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Customer Service Focus

Bringing the "A" game to customer service

Education and communication skills are key

By Maureen P. Scholz, CIC,  ACSR

Learning is a treasure which accompanies its owner everywhere.

-- Chinese proverb

We teach our producers to bring their "A" game to the table every time in order to be successful in insurance sales. It's time to apply this philosophy to customer service representatives and account managers. After all, they're on the front lines every day, assisting clients with their day-to-day service needs.

While producers are out in the field developing new business opportunities, CSRs are in the office attending to claims, certificates of insurance, and coverage questions, and sorting out billing and policy change situations. It's equally important for CSRs to develop an "A" game and bring it to their daily tasks. Constant reinforcement of the agency's philosophy and goals will keep this winning attitude alive and thriving.

The CSR "A" game has two key components: education and communication skills.


Professional insurance education is a win for everyone in the agency as well as for its clients. Service employees should be encouraged to pursue designations such as CIC, CPCU and other programs offered by The National Alliance and The Institutes (AI/CPCU).

By earning a designation, CSRs can achieve a sense of purpose as well as gaining confidence in the service they are delivering to the client. An educated staff can mean the difference between a satisfied client and a frustrated client. Preferred clients want more than just a vendor for their insurance program. They want to deal with service professionals who invest the time to enhance their insurance knowledge and skills by pursuing industry designations and participating in continuing education.

Continuing education will help CSRs and account managers gain the knowledge and confidence they need to provide excellent service. The cost of these programs will prove to be a profitable investment as clients purchase additional coverages and provide referrals. Clients will be happy, and producers will have more time to focus on new sales and relationship events.

In addition, E&O carriers look favorably on agencies whose employees (and owners) have earned industry designations, and some carriers offer credits to reduce the E&O premium.

Communication skills

Account managers and CSRs spend most of their day communicating on the phone, via e-mail, or in face-to-face meetings with clients. It is essential that they develop excellent skills in both written and oral communication.

E-mail messages, traditional letters and proposals must be written in proper English with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Grammar and spell check should be activated in all computer applications, and all letters and e-mails should be proofed before being sent out.

Presenting well-written proposals impresses prospects and also pleases current clients, and may close the doors to price competition.

Service professionals can enhance their communication and leadership skills by joining community service groups like Rotary and Kiwanis, volunteering at charitable organizations, and participating in the activities of the local agent association. Acquiring these skills allows service employees to conduct successful client meetings and interact productively with carrier representatives. It also can boost the agency's reputation for providing quality service as well as demonstrate its commitment to the industry and the community.

Equally important are good oral communication skills. CSRs and account managers must be able to conduct effective presentations and handle the inevitable difficult phone conversation with a client. Developing the necessary skills allows the CSR or account manager to quell the fear and speak confidently.

Good communications training also comes into play when a service professional has to deliver bad news. It's never a pleasant task to inform a client that a claim is being denied or that a policy will not be renewed. However, the information can be conveyed in a professional manner that may forestall the "irate customer" reaction.

The International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP) offers an excellent program called "Confidence While Communicating," and both Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters focus on helping participants develop good public speaking skills. Top-performing account managers confirm that this kind of training is invaluable.

Motivation is key

Motivated account managers and CSRs constantly seek out ways to acquire new knowledge and improve their communication skills. They take classes outside of their workday, seek out a free carrier Webinar during their lunch hour, or become involved in a local community group that allows them to develop leadership skills. They always bring their "A" game to the table, no matter how small the account or how important the client. They communicate effectively with producers, underwriters, clients, and prospects.

Agencies show that they value top service professionals by paying above-average salaries and providing commission incentives, offering work-from-home opportunities, and supporting continuing education.

Agencies that combine an "A Game" producer with an "A Game" CSR will have a winning team that will boost revenue and keep desirable clients on the books.


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