Great ideas from the front line

Great ideas from the front line

By Emily Huling, CIC, CMC

“Why don’t we…?” “Would it be possible to…?” “I would love to know….” “Have we ever considered doing…?”

Agency owners should jump for joy when they hear employees utter any of those words. When CSRs and Producers make suggestions to improve the agency it means they care about the work they do, they feel safe to share their ideas, and they see themselves playing a role in the future of the business. Here are some great ideas that were initiated and implemented by agency personnel whom I’ve had the privilege of working with.

Bring in an expert to teach us about Social Media. This was suggested by a CSR, a 60-year-old grandmother whose grandchildren set her up with a Facebook page to keep up with family news. Rose is now confronted with customers who want to be her friend. “Now what?” she asked. A community college instructor was hired to speak to the staff about the mechanics, privacy settings, and business-related issues for Facebook as well as other social networking sites.

Contact all customers in 90 days. Two agencies were merging, changing the business name, moving to a new location, and reassigning accounts based on the skills and expertise of the combined staff. Even though letters were sent to all agency customers, the staff was concerned that the letters may not be read or they may be considered impersonal.

“Let’s call everyone,” Jane, a personal lines CSR, suggested during a transition-planning workshop. The room grew quiet. Sally piped up, “That’s a great idea. How would that work?” Fifteen minutes later, the agency had a plan. Within the first 90 days of the merger, all customers would be called by their new CSR. Everyone did their part and the plan was a success.

Teach employees about agency operations. “There’s so much I don’t know about how this agency works,” lamented Chris, a 26-year-old producer. Chris was quickly learning about sales, coverages, and carriers, but felt more knowledge about how the agency business works would help him succeed faster. The agency operations manager created a curriculum to teach employees about agency financials, carrier contracts and compensation, alternative markets, human resource practices, and so on. Through a series of lunch and learns, employees expert in specific areas taught classes for their coworkers.

Learn quickly about a target niche business. Tanya, a personal lines CSR, was asked by the agency owner to move to the professional liability unit to assist a producer in developing her dentist professional book of business. Although Tanya was willing to take on the challenge, she wanted to fast-forward her learning about her clients, markets, and coverages. Working with her producer, Tanya put together a fast-track learning program for herself. It included participating in the upcoming association meeting to attend the learning sessions, spending two days in an existing policyholder’s office, traveling with the producer for several days to meet clients and get intensive field training, and spending a day working with their main carrier’s underwriter.

Interested in generating great ideas from your staff? Ask them to complete any of the phrases that opened this article. “Why don’t we…?” “Would it be possible to…?” “I would love to know….” “Have we ever considered doing…?” Let me know how it goes.

Emily Huling, CIC, CMC, helps the insurance industry create top-performing sales and customer service organizations. Visit for information about her products and services.

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