Strengthening the Front Line
Do you possess the qualities of a proud CSR?
10 attributes that demonstrate pride in one's job
By Emily Huling, CIC, CMC
The Lake Norman community north of Charlotte, North Carolina, has been my home for 22 years. Like many people who live in an area for long time, roads became so familiar that I failed to notice street names, route numbers, and signage. Then—one day I was traveling east on Williamson Road, crossed a short bridge over one of the lake's inlets, and spied two signs that I'd never noticed.
The first instructed no swimming and no fishing from the bridge. No surprise there. But for the first time I noticed another sign, faded and weathered, tucked close to the other two signs. It read "Proud People Don't Litter." My first thought was to wonder how I'd missed that old sign all these years. My second thought was that the message made a very powerful statement.
I prefer positive signage. I'd rather be welcomed to a "smoke-free environment" than be told "no smoking"—not that I smoke, mind you. The message, Proud People Don't Litter, went one step further for me. It attached behavior to an informational message. Behavior related to self-belief. On an old road sign no less.
That sign started me thinking about what we can do to construct our thoughts to reflect our beliefs that ultimately shape our behavior. For example, I want to be thought of as a nice person. What do nice people do? Nice people would invite the person in the grocery checkout line with only three items to go ahead of them when they have a cart full of items. Nice people make the next pot of coffee instead of leaving it for someone else to do. Nice people acknowledge special occasions and birthdays of friends, colleagues, and clients.
So what does having pride conjure up? Pride is the feeling of satisfaction from your achievements. Pride is a healthy belief in your own self worth. Pride is delighting in the accomplishments of others. Pride is an attribute I associate with business success. For me, the word "pride" brings up a wide-range of thoughts and behaviors. Please make this statement aloud. "I am a proud CSR." Now ask yourself this: What kinds of behaviors and actions are associated with "I am a proud CSR"?
I posed that question to a diverse group of CSRs. Here are 10 qualities and behaviors that they believed demonstrate pride in what they do.
1. Proud CSRs are continuous learners. Knowledge and expertise are required to give customers accurate and sound advice. Conscientious CSRs attain industry licenses, earn industry designations, and make a concerted effort to stay abreast of the insurance marketplace and client industries. Proud CSRs both learn and contribute by teaching coworkers proper procedures and technical and product information.
Julie, a successful and busy CSR, was asked by her boss to help create and lead a training program for a new employee. At first, Julie was resistant to the time commitment and her ability to do the job right. Within days, she began to see the result of her efforts and the appreciation of her student. For Julie, pride and satisfaction came from making a difference in the career of a coworker and furthering the agency's success.
2. Proud CSRs have their customers' best interests in mind. They do not judge customers' ability or past decisions about purchasing insurance coverage. An agent's job is to protect people's assets by offering and providing coverage to make them whole after a loss. With this in mind, CSRs help clients analyze their risk, ask questions, and offer advice and recommendations.
Sue, a personal lines CSR, always proposes a personal umbrella policy to her insureds. Even when file documentation indicates that the coverage is repeatedly declined, Sue strongly suggests that it be purchased because she believes this is a coverage her policyholders can't afford not to have.
3. Proud CSRs understand that customers and coworkers count on them. Punctuality and reliability are two traits that Joe believes good CSRs possess. Arriving at work early enough to be at your desk working at your start time, returning phone calls and e-mails promptly, and informing others of changes that affect them are just a few of the ways Joe conveys his commitment to those who rely on him. Within the office, Joe is prepared and on time for meetings. He responds to internal requests and commitments from producers, accounting, and colleagues with the same respect as he does external customers. If there is a delay, Joe makes sure to advise those concerned as to the status of the situation.
4. Proud CSRs take the high road. It's tempting to join in when coworkers complain about changes, other coworkers, customers or when situations don't seem fair. Taking the high road is not just avoiding complaining or gossiping, it's stopping others from wasting their time (and yours) by speaking badly about a situation or other people. When a conversation is headed down a negative path, Catherine recommends disengaging from these situations by saying, "I need to get back to work," or "Let's find the good in this."
5. Proud CSRs demonstrate respect through the appearance of their physical office environment. Having a clean and uncluttered workspace and helping keep common areas clean validate positive feelings about where you work. Jean, an agency supervisor, believes morale and attitude can be gauged by how an employee cares for the office. In her own office, the cycle of disorganization and poor attitude was broken when a spring cleaning day was announced which forced everyone to work together to clean out and clean up both physical, virtual, and mental clutter. In addition, respect your coworkers by keeping personal business calls brief and voice volume low when on the phone or speaking to others in common areas.
6. Proud CSRs keep customers informed of changes that affect their policies, their carriers, and their pricing. Staying one step ahead of the customer by communicating pertinent account information relays confidence to the customer that the CSRs know what she's doing and the customer's business is being looked after. Johanna's agency calls this practice of keeping customers informed the "no surprise policy." It's one of their agency's 10 Commandments of Customer Service.
7. CSRs are friendly and approachable. Help others feel good with a simple smile or by taking a few minutes in the break room to make conversation. Jenna shared that when she began her job as a new CSR at a small agency, at first she didn't feel welcome. Her coworkers had worked together for a long time and didn't reach out to her. It was up to her to be friendly and get to know her coworkers. Jenna volunteered to head a committee that is responsible for welcoming new employees to be certain they find a friendly and approachable environment.
8. Proud CSRs practice professional communication. Knowing how customers want to be communicated with is critical in today's business world. E-mail is efficient, but when something is complicated or there is a negative change in an insurance program, CSRs are comfortable picking up the phone to personally communicate. Janet follows the "Rule of Three" when e-mailing. If an online conversation requires more than three e-mails, she picks up the phone. Using proper e-mail signatures conveys pride and professionalism. Complete contact information should be a part of all external electronic communication. That applies to both memos the CSR originates and reply messages.
9. Proud CSRs represent their agencies professionally at all business-related functions. Whether attending outside education classes, conferences or networking events, visiting customers' homes or offices, or doing errands on behalf of the agency, proud CSRs wear appropriate professional attire and practice proper etiquette. Instead of thinking about taking an outside class as a day to kick back both mentally and physically, Sandy makes a point to step up her professional image. Looking her professional best enhances her mental state for the event.
10. Last but not least, proud CSRs teach and mentor others, which conveys dedication for what they do. As Nan's agency hires the next generation of CSRs with little, if any, business experience, Nan wants to assure that the agency's customers continue to be treated the "old-fashioned way." Even in today's fast-paced, increasingly cost- and value-conscious world, there are qualities that never go out of style—knowledge about products, companies, and the competition; personalized service; teamwork; timeliness; and work quality and accuracy.
Do you demonstrate the qualities of a proud CSR? What other qualities would you add to this list?