How to be a Proactive Agency Owner

Even agencies with the BEST CSRs and Account Managers make mistakes, skip steps for the sake of time, or fail to follow through on processing a customer request.

You know you've been there. Lying in bed, worrying about your agency.

Is my account manager forgetting something?

Are there questions we aren't asking?

What if a client isn't appropriately insured?

What if we get sued?

                                                What will happen to my E&O coverage? 

Will I have to take the loss myself?

How can I recover from failing a client?

The worry continues…

Unless you are proactive. Even agencies with the BEST CSRs and Account Managers make mistakes, skip steps for the sake of time, or fail to follow through on processing a customer request. That is why you have thoughtfully written business processes and procedures. You do, right?

 Let's assume you do. How do you KNOW your staff is following those procedures? No one cares about your agency more than you do. What are you doing to ensure that your clients are getting the coverage and service that they expect from you? 

Performing periodic audits ensure your agency is operating effectively, complies with a multitude of administrative regulations, satisfies your "due diligence" review for shareholders or potential investors, protects the agency from E&O claims, and best of all… gives you the peace of mind and confidence that your business is functioning well, and you are prepared to meet potential challenges.

You have the best CSRs and Account Managers. They've been with you a long time, and the customers love them. Guess what? I'd probably agree with you. Most employees are incredibly knowledgeable insurance professionals who are committed to customer happiness, but many are also not great at paperwork, documenting, and following through on the details. Some of our most impressive Account Managers have gotten low scores in an audit because they spend more time with the client than on the paperwork. And that's ok, as long as you know their strengths and have others on the team who can fill the gaps. But, without performing audits regularly – this type of information is unavailable to you.

Let's revisit the topic of a procedure manual. Before your agency audit – there needs to be a set of guidelines to which you measure performance.

Procedures are essential for controlling processes, documenting the standard work that was performed at a point in time, and training employees on the business processes. They should be used and updated often. Not all policies, practices, and procedures are documented, but it is vital that agencies continue to try to do so. It is vitally important that agencies have a process to ensure that everything stays up-to-date and legal, AND actually works as intended.

Once you are ready to audit, you must identify what transactions and content are most critical to review, then determine a time period from which to extract those transactions. It is also essential that you create a tool to document your findings properly.We use an easy to understand Excel workbook and have developed an exclusive scoring system that allows us to fairly score Account Managers and Processors according to agency procedures. Formatting audit results this way, also reveals trends in performance and procedure adherence that may uncover redundancies and/or training opportunities.

If a task is repeatedly skipped, it begs the question: Are we doing things just to do them, or are they key to our client's success? Or, have we instituted a procedure and not adequately informed the team. Either way, it is time for a closer look. If a process can be streamlined – the agency becomes more efficient. If communication and training need to occur, the agency is further protected.

What is audited and who is doing the auditing is important to realize the maximum benefits from an agency audit. Not just anyone is experienced enough to understand which reports will glean the most information, what process should be reviewed or the steps in each workflow. The auditor should know your software but also know when to look in the rating system, or other platforms necessary for following all the steps in the procedures. The auditor must also audit everyone. It is best to do random sampling of each transaction you've identified for audit. We typically review 2-3 of each transaction type per employee per month. 

Many owners and managers want the larger accounts audited for fear that those have the most significant potential for risk. Perhaps this is true, but your team knows that those accounts are important to you, and probably did their best work on those transactions. It is the smaller accounts, where employees are rushed that tend to show the most considerable number of mistakes and opportunity for improvement. 

Once the audit is complete, it is time to act. We compile the results to review with managers and employees. It is then time to tackle the issues, get ahead of future problems. Make the necessary corrections and perform the needed training. Sometimes it means re-structuring the staff to ensure the right people are in the best positions for their skillset. That fabulous customer service-driven Account Manager that made a lot of mistakes should be paired with a Processor that has impeccable attention to detail. 

The cycle repeats. Agency performance must be monitored continually. Procedures should be in place, processes for evaluating those procedures should follow, then you learn, make changes, and start again.  

Avoid unpleasant future surprises by staying ahead of risks and mistakes. Grow your business while enhancing your employee's ability to deliver consistent, high caliber service your customers have come to expect. Best of all…

              Get better sleep!


Author: Angela Painter

Angela is a popular speaker at NetVU conferences whether it be a local Chapter meeting, virtual webex session or National Conference. This is due to her experience with the Insurance Industry and passion for Insurance Agency Professionals. Angela has been in the Insurance Industry since 1980. She has held various positions with Carriers including System Interaction Specialist, Personal Lines Underwriter, Commercial Lines Underwriter. In 1992 Angela became a Licensed Property & Casualty agent for a large Brokerage firm in the Washington area specializing in Financial Products before joining Vertafore in 1996. While at Vertafore Angela Painter worked primarily in Development as a Senior Business Analyst and Product Manager on AfW and the AMS360 product since its inception. As the AMS360 Product Manager Angela worked closely with Agencies, Sales, Support, Implementation, Training and Development Teams to analyze, research, prioritize, design, and implement features within the AMS360 system.