ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

Can you Teach a Dog to Quack?

Many insurance agencies are owned by creative and optimistic principals. In the attempt to increase efficiency through the use of automation, job sharing, and expanded duties, they ask their employees to extend themselves into unfamiliar jobs. After all, any increased efficiencies will replace some of that lost revenue that is no longer coming from contingency income and high commission rates.

However, expanding the roles of employees sometimes leads to less than desirable results. For instance, insurance producers are hired because of their talents and abilities to explain coverages, identify customer problems and solve them. Many agents are now providing laptop computers to their producers with the expectation that it will make them more effective. It does - - to some! But to others, it tries to teach them to "quack". A young producer, trained in computers and computer literate, will utilize portable computers to complete applications and surveys while out of prospects site. While the producer, on the other hand, finds it frightening (or demeaning) to turn on a computer and if their typing skills extends to the tips of their two forefingers, a laptop computer can be a waste of time and money.

Many experienced customer service representatives remain in customer service jobs because they are terrified by the prospect of "selling". Certainly, cross-selling is a great benefit to any agency. But requiring a customer representative who is fearful of the sales effort to cross sell existing accounts or to ask for referrals from existing accounts will yield less than the desired result. All you will hear from these dedicated workdogs is a bleating "quack".

In many agencies the owners assume that stock ownership automatically qualifies them as professional managers. Although they may be excellent producers and wonderfully knowledgeable in insurance products, the only thing that you hear on those occasions when they don their management hats is tremendously loud quacking. When you have experienced employees with recognized areas of strength, it is ludicrous to force them into duties for which they are neither inclined nor trained. When seeking to cross train employees and to expand the job opportunities and responsibilities, do so with only volunteers and do not debit them for failure to achieve the targeted goals in those areas for which they have experienced no prior successes. This does not imply that cross over training is impossible. However, experienced employees gravitate to those areas for which their talents are best suited. Forcing CSR's to sell, forcing salespeople to adhere to detail oriented efforts, and forcing management responsibilities on stockholders who have never been inclined to manage are counterproductive efforts. Even if they try as hard as they can, dogs will never quack well and ducks will make lousy pointers. Let your specialist concentrate on those things that are most productive to the agency and to them.