Chris Cline is the owner of Geico Local Office, in Lawrenceville, which is only one of three Geico offices in New Jersey and offers many of the same services available online but with a personal touch. (Staff photo by Diana Pichardo.)

Chris Cline, manager of Geico Local Office, in Lawrence, is quite aware of the power of a good marketing campaign in getting a product recognized, he said. Thanks to Geico’s commercial icons like the smooth-talking gecko and sensitive cavemen, almost everyone is aware of Geico Insurance. But at the same time, these marketing tools can also limit the understanding of the product, he said.

While Cline is also a fan of the gecko, he realizes people can tend to relate Geico only with car insurance and also as a company that can only be reached online or via phone. But with Geico Local Office, he wants customers to know there’s more to the company. The agents are real people and can be seen and talked to in person.

“People think they can’t see a person face to face,” he said. “We’re here, and you’re getting that extra service for the same price.”

Geico actually stands for Government Employees Insurance Company, and began in 1936. It first targeted federal government employees and military personnel, but now is open to pretty much anyone over the age of 18. The company serves 9 million auto policyholders.

While the company is well known for selling auto insurance, it also offers motorcycle, boat insurance, ATV, RV, homeowner’s, life insurance, identity theft and various forms of personal insurance. Geico may soon venture into commercial insurance as well, he said.

Cline and his wife Maureen opened the local Geico office in October 2007 and it was the first of three to open in New Jersey. The business has been doing pretty well and continues to grow, he said.

Cline has a long history with Geico, first starting with the company’s regional office in New York, in its product management and pricing department. His wife also worked at the office as a customer service supervisor.

The agency offers most of the same services available online, he said. It is also knowledgeable in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania standards for insurance and can sell policies to residents of both states. The only thing they can’t do at the office is handle claims, he said.

“We can try and help people who need to make claims but can’t really handle them,” he said.

Cline said he recognizes the positive impact that the local office has had on its customers, he said.

“It means a lot to people that they can put a face to a big company like this, the ease of it being the same group of people,” he said.

“I want this to be that friendly open door kind of place,” he said. “This is my family, this is my team.”

Family is a big part of Cline’s life, he and wife Maureen welcomed son Andrew into the world three and a half months ago and he is already becoming apart of the scene within the local office

Last month, Cline sold a policy to a woman while Andrew was on his lap, he said.

The group of Geico agents also make it a point to attend a number of local events and festivals. They often bring a 10-foot giant inflatable gecko and a gecko mascot along with them.

“My job is to be that face in the community, the person that people can see in the community and be like hey that’s my Geico agent,” he said.

Going to those events help to blend the sometimes dull insurance world with the pulse of the community, he said. It’s a part of the job Cline enjoys the most. Helping customers save money is another, he said.

“It’s great to see someone walk out the door with a big smile on their face,” he said. “It’s not just another sale to us, that’s a person you’ve helped.”

Cline said he understands that switching insurance can be a nerve-wracking move for anyone, but having local agents can help ease that burden as well, especially when dealing with a big company, he said. Any one of the agents can walk potential customers through the process, he said, and customers that come into the office to receive a quote will also receive a free gecko toy.

For more information, call the office at (609) 530-1000. The office is located at 2901 U.S. 1. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.