ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

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

PROCEDURES AND WHY THEY REALLY MATTER

Okay, okay, I know this is not the sexiest of topics. After all, you much rather would like to hear about ways to increase revenue, get your Sales Teams being more accountable, your Service Teams more efficient, and your Carriers a little more amiable.

But, truth is, one of the ways to really do all of these things is by presenting a united front, getting your ducks in a row, and making sure that everyone could play musical chairs if they had to in the event of a change in personnel, an epic flood, or like we’ve seen more and more, some nasty kind of virus that leaves no one or their family untouched, even those that normally are not off sick (I’m one of those that was hit last year!).

Over the years I’ve seen many agents spend thousands of dollars on a Procedures Manual,... one you’ve bought... one you’ve paid a consultant to come in and do... or one you’ve struggled for years to implement but can never quite seem to get there.

MOST OF YOU KNOW WHY

What I find interesting is that most of you know why you should have one. It surprises me that as we work with helping fix agency headaches, and I bring up the topic of Procedures, most of you shake your heads sadly because you know there is a discrepancy in what you aspire to and the reality sitting on the bookshelf or the internal hard drive.

Many of you KNOW you should have a consistent set of procedures that will help you

- have written guidelines to how and what

- bring consistency to your team

- establish and use a clear, concise training program

And yes, this makes a big deal when it comes to the thinking ability and skills to make sure you avoid pitfalls in lost renewals, screw ups and forgetfulness, infighting between Sales and Service Teams when there are missed expectations and things fall through the cracks.

Procedures and Protocol is important so that the organization has a standard way of doing business. Each of us comes from different backgrounds, different levels of work experience and different ways of processing information. Procedures should be written for everything you do and in such a way that someone new that has never had the fun and enjoyment of knowing the insurance industry could sit down, read the document, compare it to the computer screen, and reasonable make their way through the process.

You should be using the Manual for self-mastery, new hire training, promotions and clarifying duties and responsibilities.

And remember: creating procedures does not have to involve a huge $10-20,000 consultant fee or a long, grueling burden on your team. Although most will tell you it can take 6 months to get a Manual done, we have a track record of getting them done in agencies of all sizes in 6 WEEKS! That’s right, so take heart!!

In fact, Procedures is just one of the topics that is included in our program. Here is how we teach it:

1. First, identify your current state of the Procedures Manual you have. If you don’t have one that is complete and up to date, no worries, we’re here to help.

2. You must have a formal template that is easy to read and recognize what procedure and what department the document was created for.

3. Next, think of being a brand new employee who does NOT know anything about your industry. OR ask someone from a different department to read over and follow the instructions on the procedures. If your least experienced team member can do the task quickly with little explanation or training, you’ve done a great job. If no, you’re not alone. Many manuals are written without thought of who will actually be using them!

4. Have a buddy system and second set of eyes for everything that is done, even for super experienced team members.

5. Start by forming a committee that will take on any and all procedures that need to be created or updated.

6. Create the list of items, most commonly done first.

7. Have a small team of 2 take on three (3) to six (6) procedures for that week, depending on your situation. REMEMBER, they are doing the work anyway, let’s get them to just stop and take screen shots along the way!!

8. Once that is done, then have an alternate team check their work and perform the task from scratch. See # 4 above.

GREAT TOOLS MAKE WORK EASIER

We have found that the easiest way to accomplish this task is to use screen capture software from TechSmith, a well-known, safe download. We recommend a free product called Jing. (Just type Jing in your search engine or use the hyperlink: https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html It places a little SUN at the top of your desktop and allows you to drag and capture objects as large as a screen or as small as a punctuation mark! You will find that you will use Jing for all kinds of things, as the program will save objects as a PNG file, OR just allow you to copy & paste into a document. It also has the ability built right in to circle objects or place arrows pointing to, in this case, the areas of the Procedure that you are highlighting for the list of steps. But watch out!! Jing can be addictive! I have found thousands of uses, such as taking copies of policy provisions and pasting them in an email, using it to send an image, an instruction on where to find something on line, etc. Jing is one of those little things for me that has made a BIG difference.

BENEFIT FOR LEADERS

As you can imagine, Procedures and Protocol is not just for employees. As leaders, you have specific job related duties that may require a procedures sheet.

For example, we have a document called “Culture Curriculum” that includes the expectations and responsibilities of those on our team. You can create one of these for yours, and/or consider that it may be convenient to take time to create a Leadership Manual for:

- Running special management reports

- Operational duties

- Bookkeeping responsibilities

- Employee evaluations instructions, protocol, etc.

SALES TEAMS ARE NOT EXEMPT!

Do you have a Producer Forms Manual? You know, a 3 ring binder that all producers have that includes things that are pretty important tools for a Sales Team member? They should include items related to the Sales Process as well as team efficiency and how to’s with Carrier applications, relationships. For example, you should have main tabs in your binder for:

SALES PRINCIPLES; STRUCTURES

CLIENT CARE; MAINTENANCE

ACCOUNTING; BILLING; AUDITS, ETC.

AGENCY MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES

If not, this is something that should be included in a special section of your Procedures Manual on the shared internal drive and in writing, since we all know that having a written binder is sometimes easier to reference for Sales Teams who are out and about!

As you can read, we have been doing this for some time and know some of the best tips and tricks, as well as some of the red flags and snags! Just like last month, there is much more in the way of word documents, video, and other agency’s examples that I cannot share in this format, so, if you want a copy of some of the program details, email me at brandie@PowerhouseLearning.com or call (208) 316-7656.

Brandie Hinen is known for her ability to help implement change. She is the President of Powerhouse Learning and will be featured at the 2015 National Young Agents’ Convention in New Orleans.