Customer Service Focus
By Brianne Head, CIC, CRIS
A YEAR IN REVIEW
Outgoing National Alliance Outstanding CSR shares insights
As I think about my year as The National Alliance’s Outstanding CSR, and what perspective I might offer based on this experience, my first thought is to recognize the tremendous support I’ve received since winning this special award. My family, friends, colleagues, and other industry professionals have voiced their appreciation and encouragement—and this outpouring of support has made me an even greater advocate for my clients. The lesson in this experience: When someone is doing a good job, let them know it! You may be amazed by what happens next!
Although my position is now a hybrid of account manager (AM), customer service rep (CSR), and management, I continue to service clients because I never want to be in a position where I ask a coworker to do tasks that I do not require of myself. This keeps me grounded, relatable, and able to support my team as we lean on each other—because none of us has all the answers! I believe being an outstanding CSR includes the ability to be malleable—to transform yourself into what a client needs at a specific time, adjusting along the way as you navigate the shifting insurance waters with and for your clients.
Mentoring and education continue to be key ingredients needed to advance in the industry. … Learning and interaction with colleagues keep everyone interested and engaged.
This last year has been one of intense learning for me. As all AMs and CSRs know, the learning never stops if you want to do your job to the best of your ability. I am fortunate that my agency and its management value education. Last year my educational pursuits included attending The National Alliance Principles of Risk Management course, which introduced me to the many ways I can incorporate risk management into my daily activities. I also attended one-on-one training sessions with a Southern Methodist University professor who is an expert in conflict resolution techniques, and it changed how I approach conflict in all aspects of my life. These educational opportunities added to my ever-expanding toolbox—something every AM/CSR should have and keep adding to.
Automation and optimization continue to be a big issue in the insurance industry. My agency migrated to a new automation system in 2017, and it sent me and a coworker to the AppliedNet 2018 conference. We returned as the “champion” users of our new system; and while rewriting policies and procedures using our new system has been challenging, it also has been rewarding. What we learned throughout this process is that our policies, processes, and procedures are “living” in the sense that they may need to be amended, tweaked, adjusted, deleted, rewritten, improved, or reordered at any moment. Whatever strides we can take to constantly drive our agency toward optimization and unity of understanding, we are taking!
Outsourcing of processing tasks has been increasing across the industry, and it is important that AMs/CSRs do not see this as a threat but rather as a new layer of support that will alleviate some of the burden of processing work. In fact, outsourcing can free us to offer clients the value-added services they may not be currently receiving because of daily processing demands. Eliminating these tasks from AM/CSR responsibilities gives us more time to build relationships with clients and ultimately to service a larger book of business.
Mentoring and education continue to be key ingredients needed to advance within the industry, and they are intertwined. Learning and interaction with colleagues keep everyone interested and engaged. I am a mentee, and I have some great mentors whom I turn to for guidance and advice; I am also a mentor for my teammates. We meet often to learn from each other and to keep on track in reaching important goals. I have learned that if you do not have someone in your corner asking, “What are you doing regarding the goals you have set for yourself?” the good intentions tend to get lost in the daily crush. Accountability to a colleague is a powerful motivator to stay the course—we really are all in this together.
Because many agencies now have several generations working together, allowing employees to put family first and meaning it is the way of today and the future. If employees are not settled in their personal lives, they simply cannot be as productive as they could be otherwise. Agency leaders who understand and apply this philosophy will engender loyalty and will attract and retain higher quality employees.
In terms of work/life balance, I see the industry beginning to change, particularly by no longer requiring AMs/CSRs to be in the office all the time. More of the people who apply at our agency are asking for the flexibility and freedom of working from home at least one day a week. I see this as a positive change, and I believe agencies that decide not to offer flexibility will lose out on top talent.
Other agency culture factors that I recognize as being important to younger employees are philanthropic projects, PTO, dressing casually when dressier attire is not warranted, putting family first, good technology solutions, a social media presence, and a reduced carbon footprint. These are hot-button issues for potential new hires at our agency, and I believe these trends will continue to grow in agencies across the country.
The Outstanding CSR of the Year® (OCSRY) Award is a highly validating experience for the winner and for the entire AM/CSR community. It sheds light on how one person can make a difference in clients’ lives, in an agency, in the community, in our industry, and across the nation. Let’s face it: Insurance often comes into play at the worst times in people’s lives. We need awards and recognition such as those The National Alliance gives to keep us upbeat and marching ahead toward the next problem or disaster our clients will face.
I entered the 2017 OCSRY competition because the topic spoke to me and was one I felt very passionate about. The topic question was framed in a way that spoke to my mentoring side, and I felt compelled to write my essay. The experience of winning the award was so much more gratifying than I imagined it would be. I am forever thankful for the friendships, support, and guidance I received from my National Alliance “family” over the past year.
My congratulations to Ashley Fitzsimmons, CISR, CSR, producer with Fitzsimmons Insurance Agency in Forest City, Pennsylvania, the 2018 OCSRY winner! I know your year will be rich with valuable experiences. I recommend that AMs/CSRs across the country enter the 2019 OCSRY essay competition. Read the 2019 topic and see if it speaks to you. Your peers need to hear from you!
Brianne Head, CIC, CRIS, is an AM/CSR and director of client services with Independent Insurance Group in Dallas. She won the 2017 Outstanding CSR of the Year Award and was honored at the October 2017 MEGA by William T. Hold, Ph.D., CIC, CPCU, CLU. Go to TheNationalAlliance.com/OCSR to read the topic and enter the 2019 OCSRY competition