Providing great client service is a claim that nearly every insurance agency makes. Being able to provide that great service, versus just promising it, is dependent on a number of things being in place.
It begins with a definition of what great service means to your company. And that is dependent on what you would like the client to experience every time they have an interaction with your company. Which is dependent on … well, let’s just take a look at how this works.
Defining the company
Starting from the top, the purpose of your agency must be clearly defined so everyone knows why he or she works so hard every day. What end are their efforts trying to achieve?
If it’s just to put more money in the owner’s pocket, then it’s not a very good motivator for treating clients well or knowing what to help them with beyond answering their questions. If it’s to help clients better manage their HR or risk management programs, then that’s a different focus altogether. Now answering questions with that “better management” end goal in mind, means they can also proactively make suggestions to the client or to the account team on how to better help the client achieve those goals.
Next, the agency values must be clearly defined. Values are used to help shape and direct behaviors. When the values are known, everyone is able to use a consistent method of treating clients and making decisions. Without defined values, everyone is left to use their own set of decision-making criteria, which might not produce the results the agency expects.
Everyone needs to clearly understand the cultural expectations of the agency and leadership needs to actively reinforce it. It’s important to promote/reward appropriate behaviors and reprimand ones that don’t reinforce the cultural expectations. Without this, the culture becomes a fractured grouping of behaviors and does not promote consistency across the organization.
Some say you can’t define a culture; it develops naturally. To some degree culture is a naturally developing personality of any organization, but just like raising children, behavioral expectations should be put in place to be the guiderails for good decision-making.
Now that your company values and behaviors are defined, describe what you want a client to experience when they interact with your company. We have to define what great service looks like in order to deliver on it.
Determine what processes and procedures must be in place in order to deliver on this experience. This means having the right people performing the roles that play to their strengths, and they’re given responsibility and authority to make decisions and deliver on good service. After all, you’ve defined your purpose, values, culture, and client experience – they should be well equipped now to know how to make great and consistent decisions that reflect the best intentions of the agency.
Follow through on the details
Once you’ve determined what the roles are to effectively deliver on the service you’ve defined, there will be some training gaps to fill in. Maybe it’s for technical skills, new content skills, proficiency of tools, or even good personal relations. Consistency in training will help reinforce consistent behaviors.
Leadership must be regularly communicating and reinforcing company purpose, values, and expected behaviors. Using multiple forms of communication is important, but even more so is demonstrating it through behaviors and actions.
And as you create these collective definitions, be sure to take an honest assessment of where your customer service really is today – is everyone in the agency actively working to wow clients and make them exceptionally happy? Or is it a more reactionary style in answering client questions and really just meeting the minimum expectations of customer service?
Without clear company definitions and ongoing communication so everyone on staff knows it as well as the leader, the “great service” claim is sitting on pretty uncertain ground.
Based on individual life experiences, everyone has his or her own ideas of what “good”, “best”, or “exceptional” looks like. Don’t leave the success of your company to chance or hope that your definitions match those of each of your staff.
Keneipp, of St. Louis-based Benefits Growth Network, coaches, trains, and develops strategies and curriculum for agency growth. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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