TECHNOLOGY ENHANCES CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS
Customer service and technology work hand in hand to serve clients
As customers seek out tailored policies from insurers and expect quick turnarounds, agencies need experts, not data processors. Clients need to know that the agency team not only is knowledgeable about coverages but also is committed to communicating clearly and consistently. A strong commitment to communication helps agencies build trust among clients and ensure long-lasting relationships.
Behind the scenes, customer service relationships are enhanced by technology that can ensure that an agency also hires, trains, and retains talented employees. At Overmyer Hall Associates I started with hardly any knowledge of insurance. Training with Applied University made it easier for me to become immersed in my role quickly and confidently, especially because I was learning about insurance simultaneously. The agency has growing surety and personal lines departments, but the majority of our business is commercial lines. I assist in servicing accounts by issuing certificates, making change requests, processing endorsements, checking policies, and helping with other client needs.
A strong commitment to communication helps agencies build trust among clients and ensure long-lasting relationships.
In the past year, with four assistant client managers and a growing book of business, the agency started to pool more day-to-day tasks among all four assistants. To help us do that effectively and quickly, the client managers created a shared email address that clients use to submit requests for certificates. Now we can process these requests quickly, and clients know that, whenever they email our team, they will receive a response within an hour. This takes the worry out of sending requests when an assistant is out of the office.
We were concerned that we might lose the personal touch when we first implemented the shared email, but we are still able to maintain great relationships with our clients. As our agency continues to grow and our accounts change hands to create more specialized books of business for our client managers, our clients can use a single location to request service.
Our client portal allows clients and their internal administrators to gain control over their documents and certificates. We use Applied’s CSR24 system, which helps us quickly issue certificates, manage holders and attachments, process renewals, and provide self-service options to our clients. We also are able to make documents accessible to clients through the portal. Not only has this proved to be useful, but it is a more secure way of getting electronic documents to them directly. In my experience, insureds enjoy the freedom of being able to get what they need without having to send an email.
For instance, one of our clients has a number of different named insureds on its account, and many of those insureds do business with the same company. This generated confusion when issuing certificates, but working directly with the client and making changes in how we approach the process made it easier for the client to navigate the portal and made issuing certificates less painful. We rearranged our templates to provide the information the client needs, and it is pleased to be able to process simpler certificates on its own.
CSR24 works hand in hand with our Applied Epic system. We use activities in our workflow, and this makes it easy to follow up on outstanding items, hand off accounts to another manager, or be more proactive in our renewal processes.
With many associates nearing retirement, agency owners need to think about how to attract, train, and retain talented employees to help clients with their insurance needs. At Overmyer Hall Associates the CSR role is open to candidates without insurance experience, so it is a position with the potential for growth and a focus on education. The agency created a two-year path that allows associates to measure milestones as they progress in the assistant client manager position. From licensing to attaining designations and learning the functions of account management, we are able to progress through the two years with the knowledge we need for the next step in our careers. The agency also has prioritized mentorship between our client managers and assistant client managers, providing time to work together and learn from each other. We meet weekly to discuss progress and plan for our next focus.
Although experienced insurance professionals understand all the moving parts involved in managing a book of business, those who are new to the business confront a learning curve. Relying on our agency management system to manage our workflows ensures that nothing is missed. While we are learning about coverages from our mentors, we know we can take the time to focus on our education and ask questions rather than struggling to input data and documents.
Courses offered through Applied University were small and digestible, allowing me to build on an established foundation in my knowledge base. As I began taking on projects at the agency, the Applied Client Network provided valuable resources. For instance, I was testing download and eDocs/messages with our system, and whenever I had a question or issue, I knew I could turn to the forums and find the answer. I’ve also reached out to others who are working on the same problem or to those who already have implemented what I am trying to do, and they have always graciously answered my questions.
Entering the world of property/casualty insurance as an assistant client manager gave me a holistic view of commercial insurance. I don’t think there is a better entry point for newcomers to P-C insurance. I know that from this position I will have many career options, from account management and marketing new business to sales and underwriting. I am building a strong foundation of knowledge, and I encourage other agency owners to consider how they can use their technology to build business and develop talent internally.
Tanya Salyers, CISR, is an assistant client manager at Overmyer Hall Associates in Columbus, Ohio.