Strategic Management for Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers: Positive Change for Sustained Excellence

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finding & Keeping Great Employees

Do your view your employees as your biggest asset or your biggest expense?

"All that separates you from your competition are the skills, knowledge, commitment, and abilities of the people who work for you. Companies that manage people right will outperform companies that don’t by 30 to 40 percent."
-- Jeffrey Pfeffer
Author of The Human Equation:
Building Profits by Putting People First

As an insurance agency, the focus of your business is on developing new customers and retaining the customers you have. You need new business and retention to grow, and growth is key to profitability.

However, if you spend all your time and energy on sales and service, you may be overlooking one of the critical success factors for growth and profitability.
When asked what their biggest challenges are today, agency owners invariably place “finding and keeping quality staff” high on the list. It’s true for large and small, urban and rural agencies alike. So perhaps a good portion of your time and energy should focus on developing new employees and retaining the employees you have.

The workplace has changed and continues to change. With a keen focus on profitability, employers want more for their employment dollar. And those employees who are willing to give more also expect more in return.

One thing that has not changed is that the insurance industry continues to have a poor image as a place to work. As a group, insurance agencies hire fewer college graduates, pay lower wages, and invest less in training and developing staff.
If you’re not thinking differently about the relationship between your employees and your bottom line, it’s time to start. Do your view your employees as your biggest asset or your biggest expense?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Workflow That Works

When things go wrong, it's easy to assume that some person or people have made a mistake or didn't follow procedure. Often, though, it's not about the people. It's about the process.

When you find errors or mistakes recurring, the first question you should ask is "Why?" How effective are the existing processes and systems? Is everyone following the same process consistently? Or, are there obstacles to do the job right?

Even if it appears that people are causing problems, understanding the root cause is important. You can't fix people. You can't even change people. You can provide better tools or training. You can improve a process.

Read more about fixing process, not people in the latest newsletter. B.I.G. Strategies for Business Excellence - Build Consistency.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Customer Care and Sales Calls

Let's talk about what's keeping you up at night.

"I can't get my account managers to make customer contact calls. Staff says they are too busy. I've even committed to give them extra compensation but the calls still don't get made."

Here's a fairly common issue. There is no question that making calls to customers can improve retention and provide opportunities for account rounding. There are lots of reasons to make them but service staff will come back with lots of reasons not to make them. So the question isn't, "why won't they...?.  The question you must ask is "Why would they...? People do things for their own reasons. So you need to make sure they see how your goal or your task synch up with their needs. They have to share your vision.

Also think about what motivates employees in primarily service position. It's not necessarily money, especially if the task seems difficult or risky. Here's a fun way to look at employee motivation and how well you understand what's important to your employees.

And one more thing. The time issue is real in most agencies. If our staff cannot clearly see why these calls are a priority they will work on other things. 

If you are really serious about having these calls made as a regular part of the job, you will need to clearly identify the importance and priority of the task, and make sure everyone understands - and has the tools and training necessary to do it. And then make sure you share the results.

Communicate. Follow up. Communicate. Follow up. Communicate.

If you need help getting staff to take on new or different assignments, let's talk. No strings. No charge. Call me or send an email  

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Bottom Line Contribution of Satisfied Employees

Do you know what's most important to your employees when it comes to job satisfaction? Here's a quick, fun, way to find out.

Why does it matter to you whether or not your employees are 'satisfied?' You just want them to do their jobs. You don't care if they like it or not. Right? Well, you should care. It matters to your bottom line.

Your employees -- producers, customer service representatives, marketing staff, assistants and clerks, accounting staff, and your receptionist --all contribute to the bottom line in very tangible ways. They help you find new customers and keep the ones you have. Knowledgeable, personable and satisfied employees are a very real asset. When you fail to nurture and protect this asset, the cost is high . . . perhaps higher than you realize. 
If employees aren’t given the right tools to do their jobs effectively, for example, or if they’re treated unfairly or are overworked and stressed out, they can become frustrated and unhappy. This has a negative impact on their productivity. 
More importantly, disgruntled employees can be disruptive to the entire organization, sharing their discontent with whomever will listen. Their attitude rubs off on others and brings the morale of the entire organization down. 
Low morale also takes its toll as your staff attempts to provide customer service. You can hear it in their voices. It shows in their attitude. A demoralized staff does not focus on looking for ways to delight your customer. Nor do they attempt to cross-sell accounts or upgrade coverages. 
There’s also a compounding effect. Studies have shown that increasing client retention by just 5 percent can boost an agency’s profitability by 50 to 100 percent or more. But the reverse is also true. Dissatisfied employees can cause retention to drop significantly. Lower retention equates to dramatically lower profits.
Last, but not least, when morale drops, turnover goes up, causing costs to go up dramatically as well.
And by the way... Take the quick management survey and see the number one satisfaction criteria for employees. That's the point of the last blog post. If you missed it, go here.