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Customer Service Focus

Good to great

Valuing employees' contributions

By Vicie Reales, CIC, CRM

We all have different titles—account manager, customer service representative, customer service specialist, etc.—but basically we are all nurturers of society. Those who really enjoy this role in our industry are enthusiastic about helping others and making things right when they go wrong. We are usually more willing to give than to receive, but we need to know when we are doing a good job or even a great job. We also need to be compensated in a fair way for what we accomplish. There are many ways to acknowledge service employees and help them progress from good employees to great employees. A few of these ideas are to provide an efficient and safe workplace environment, provide adequate training, communicate with and recognize your employees, and promote high-tech efficiency.

Workplace environment

It benefits both the insurance agency and the employees to provide the most updated office equipment the company can afford. When employees are able to do their work with as little interruption as possible (for example, not having to stop for mechanical repairs to their equipment), the day goes more smoothly and the employees are able to better serve the customers. You also do not need as many employees if you have up-to-date and efficient equipment and automation. When your system is slow, the copier or mail machine is broken, or the fax machine is not receiving and/or sending messages, customer service is impaired. The equipment you have must work!

Have your office set up accessible work areas that are ergonomically safe and efficient. Your workers compensation carrier may be willing to help you with the ergonomics, and this will help your loss ratio.

Make every effort to hire employees who interact and work well with one another, e.g., common values, work ethic, team attitude. This can be a challenge, but taking as much time as is possible in the hiring process to get a feel for potential new employees' personalities, values, and work ethic can make a huge difference in whether things run smoothly or there is continual conflict. When you have a team that works unselfishly to be sure each team member is recognized for his or her efforts as opposed to employees who are concerned only about themselves, you have a true team that is working for the good of the company, the employees, and the clients. At the same time, be sure you know your current employees. Stay in contact with them both to know what they are working on and if they have any problems or can make useful suggestions. The personal touch from management is invaluable in making the employee feel like a viable part of the company.

Employee training

We all want to do the best job we can. An employer that provides encouragement and ensures that training is available to keep staff up to date in an ever-changing industry results in employees who feel valued and will be good spokespersons for that employer. Aim for the "professional" employee vs. the "vocational" employee approach. Training is often available for free or at a moderate expense from carriers and others in the industry. Offering in-house, regularly scheduled training sessions is a great asset to any company. Scheduling times for staff to meet to discuss problems or to get training in areas where they may be struggling, will improve attitudes and increase productivity. Meetings can be set up on a monthly or quarterly schedule or any other schedule that works well for both the company and the staff. An environment that encourages questions and sharing of ideas gives your employees a sense of involvement in the business.

Employee recognition

We all know communication is the key to this industry. Keeping employees informed about how the business is doing—good or bad—makes them believe they are both important and valued. Communication can occur during meetings, by e-mail, or through company newsletters.

The greater the number of employees involved in all facets of the business, the more likely it is that job turnover will be reduced. Remember that all of your employees are equally important in this business. Even though the producers bring in the business, the customer service employees are the ones who retain the business. It is one big puzzle and without each piece in place it is not complete, nor will it stay together. When you put too much emphasis on one group of employees, you are doing a disservice to your company. This can result in other employees believing that they are not as valued by the company, and they may not give their best effort to the organization. The employees whose work is not recognized in meetings or through company correspondence, and employees who find out they are not being compensated in a fair way and are held to different standards from other employees may decide it is in their best interest to look for new employment.

The nurturers need to feel like they have accomplished a goal and that they are appreciated for what they do. You will inspire employees to be loyal and trustworthy when you treat them with loyalty and trustworthiness. Remember, it is all about trust and treating others as you would like to be treated.

Go paperless

Last but not least on my list of helping employees go "from good to great" and helping them to be more productive is to go paperless. This system has now been tried and is working very well in my company. Set this goal as an expectation and not as an option. At first it may be hard for some employees to embrace this practice, as it can be hard to let go of old (paper) habits. Once the paperless system is implemented to its full capacity, you will recognize savings on office supplies and physical storage space, as well as the obvious increase in efficiency, with better and faster client interaction.


I am fortunate to work for a company that carries out the practices that I have discussed. Each day when I go to work, I know I'll be able to do my job efficiently and knowledgably, and that through communication within the entire organization I am empowered. I am very dedicated and loyal to my employer due to their diligence in taking measures to keep employees informed, trained, comfortable, and working in well-managed team environments.

The author

Vicie F. Reales, CIC, CRM, CISR, AINS, CPIW, DAE, is a customer service specialist for HUB International Southwest, in Denver, Colorado. Her current responsibilities focus on lawyers professional liability, and she has over 20 years' experience in the insurance industry. Vicie was awarded the Outstanding Customer Service Representative of the Year in 2011 for the state of Colorado. For information on the CISR program, go to


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