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Wisconsin account manager is named 2012 National Outstanding CSR of the Year

Taking ownership of the job and loving it is award winner's guiding principle

By Alice Ashby Roettger

This year's prompt for entering The National Alliance's competition for the National Outstanding CSR of the Year Award played right into Account Manager Maggie Tirschman's work/life ethic. As a result, she drew upon her experiences and the philosophy that grew from them to respond to:

"Given the emphasis that many of your commercial lines and personal lines clients place on price, identify and explain four (4) important actions your companies have taken, or could take, to help you and your agency become more competitive."

How Maggie fits into that picture both personally and professionally is implicit in her essay. As an employee of M3 Insurance of Madison, Wisconsin, Maggie diplomatically represents her agency to both its carriers and its clients. That's how her upbringing and training have allowed her to shine.

It all began with a work ethic instilled by a single, full-custody father whom she considers to be her original role model. Working his way up in the railroad, he "took ownership of each job and loved what he did even though it wasn't glamorous," remembers Maggie. "Show up, be the best at what you can do, maintain a work/life balance, and enjoy what you're doing," he exhorted her and her two brothers.

Continuing to follow his counsel at the University of Wisconsin, Maggie majored in marketing and management, finding a challenge in business law. But becoming a lawyer didn't interest her.

It took a while for the insurance industry to beckon. During a short stint in Baltimore, where she used her management training as a Sears store manager, Maggie heeded the advice of a friend who worked in the insurance field. Because Maggie enjoyed the customer service aspect of her job, she might like to work in an agency, the friend suggested. Also attracted by the number of opportunities in the insurance field, Maggie applied for and got a CSR position, where she discovered that her college training in business law had prepared her for diving into the coverage form part of insurance.

Three months later, because of a change in her life, and seeking the support of family and friends, Maggie returned to Madison with her little girl, Avery. And that's where it all really came together.

A sign on a building for M3 Insurance caught her eye, and a quick "Google" assured her that this might be the place where she could make a difference. Taking an entry-level support specialist position, Maggie began to "put time and attention into gaining a knowledge of the industry." Working for the top producer in the company, she quickly moved up, eventually becoming an account manager.

M3 is the largest privately held commercial insurance agency in Wisconsin, whose tag says it is "committed to understanding your business." That's what Maggie liked—understanding the client's needs and fitting them to the proper carrier, as well as helping the carrier learn of those needs and work to satisfy them. In turn, a committed relationship between companies and their agencies improves customer service.

In her essay, Maggie posits four actions that companies can take to improve the relationship with their agencies in order to make them more competitive:

1. Gain a better understanding of the clients they serve, and the issues they are facing on a daily basis. Maggie cites an example from her work in the Senior Living and Social Service practice group at M3 Insurance. "Whether the issue is regulatory, funding, or dealing with governmental compliance, if the company has a better understanding of their client's business, they will be much better equipped to assist in solving problems and assisting their agencies in developing business solutions that will in turn build trust and loyalty with their clients."

Another example cited by Maggie is industry association participation, which "allows them the opportunity to be members of boards and committees, attend member events, and partner with them to provide educational resources . . . I have seen some insurance companies adopt this strategy and even partner with their agencies at these events."

2. Manage risk by tailoring solutions to clients' specific needs. For example, says Maggie, sending someone experienced in construction to an assisted living facility "to educate them on safe patient handling" is not an appropriate action. "A nurse would be more appropriate in this situation to ensure that the information is accurate and beneficial for that specific business."

3. Improve communication between companies and agencies. This is to everyone's advantage, Maggie asserts. "Agencies and companies need to review goals and expectations regularly to keep the lines of communication open." Choosing the appropriate means of communication is important, too, whether it be phone, fax or e-mail.

4. Develop educational resources. "When agencies and companies partner together in education and training, they become an asset to each other as well as the customer," Maggie points out. "Many companies offer producer schools, training centers, on-site agency seminars and webinars for agency sales and service staff."

How does this all come together for Maggie Tirschman as an account manager? Well, just like her father, she's a "go-to" person; and, just like her father, she is well respected both at work and in the community. So says Chris Kenyon, M3's senior account executive/partner for property and casualty. "Maggie's passionate about providing clients with impactful services as well as anticipating the future needs of those clients. Her tenacity and dedication allow her to consistently exceed customer expectations."

Clients echo that observation: "Maggie is the best customer service rep I have worked with during my 30-plus-year career in business," says one. "Her turnaround for any request is extraordinary. She is an excellent listener, knowledgeable, and knows when she can handle a request herself and when she needs to bring in additional resources."

And: "Maggie Tirschman has set the bar high in customer service. My every request is met with courtesy, enthusiasm, efficiency and accuracy. I never have to ask twice, and she goes above and beyond to anticipate and meet our insurance needs. We have a multi-property portfolio with a wide range of insurance needs, and if it's not Maggie's area of expertise she finds me the best referral possible. She never fails to get me the solutions I need."

Maggie affirms that finding satisfactory solutions is one of her primary goals. "Even if I don't have the answer for the client right away, it is important to me that I acknowledge the client's e-mail or call that day and let them know that I am working on getting them a solution. I also like to provide a time frame that is realistic so that I don't over-promise."

That sense of commitment carries into Maggie's work in the community, which she carries out with the same enthusiasm and sense of dedication. She has volunteered at the Literacy Network, the United Way Days of Caring Campaign, the Susan Komen 5K run, the Lung Cancer Awareness Yogathon, and the M3/United Way Dodgeball Event.

And, to enhance her knowledge of the insurance business, she will soon be adding CPCU to her CIC and CISR designations.

"You get out what you put in," says this winner of her company's Quarterly Insurance Award for Commitment. "To be successful, one must be committed and always strive to do better and learn from mistakes." Integrity and honesty are key words in Maggie's vocabulary. "In insurance, you can easily lie to an underwriter to get a better premium," she says. But that doesn't serve the client. In addition, a touch of humility can make people confident that you're on their side.


The Outstanding Customer Service Representative of the Year Award has been sponsored by The National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research since 1991.

This year's winner, Maggie Tirschman, was chosen from a field of 37 state winners and five finalists. She received $2,000 in cash and a gold and diamond lapel pin, and her name will be inscribed on a sculpture that is housed at National Alliance headquarters in Austin, Texas. In addition, a scholarship will be awarded to her employer, M3 Insurance of Madison, Wisconsin, for attendance at any National Alliance program.

The four runners-up in the competition were:

• Judith H. Hancock, CISR, CBIA, CPIW, DAE, of BB&T Insurance Services of the Triad in Greensboro, North Carolina

• Kandace Kepler, CIC, CISR, CRIS, S.T.A.R., of Premier Insurance in Idaho Falls, Idaho

• Jessica Parrot, CISR, of Rains Agency, Inc., in Cooksville, Tennessee

• Julie Quiring, CISR, of Insurance by Design in Burnsville, Minnesota (formerly with Insurance Agents Services of Arizona in Phoenix)

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