when you can sit someone down and tell them how it works and they know what they’re getting.”
He said it could be a painful experience when someone came in to pick up a check after they had lost a loved one, but that it was satisfying to know that their insurance helped mitigate some of the uncertainty they were dealing with. He said that the office acts as a middle man between the client and the company, making sure that everyone understands the situation and that the process is handled smoothly and in a timely manner.
“Collecting on life insurance is terrible — but probably the greatest thing you can do is to give therm a check so they don’t have to struggle for money or have to worry about their next meal,” he said.
While many complain about the high cost of insurance, Battiest said that for the most part, his office is about helping people when they need it most.
“You’re not just another number to us,” he said. “The majority of the time, when you come into our office, we’re going to know your name when you walk through the door. If you have a problem, come see me and I’ll be happy to explain what is going on. I promise you’ll be treated the way you should be.”