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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Operational Excellence As Competitive Advantage

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

Property Casualty 360, June 22, 2012, "GEICO Ad Spending Far Outstrips Its Peers"

A lizard, a caveman and now a possum. GEICO spent far more on auto insurance advertising in 2011 than their competition, both on an absolute basis and as a percentage of the business the company wrote. This, according to a new study released last week and reported by Reuters. With aggressive pricing and heavy advertising, GEICO has quadrupled its market share of the U.S. auto insurance market share over the last 20 years. GEICO's advertising budget represented 6.5 percent of premiums written in 2011.

Anyone who watches  even a little television is familiar with the GEICO brand. And Allstate. And State Farm. You can't compete against these giants by increasing your ad budget. You can't consistently compete against them using price as the competitive advantage. So how do you compete?

Many independent agents say it is their superior customer service that sets them apart. Competing on the basis of service in a 24/7, on-demand, marketplace requires a level of operational excellence that embodies efficiency and effectiveness, employee engagement and customer and customer focus, profitability and business value.  Read more about operational excellence as a competitive advantage here. 

From Theory to Practice

Can you say with confidence that the way you do business gives you a competitive advantage?

If the answer is, "YES!" 

Sustain it. Stuff happens. Take a proactive approach to sustained excellence. Continuously measure, test, improve, measure.

Proclaim it. Make sure everyone in your organization understands the value you bring to current and prospective clients. It's part of your culture. Make it part of your ongoing communications. 

If you're not sure, the the answer is probably, "No.

Find the gaps. Make the investment in time and resources to understand what works and what doesn't.
  • Ask your employees. Use surveys, focus groups and one-on-ones to tap into the talent you already have.
  • Ask your customers. Get employee feedback on customers, use focus groups, and individual and group surveys to understand what customers want and how well you deliver.
  • Review your operations. Start with a checklist or ask for help. If you don't feel you can be objective enough or thorough enough, hire a consultant.
  • Measure your results. Focus on business value rather as well as productivity and profitability. Compare to industry averages but only as a way to create your own benchmarks.
Fill the gaps. Use what you learn to build a strategic plan to get to operational excellence. You can't do everything at once and you shouldn't try. Set priorities. Itentify accountabilities - who is going to do what by when and how will you measure results. Involve the entire organization and communicate constantly. 

Think of it as a process. You'll never really be done so be prepared to sustain it and proclaim it as you go.

Do your excellent operations give you a competitive advantage? Are your employees engaged in keeping your customers delighted and bringing more in the door? Can your team deliver on time every time, even when things don't go just right? If you're not satisfied with the answers to these questions, call or email