You may or may not have a customer service (CS) department for your agency, but in any good agency there are about two Customer Service Reps (CSRs) to one producer. You may be the one wearing the hat of CSR in addition to being the only agent or maybe you’re overseeing that person who is expected to be pleasant 120% of the time.
Regardless of who the CSR is in your organization, there are no words to express how important this role is in an insurance agency or at an insurance company. A weak CS department means that your business is broken. Afterall, the role of a CSR is to connect sales people to clients -- often, very disgruntled clients too, who have had a loss recently. When you consider the circumstances under which many people resort to waiting on hold to speak to you, you’d better believe the CSR needs to be sugar and spice and everything really darn nice. But that’s not all.
CSRs are the gatekeepers and the keepers of the agency -- literally! They play a huge part in retention and referrals. Everyone in the industry knows how important (and easy a sell) referrals are. There’s no need to say it twice, but you may consider doing so with Mr. or Ms. Sunshine, whom you hired for the specific role of keeping clients on the books.
Who Is the Perfect CSR?
Not only does a cheerful disposition help, you need your CSR to be consistent with your entire book of business. By consistent, that means doing the hard work of checking in with the clients to see what’s new in their lives (to sell more lines of insurance). But it’s not all about being aggressive. A good CSR is saving a little here and selling a little there when it makes sense. While you want your CSR to be motivated to sell, you can’t hire a shark (save that person for the producer role). It’s more important that this person have some more diplomatic service skills too. Let’s look at those now.
All insurance CSRs are different, but every good insurance CSR is:
Knowledgeable about all the lines of insurance you offer
A stickler for deadlines
A high school graduate, preferably some college classes or a 4-year degree
In some agencies a CSR is essentially a producer’s assistant with a lot of clerical and follow-up work. In some agencies, a CSR is licensed and expected to sell and to build a book of business. All CSRs have to collect and process information. They need to pull information from clients in an effective way (see the traits above). After collection, they need to quickly process how the information given will affect the account and what the potential is for sales of all the various insurance products you offer. A good CSR is someone with good social skills and the ability to be the middle-man, either between the producer and client or the agency owner and the client. Sometimes, stellar CSRs are moved up the ranks to producers.
Complaints d’jour and the Role of a Good CSR
An understated and possibly the most important role a CSR plays is as a listener. Clients will complain. They may even take to social media to ruin your name. They may threaten lawsuits, both with and without good reason. In all these instances, your name is on the line. So is your business. As fiery as that client may be at that moment, they also may be linked to several other existing clients and prospects, with whom your relationship will become tenable if things fall out. As an agent, you job is to keep all bridges intact but it’s the CSR running out there with a bucket of water to put out the fire!
While a CSR should be able to say no if a client is being unreasonable in their demands from carriers, more often than not, just listening to someone vent in a compassionate way will already smooth things over more than you’d think. After the fury dissipates, your agency and the client can begin to make necessary amends or do whatever is possible to keep that business.
Of course sometimes, you are left with no choice but to cut ties. There’s always that client who basically expects a free ride. You can’t enable that person by throwing gift cards and discounts at them when it’s never enough. This is the rare instances you would be right to cancel a policy. A CSR has to understand the difference between an upset client and an unreasonable client on a gut level. (S)he has to act accordingly.
When a CSR is expected to sell, it makes finding that right person even harder. A good producer is not always a good CSR and vice versa. You should think about that when hiring (or not hiring). They do exist though, and that rare animal is a real find that is worth the search!
Of course, if you have two separate departments (CS and Sales), or simply a producer and a CSR, everyone’s roles need to be fleshed out in writing so that they don’t start driving each other crazy. If these two people/departments don’t get along, it could be disastrous for you as the owner, especially if they begin stepping on each other’s toes, losing frustrated and confused clients along the way.
How to Keep CSRs HappyIf your CSRs are doing all the service work and are given the opportunity to sell, chances are that they have very little time to get insurance leads. While your producers have more time to dedicate to the task of generating insurance leads, you may want to consider sending live-transfer insurance calls to your CSR at specific times where they are not busy information gathering or doing the necessary clerical work they have to get done. If you have a talented CSR, they are worth this small investment, which will yield an outcome that makes both you and that CSR pretty darn happy!