Customer Service Focus
It might not be who you think
Owners, principals, partners, and producers, all have important roles in an agency. I, however, feel that the most important person handles customer service. Agencies call these folks by different names: account executive, account manager, CSR, or CSA. No matter what the title is, this person is the lifeline of your agency.
With advances in technology, the customer service role has certainly changed over the years. The days of answering the phone and sending changes to the carrier via snail mail are long gone. While customers may still call with policy changes, they can also be emailed, faxed, or even texted. These days, we’re asking customer service reps to wear many more hats. Here are some of them:
Looking at the policy from all angles. Is the whole account already on the books? If not, look at other lines of insurance. Does the client have updates to other lines? If so, verify that the coverages are correct. Is there a payment due soon? Better remind the client. Has there been a recent claim? Is it being processed to the client’s satisfaction? Is there anything the agency can do to help them? What about life, health, personal, and business insurance? What about benefits?
Proactive contact. So, your customer service professional had contact with the client because of a change in the policy. That’s just one reactive touch. Why not be proactive and have your customer service professional contact your clients
mid-year and just before renewal? This contact certainly adds value to your service because you’re providing the personal—and probably unexpected—attention we all crave.
Proper documentation. Now that you have the client’s information, your customer service professional puts on the processing hat. Proper documentation is critical. Document, document, document all transactions, whether they’re made by phone, email, mail, fax, or in person.
How the changes are submitted dictates the method of entry in the agency management system. To be successful, it’s crucial that your agency have the proper tools to allow the customer service professional to create a record of the client’s needs. Proper procedures, as well as checks and balances to verify actions, secure coverages, and follow up are keys to a well-functioning agency. Investments in equipment and technology, workflow, and office procedures will go a long way in allowing your customer service professional to be successful in obtaining and keeping clients.
Proper documentation provides a clear picture of coverages, exclusions, waivers, and the client’s intentions. Documentation is vital if a challenge arises and coverages are questioned. Your agency will be able to defend the actions of your staff with proper standard operating procedures and documentation.
Communication with clients and carriers.Your customer service professional must be able to communicate effectively with clients and prospects. Knowing the preferred method of communication will enhance the client experience. Does client contact begin and end with office hours? Not always. Depending on the situation, these professionals must do what it takes to handle the situation, whether it’s after hours or on weekends, and usually unknown to management. That’s because they
care and are dedicated to helping your clients.
The customer service professional spends more time in the office than producers and owners, so that person’s knowledge base is crucial in quickly explaining and resolving any challenges the client has.
While communicating with clients and agency staff is important, the dialogue and rapport with insurance carriers and vendors cannot be underestimated. The customer service professional must build an effective relationship with claims adjusters, auditors, accounting departments, underwriters, and loss prevention representatives.
The customer service professional spends more time in the office than producers and owners, so that person’s knowledge base is crucial in quickly explaining and resolving any challenges the client has. The confidence and professionalism of your customer service professional helps reassure clients and gives them peace of mind.
Calling on clients. Some customer service professionals go out on customer calls to meet clients. This team approach is very important in allowing the producer to focus on new clients and the customer service professional to form a bond with current ones. As clients develop relationships with the customer service professional, they’ll automatically contact them with insurance changes, questions, and concerns. This is a win-win for everyone, as the producer is free to focus on new production and the customer service professional can handle the account from the start, being notified of all changes, and warding off gaps, miscommunications, and delays. The client is happy with accurate and prompt answers.
Training and learning. A challenge for your customer service professional may involve cross training or training new hires. While having multiple generations in the workplace, all with different learning styles, can be difficult, cross training and continuing education are vital to a successful agency. Sometimes technology can be challenging when new systems and computers are integrated into agencies, but ultimately, they make things easier and more efficient. Investments in people and equipment are clear signs to prospective customer service professionals that your agency is head and shoulders above the competition. They’re more likely to want to work with you.
As we welcome less experienced workers into the agency, a shift of knowledge is beginning to take place. Experienced workers share the technical side of the business, while the younger generations share tips and tricks about technology and social media. It can be a win for both parties as long as trust, respect, and a willingness to learn are the focus.
Social media. As social media evolves, so does our acceptance of it and our willingness to use it to work with clients. As clients become savvier about social media and its integration into our business world, customer service professionals must become more practiced in using it to communicate and help with clients’ needs. Proper education will help them keep pace with competitors and increase their awareness of risk management.
Other technological advancements. Technological advancements have led carriers and agencies to use websites and other electronic resources to provide information to agents and clients. Helping clients find their way around a carrier portal to review payments, check on a claim’s status, and receive training on various topics is another task the customer service professional may handle. Although the initial time spent with clients to show them these tools is time consuming, they will ultimately become time-saving tools for both parties, giving clients easy access to this information at
What the customer service professional’s role will be tomorrow, we can’t say. Perhaps they’ll be using drones to survey clients’ property. Maybe they’ll communicate more often with clients face to face. As in any new role, or one with added responsibilities, it’s crucial to provide education and training, not only technological, but technical, as well. Customer service professionals must be current on ever-changing insurance coverages and risks. Encouraging your staff to continue learning and obtain designations, and empowering them with time to achieve their personal and professional goals, is a strong testament to their value in your agency.
Today’s insurance customer service professional is typically fully licensed, well educated, committed to the agency and its clients, and truly cares about their communities. Day-to-day expectations and the insurance environment are changing and challenging. Adapting to changes in technology, rules, regulations, and processing, all while maintaining a pleasant, courteous demeanor and keeping clients happy, makes the customer service professional very special.
So the next time you see your customer service professionals, be sure to thank them for keeping your agency running smoothly and efficiently. The future of your agency depends on them and the many hats they wear.
Linda Luka, CISR, CPCU, AIS, AAI, AINS, CIIP, DAE, CLP, has been the agent education coordinator at West Bend Mutual Insurance Company since 2008. Linda has been with the company 39 years. Her duties now include coordinating continuing education classes in the home office, and facilitating various specialty producer and agency staff programs.
She is a faculty member of the Dynamics of Service program for the National Alliance and is on the CISR Board of Governors. Linda is president-elect of the International Association of .Insurance Professionals and a member of the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators, the Greater Milwaukee chapter of the CPCU Society, and the Securities Insurance Licensing Association.