It’s the hot topic: processes and procedures for the agency — the guiding document that shares how the agency wants each team member to approach the most important services within the agency. Some agencies have a procedure manual that outlines where to point and click in your management system. Others have a few things documented, but let’s be honest — if your team can’t tell you where to find the procedure manual, it’s probably not working.
Before we dive into the processes, let’s set the stage a little more on how to get procedure manuals to stick. Here are a few key features we not only require but demand when working on a retainer basis with our clients to create procedures and processes:
- Every team member will be designated a process to work on with us. If need be, some will have 2, but every process will have a point person that is not the agency owner. Once we have a process we like, we will present it to the agency owner for their final feedback. The purpose is to create system matter experts in each area so they understand it, can train on it and give fair feedback on the process.
- Storage of the Process: It will be stored in a searchable database. This could be as simple as a Google Drive folder. For our Hubspot clients it can be the knowledge base they provide, or some agencies invest in a simple solution like Trainual to host their processes. In addition, the processes should have tracking on logins and the ability for people to comment and ask questions so the processes become living and breathing documents.
- 4 Keys to a Great Process: Your processes need three main components:
- Written & Video — The written guide needs to have attention areas that draw people into tricks and traps to avoid.
- They include a mission statement for the process — why this process exists and the ideal outcome.
- Each process has a report that can be run for auditing purposes.
- BONUS: Each process also includes scripts and, hopefully, even role-playing videos
- The process is not just where to point & click: Point and click processes get updated very fast. Instead, you want to think of your process like a beautiful ballet. What are the lights, costumes, players, sound — it’s a combination of all the details that lead to the BEST customer experience. Included in the process should be common scenarios and ideas on how to solve key challenges.
- Roll Out & Accountability: When we help build specific processes with agencies, we require that we only do 1 per month. It takes that much time to hold people accountable. In addition, someone has to have the role of accountability. We come alongside that person on the reporting, but there should be someone that spot checks and coaches the team to succeed. Also, before you get started, you will need to have consequences outlined upfront so it’s not personal for repeat offenders.
- Three Tiers: For every process you need to identify if it’s a High, Medium or Low Priority. Many agencies have an equal priority on everything, and then things get messy, or worse, they prioritize 2-minute tasks and never get to the big stuff that haunts them.
Your customer experience is the exact thing that makes your agency stand out, and it clearly shares with the team what the expectation is of them.
10 Processes Your Agency Needs to Have
Process 1: Phone Greeting & Transfer Process
Your phone greeting is the very first live and personal interaction a new lead or client has with the agency. When we call agencies and hear the person answering the phone sounding like their cat just died, our stomachs do a little backflip (as long as their cat didn’t actually die). This generally means the agency owner has put the least friendly person into the role of Director of First Impressions. They didn’t cut it elsewhere, and now they are stuck unenthusiastically welcoming people to the agency. I worked with one agency many years ago where I was actually fired from the agency. Three owners agreed to a new phone greeting and we all rolled it out to the receptionist, thinking the conversation went fine. I went to lunch and returned to find out the receptionist came back in and said she would quit if she had to answer the phone that way. I got the pink slip and she got to run the agency — in a very grumpy way. The point is, if you can’t control the way the phone is answered, stop reading the rest of these processes. It gets deeper from here.
Here is what you need to map out on your phone greeting and transfer process:
- How is the phone answered?
- How many rings maximum before response?
- What is the call group plan (who answers 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.)?
- Plan now for what happens if your primary phone responder is out. (It’s always a pain when you have to scramble before a vacation.)
- What information is gathered by the person answering the phone? (Name, what the call is regarding, update contact info)
- Gatekeeper, or who should get to who. For example, an agency owner or producer should not get interrupted with service work. You need a plan and scripts for what gets through and what gets tossed.
- Immediate resolution or only speak to your person. When the person the client is looking for is on the phone, what happens and what script do we use to influence the person, in the right situations, to go to someone else who is available?
- Call return times — What is the expectation for a return call?
- Management system documentation — Are you emailing a voicemail or opening up an activity? (Hint: don’t email.)
- When a call is being transferred, what information is passed along? Can people decline calls?
- In between call time — With many modern phone systems you can program a wrap up time so the team member can complete the last activity.
- Crazy phone days — You need, in case of an emergency, a plan for the days the phones are bonkers. Maybe producers or the marketing team can pinch hit to help the team.
