Most of us have had the wonderful experience of being introduced to a new Company underwriter. The underwriter could have great experience elsewhere and have been promoted or reassigned to our territory or agency – or – the underwriter could be fresh out of school, in his/her early twenties and raring to confirm the Company’s trust in him/her to “straighten out” the problems or keep the agents in line producing high quality business for the carrier.

Most likely, the underwriter will start underwriting the pile of submissions (s)he finds according to the Company underwriting guidelines. The benefit is that the underwriter is young and enthusiastic. The drawback is that the underwriter has no idea who you are and whether your agency does a great job as a front-line underwriter or you are a sales organization that counts on the Company to take or reject the business it chooses.

Every Underwriting Manager worth his/her salt will try to teach the underwriter about each agency in the book, but most underwriters (especially the younger ones) will draw their own conclusions based on their feel for you as they get to know you.

All we know for a fact is that we will have to start over in establishing a relationship. It is in OUR BEST INTEREST to do so quickly and on a friendly basis to allow us to move forward with our business – but it’s often painful and, when the underwriter is weak, new or a reject from other branches, we find out quickly.

I point out that in the case of an insurance agency and an underwriter; it is in the BEST INTEREST OF THE AGENT to take the time, learn about and teach the underwriter the history of the agency and to establish a relationship. If we don’t, we could spoil an otherwise fine relationship with a carrier.

Now let’s translate that to our customers and our agencies. The client has less reason to want to spend time teaching a new producer or CSR who the client is and what they expect in terms of agency service.

We use a wonderful IT group to support us. We have a long standing relationship with the group and use them for IT needs for many of our clients. However, as is normal in the IT business, technicians come and go and we often get new folks servicing our firm. We are small but complex.

We have consulted with this Company to establish their record-keeping and transaction records in order to keep their service staff knowledgeable about their clients without having to ask THE CLIENT questions about hardware, software and services that should be in the vendor’s files.

We count on their service staff, new or old, to know us (by name) and to know our situation as well as or better than we know our own IT situation. And I know that we’re not alone in that expectation, nor is it limited to IT vendors. We all expect our family doctors to know our personal health histories and track our health. Of course we should know that ourselves, but, frankly, it is over-complicated for the normal person and we’re not familiar with the jargon, so we use our family doctors as the coordinators of our health. Similarly, our trusted mechanics are expected to know (or have records) about our vehicles, so they can quickly surmise reasons for any issues that arise.

But what happens when we hire new (new or experienced) CSRs??

We teach them how to use the agency management system and get them through licensing school (if they are really NEW). Then, we expect them to “service” our customers. In personal lines, it’s a matter of familiarity, something that they can only pick up after time and many contacts with a client.

If you are transitioning Commercial Lines CSRs (or producers) make sure the clients get to meet the CSR and that the CSR is fully conversant with as many customers as possible (logically from the most important customers, down). Minimally, they should know who the owner and controller of the account is and the people with whom they will interact. An overview of the client (what they do, their history with the agency and their quirks and peculiarities) will allow any new employee to take their own notes so they are not blind-sided when visiting with the client by phone or at his location.

Even in Personal Lines, the best agency transitions include an announcement to the customers that will be served by the CSR of who the CSR is (name and a little history (if warranted) and who the CSR really is (interests, where the kids go to school, hobbies, etc). Remember, we are trying to DIFFERENTIATE ourselves from direct writers, the impersonal “Tex from Bombay” or the nameless person who introduces him(her)self so quickly that we don’t even catch the name before trying to manage us through the call in 30 seconds flat. How do you DIFFERENTIATE yourself if the client doesn’t even get the opportunity to know who you are? No, you don’t have to go into things that are too personal. Only you and the employee can identify the level of information with which you and the employee feel comfortable sharing with the clients. But many of these clients are clinging to the hope that you are the ‘home-town professional’ whose kids go to school with theirs and share their same interests. They want the personal touch or they would insure with the “gecko” and get his “15 minute treatment.”

As customers, we don’t like it when we are contacted or visited by a new vendor representative who proceeds to take OUR valuable time trying to figure out what his firm already knows about our business. We expect him to be “prepped” and educated about us. NO NEW AGENCY EMPLOYEE SHOULD EVER ASK A CLIENT WHAT KIND OF COVERAGE HE ALREADY HAS OR WHAT HE WOULD LIKE. We are expected to know that already from our files and the education that the agent gives us before the contact. Our initial conversations with the client should be to acquaint him with us and “confirm” that which we already know about him.

Make sure you “prep” your new employees before they contact YOUR customers and make your agency look amateur and unprepared.