TRAINING AGENCY AND BROKERAGE STAFF
TO LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY
Unlock your firm’s full potential
By Ruth E. Phillips, CPCU, CIC, CISR, AAI
Agency and brokerage staff need technology training to unlock the full potential of the firm’s implemented technologies. In addition to my role as a commercial lines account manager at Smith Insurance Agency, I research, write, prepare, and teach continuing education (CE) classes, some of which touch on technology use. I also have embraced various technology tools to create training materials and make them accessible to staff.
CE classes and technology
With CE classes, there are certain requirements that must be met in order to consider it a CE class. The class must be about insurance. It cannot be about selling or how to use a specific computer program. However, even with those limitations, we do mention certain technology programs in our courses.
For instance, we recently held a class on Errors & Omissions (E&O) coverage and discussed the im-portance of prompt delivery of policies. Part of the discussion focused on Applied’s CSR24 and how it aids in the delivery of policies. We also offer staff training on how to use the program outside of the CE class. The E&O class reaffirmed the position that policies must be delivered promptly, while reminding the staff that technologies are available for insureds to use.
It is crucial to remember that you cannot have a successful CE program without feedback. It is important to know how participants view the class. Even negative feedback is valuable, because it shows you where improvements can be made. With the E&O class, for example, the feedback was positive and provided several reminders for employees. In the class, we discussed the need for each proposal to be dated, how revised proposals must have the new date, and how dating each page prevents an insured from mixing the pages of a proposal to change actual coverages.
A customer service representative approached me after the class and explained how much she appreciated me going over the benefits of CSR24 and the prompt delivery of policies because she has a difficult time explaining to customers why they should sign up for it.
Often staff have different comfort levels with technology. …
It’s important to be patient and be prepared to explain things in different ways.
Technology in your training programs
Some of the technologies we use in our general technology training programs are Camtasia and Microsoft Teams. Camtasia is a video recording program that lets you record videos on your computer. We use this program in our office to record short tutorial videos, usually about one to three minutes long, on a variety of topics, including how to print an ID card or how to print a receipt. We also have longer videos on topics such as creating a certificate.
While Camtasia can be used to conduct training programs, we prefer to hold those live—either in person or through Microsoft Teams. Our office uses Teams on a daily basis in a variety of ways. All of our employees use Teams to communicate. We also have marketing information on Teams. Additionally, we hold CE classes over the Teams platform when employees are unable to make it into the office.
When our agency first started using Teams, we were new to instant messaging and had to train employees on how to use it correctly. This was especially important when it came to what information was appropriate to send by instant message and what should be sent by email. We had to inform employees that anything that should be documented, like a policy change or claim issue, should be sent by email. However, quick questions about a company website, for instance, could be addressed via instant message.
Updating your training programs and CE classes
Any CE class or training program must be monitored and updated as necessary. Everything in the insurance industry—from rules and requirements to forms and even technology—changes over time. There also are times when a training program that I think is helpful just isn’t connecting with employees.
For instance, when our agency was implementing CSR24, I prepared a training program for the producers to explain the program to the insureds. However, I found out later that not all the producers understood the program. After a couple of producers came to me with additional questions, I realized that I didn’t cover the information in enough detail, so I had to revise the training program. This emphasizes why all feedback is important. If something isn’t working, the trainer needs to know about it in order to adjust.
Short tutorials have to be constantly updated, as well, especially as technology programs frequently add or change features. When a color was changed in one program a few years ago, for example, videos showing the old color needed to be redone and updated.
Meanwhile, one of my CE classes on flood insurance had to be updated because the National Flood Insurance Program underwent several changes based on new technology, such as GPS. That meant my flood CE class had to be updated to address those technology changes.
Here are some tips for developing CE classes and training programs and ensuring staff support for new technologies:
- Make sure you have the support of the manager/owner. If top management doesn’t support you, then the staff won’t.
- Make sure you know what the staff needs. We are commercial lines heavy, so most of our CE classes/training reflect that. Ask staff what kinds of classes they want/need.
- Keep abreast of industry developments. If there are new policy forms or new technologies, make sure you implement that. For example, ISO released new homeowners forms this year and we had a CE class on that.
- PowerPoint doesn’t have to be boring. You can do a lot with it. For example, I often incorporate YouTube videos into the presentation. There are other presentation programs available, as well, such as Prezi.
Often, staff have different comfort levels with technology. Some may be up to speed on current technology, while others are hesitant to use it. It’s important to be patient and be prepared to explain things in different ways. Remember, everyone has a different learning style.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something—none of us knows everything. Be open to learning from your employees, as they could introduce you to the latest online and social media trends, which opens up new opportunities for your agency or brokerage.
Ruth E. Phillips is a commercial lines account manager at Smith Insurance Agency in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and a member of Applied Client Network. She has earned the following designations: CPCU, CIC, AAI, ACSR, AINS, AIS, ANFI, API, ARM, CISR, CPIW, CPSR, CSRM, MLIS. She also has received several industry awards, including the 2004 National CSR of the Year Award from The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research, the 2006 PIA National Customer Service Representative of the Year Award, and the 2014 National ACSR of the Year Award, presented by The Institutes.