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Are You a Good Agency or a Great One?

Posted By Curtis M. Pearsall, CPCU, CPIA , Tuesday, May 1, 2018

from Utica National 

Obviously this is a matter of opinion. In fact, it’s worth asking—whose opinion really counts? Is it you and your staff’s opinion that counts, or is your customer’s opinion really the key? Personally, I think it is the customer’s opinion that matters most. That aside, there are some agency basics that you need to address before you can even consider the question of “good” or “great.”

In the national best-selling book, Good to Great, Jim Collins states that to go from a good organization to a great one, one of the first strategies they implemented “was they first got the right people on the bus, took the wrong people off the bus, and put the right people in the right seats—and then figured out where to drive it." Anything short of this and you will not be able to achieve the status you desire. Since the biggest part of an agency is the people, to be a great agency, you need to have the right people.

We all know that although the insurance industry is a great industry to work in, most people don’t grow up saying that they want a career in it. In fact, within Utica Mutual, I know of only a handful of employees that actually went to school for insurance. Personally, I started out as a weekend radio disc jockey and since that was not enough to pay the bills, I needed to find work during the week. I sold door-to-door for Combined Life, then I went to Metropolitan, then to the agency side of the business and so on.

All that being said, it stands to reason that there is a good chance that when you hire staff, they are in need of various degrees of training. Putting them at a desk and assuming that they have all of the talents and skills necessary can be a big mistake. The old days of “here is your desk, here is your phone, here are the files, any questions?” didn’t work then and it sure doesn’t work now.

A good starting point for new employees is a solid orientation program. Most agencies have their new staff start off by sitting with staff from various aspects of the agency (accounting, receptionist, commercial lines, personal lines, claims, producers, etc.) to get a handle on the culture of the agency, the file structure, the various responsibilities, etc. In many agencies, it is at least a month before new staff goes live taking calls and handling files. Obviously, experience needs to be factored but even when you hire an experienced insurance person, no two agencies handle business the same way and a brief orientation program would be of benefit even to a veteran. So whether your new employee is new to the business, or joins you as a seasoned veteran, a solid orientation program is a great place to start.

We all know that this business is changing at a rapid pace—new products, new forms, new companies, etc. Keeping up requires a commitment to training on an ongoing basis. These changes present perfect opportunities at your staff meetings to review the latest industry and company news. An individual development plan with a strong focus on training should be a part of every staff’s annual goals and objectives. When was the last time you asked your staff if they needed/desired any training? Try it; you may be very surprised at their response.

Monitoring the quality of the work product is very important and some type of quality control/checkup needs to be done. It is good to trust your staff but to trust without verification can be a formula for disaster. Someone in the agency must have some responsibilities for verifying that the staff is handling files and customers in accordance with the agency plan and goals. You need to know if the staff is doing what is expected. You also need to know if you have a weak link.

Now to the weak link—if you have an employee who is struggling, and you can honestly say that you have done everything possible to help the employee, you need to make that unpleasant decision. Not only could the employee be holding you back from getting to the next level, but they could be an E&O nightmare waiting to happen.

Make the commitment to being a great agency—it all starts with the right people in the right positions heading in the right direction.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not for purposes of providing legal advice.You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

Tags:  E&O  insurance agency 

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