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Insurance Industry News from ProgramBusiness.comSource or Resource?
When change reshapes an industry, the individual businesses in that industry tend to fall into three groups: (1) those who embrace change and thrive, (2) those who adapt to change and survive, and (3) those who resist change and fade away.
Consider the commercial insurance industry in the past few years since 9/11. The unexpected events of that day drew attention to risks that previously had been deemed extremely improbable. The new underwriting perspective has affected nearly every commercial insurance client –as to premium rates, types of exposure, risk analysis, and risk financing strategy across the board. What was a fairly predictable world before 9/11 in terms of underwriting is now viewed as anything but predictable.
When I ask agencies if the industry fundamental has changed since 9/11, they universally agree and say “yes.” When I then ask them how their agency has fundamentally changed its own approach to the marketplace, the response is often silence – even though they acknowledge that their role in the agency business has changed.
In our more uncertain world, it is no longer good enough to be a source of insurance. Clients today are looking for a resource of insurance expertise. Some agencies have embraced this change and are thriving; others have adapted and are surviving; and still others are resisting and struggling.
In a simpler world, it would be enough for your agency to be a source of service and coverage. In our changed world, however, you must be a resource of knowledge and expertise. You must consult and guide your clients through new and more complex terrain. In turn, this affects the relationship between your agents and your agency. It’s not realistic to expect one agent to be familiar in detail with all of your products and coverages, and with their application to every client’s situation. Instead, your agents now must make effective use of team knowledge; and there needs to be interaction between various agency team members and the client.
How can your agency accomplish this? How can you re-tool your operational approach into a team effort – from initial client contact to providing on-going, proactive services that meet or exceed your client’s expectations?
It’s sometimes easier said than done. Current agency structure tends to separate rather than integrate the roles of personnel within an agency. This is the performance challenge facing many agencies today. How do you change from a traditional structure to a team structure to meet the needs of the marketplace and create a competitive advantage for your agency?
The process has to begin with a strong desire to shift from being a source to a resource. What does that really mean? A source is a provider of something; a resource is a provider of solutions to problems. A source is called upon when a need arises; a resource is depended upon to anticipate current and future needs. A source can be shopped and priced; a resource is viewed as a valuable business partner.
Numerous agencies have tried team approaches that did not get the job done for them. In most cases, it’s because they did not have a systematic plan that they could follow with specific roles and responsibilities. There’s a big difference between developing a team based on “chicken soup for the team’s soul” and following a specific, step-by-step approach that provides a way to achieve and measure results – not just to keep track of progress, but to keep progress on track.
Building a Team Approach
Let me offer a few suggestions based on the experiences we’ve had with agencies facing the source vs. resource challenge in the post-9/11 marketplace. Consider this as a process for developing a blueprint that lays out own team approach:
Step 1 – Put your work processes in a flow chart
Step 2 – Identify the individuals who are involved in that work flow
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