ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

SERVICE ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN INSURANCE AGENCIES

Have you ever wondered if your service staff was properly organized to manage the agency’s book of business?

Have you tried changing organizational types when a new CSR is adopted or an existing staff member leaves?

Do your staff members complain when you offer them new prospects for submission and quoting?

Do you wonder why your staff always seems so busy, but doesn’t have time to do the things you feel are necessary to maintain a strong relationship with your clients?

Perhaps you are falling into the organizational trap that has kept thousands of agencies from growing to their full potential.

Imagine for a moment an agency with teams of CSRs and assistants who solicit new business from the producers and do extraordinary things to keep their current clients happy and retained. We can show you dozens of such agencies who have gone through the same turmoil that you have experienced and have learned, either the hard way or through studied organizational development, how to turn the turmoil into productive growth. They found that a dedicated concentration on the customer combined with an incentive plan that relates compensation to productivity and results for all employees turns stress into success if managed properly.

When every agency starts, the owner/producer feels the need to hire an “assistant” to handle the calls and paperwork while he continues to sell. That assistant turns into a customer service representative. As the business grows, a second, third and more CSRs are hired, but they all work at the owner’s direction and discretion.

At some point, usually when an agency management system is adopted, the CSR becomes more knowledgeable than the producer in the process of handling customer transactions. The producer turns over the handling of the customers to the CSR without substantial interference and the professional CSR is born. Eventually, the phone calls and customer contacts become so numerous that the CSR cannot handle the customer contact and all of the processing, so a Processor is hired. When the processor understands how to handle the back-end of most transactions and begins learning what is necessary to do customer contact, she becomes a service assistant and is well on her way to becoming another CSR.

By now the agency producers have multiplied because there is a competent staff at the office to handle normal transactions. More clients require more CSRs until it becomes confusing to have every CSR handling all of the clients. Most agencies then alpha split the book of business to give each CSR relatively equal workloads.

The next stage of development occurs when there is so much processing that the assistants are experiencing severe backlogs. At that point, agencies combine the assistants if they have each been working for one specific CSR into a pool. A supervisor or the CL Mgr assigns them in accordance with the workload to keep the work flowing.

By this time, the agency is relatively large and has developed core competencies that have given them many accounts in each of several generic or specific disciplines. CSRs also develop those core competencies and are given more and more of the accounts in a discipline until a CSR becomes the “specialist” in that type of account.

While this is a natural and wonderful development, it is also not without its dangers. Should a specific CSR be lost, the agency might well lose their core competency in a specialty line of business. So as the books of business continue to develop, the smart agencies with dedicated department management evolve their version of what we call the CUSTOMER-CENTRIC ORGANIZATION.

A Customer-Centric Organization is one in which a team of two or more service representatives or Account Executives along with an assistant combine books of business into groups that are cross trained to all CSRs within the team. Now every customer within one or two disciplines and/or general clients have more than one CSR who is dedicated to handling their accounts. All members of the Team are knowledgeable about every customer in the book of business and any special treatment for processing is understood by the dedicated assistant who may also serve part time in the common pool.

From a service standpoint, the loss of one staff member does not eliminate the service relationship. From a processing standpoint special transactions are trained to a specific assistant, but that assistant is a member of the assistants’ pool and responds to the needs of the manager and of the department, as needed.

Those of you who have adopted the Incentive Compensation Program and/or the Asset Protection Model of relationship selling also understand that this team concentration on the best interest of the customer also permits the agency to pay its service staff in accordance with their productivity and profitability. On the sales side, since the team is paid, in great part, by its retained and growth book of business, they will always invite new business and work as hard as possible to retain every client because those ingredients directly affect their compensation levels.

Mature organizations are professionally managed by managers whose roles are to control the workflow and workloads of the teams of service staff who manage the clients. The technical role of the manager is to respond to problems that cannot be handled by the service teams. We often see agencies grow beyond service teams because they grow large enough to become departments and divisions of their own as the books of business grow accordingly.

We suggest that you consider where in the scale your service organization lies and develop it proactively, rather than reactively to assure maximum growth and profit.