- Agency chat and phone systems — What features do you have and how do you use them? For example, an account manager may be able to indicate when they will be free with a chat feature.
The bottom line is that the receptionist is the air traffic controller, and you need to have plans to land every call accurately and on point. This small thing can quickly turn into mass chaos if you’re not prepared.
“The point is, if you can’t control the way the phone is answered, stop reading the rest of these processes.”KELLY DONAHUE – PIRO
Process 2: The Service Call Sandwich
This one may be new for you, but it’s the beginning, middle and end of every service call. This is the philosophy of the call and allows the team member to not just do a transaction, but make every call an experience. We map out the bread of the sandwich so this becomes so routine there is no question of what a good call looks like. Here are the common sandwich components:
- Transfer phone call greeting and what to have up on the screen
- Confirm contact information.
- Document personal items in the system so that every time the client calls in, you can ask how Roxxy their puppy is. This is so small, but so critical.
- Ask how the client’s day is going to show you care.
- Clearly agreed on timeline for delivery
- Call is documented in the system before hanging up
- Expression of gratitude for their continued business
- Offer a quick review of coverage and missing discounts.
- Mention of referral program, online review or any items the agency is focused on
When your team can get into the habit of starting and ending a call the same way each time, it makes it routine.
Process 3: Payments
Our philosophy is you need to structure payments to be efficient and effective, and this goes into knowing your agency. Not every agency can cut cash out tomorrow. However, on every payment call or walk-in, we can have a process to strongly recommend that they pay differently. Here are some ideas:
- Scripts on how to recommend alternative payments with objections
- Documented discounts for EFT, Pay in Full and Paperless by carrier
- A plan to document and automate marketing to reduce payments
- Payments should be a low priority — If someone has to wait on hold 5 minutes to make a payment, you may be motivating them to sign up for alternate forms of payment.
- Goals to reduce time-intensive payments
Process 4: Claims
Claims are literally the only time someone truly uses your product. You need to identify clearly what your claims process entails. In today’s world someone may not tell you directly they are unhappy or unclear on a claim, but they will tell you with online reviews.
- Will your agency proactively call claims?
- Script out that call.
- What happens when clients call in for a claim? Do you take it or warm transfer it?
- Will your agency send a survey on the claims process to see what transpired?
- Will your agency do a review with the client to clarify what they have after the claim to see if they want to make any adjustments?
- In the event of a claim, will you proactively call them at renewal to help them understand any rate changes?
Process 5: Sales Process
Trust me, in doing secret shopper calls I’ve learned that everyone needs a sales process. Depending on your personality and role in the agency, you may actually be doing everything you can to help serve current clients, but de-emphasizing new business sales. Here are some considerations on a new business process:
- How are leads routed? Who gets them and do they have capacity?
- How quickly are web leads responded to?
- What do we say to a lead?
- Building Rapport to Pre-Qualify (Personal Pitch, Why This Agency, Talking about what an independent agency is, getting to know other than price what is important to the client)
- Insurance Quoting — Quote sheet/quote over the phone? What questions are on the quote sheet, and is it in a conversational form with more than just underwriting questions?
- Quote delivery — How are quotes delivered? Email, phone call, quote video? Is there a confirmed delivery date?
- Asking for the business — Are you using scripts for asking for the business and overcoming objections?
When you build a sales process that everyone follows, you can create a machine and make training new people much easier.
Process 6: Endorsements
This is one of the areas that agencies take on the most. Every change should have a checklist with not just underwriting issues, but all the details of the sandwich and opportunities to improve coverage and cross-sell. This, again, helps a new person. While they can be tedious to create, when they are used consistently they will help your agency avoid E&O issues and provide an excellent client experience. Here are some common ones we build for agencies on personal lines:
- New Auto Purchase
- Replacement Auto Purchase
- Youthful Driver
- Car Sale
- Home Addition
Hint: all of these should include a check for umbrella coverage.
Process 7: Renewals
We believe strongly in renewal review calls. They are like exercise; they cure 95% of issues in an agency. But of course we never ever have enough time! When you can get proactive on renewals and lay out that process in your management system, you can solve the following problems:
- Updated Contact Info
- Avoid E&O issues
- Cross Sell
- Improve Coverage
- Reduce Re-Marketing
- Increase Retention
- Reduce Inbound Client Calls
- Boost Referrals
It generally breaks down to about 4 calls per day, and you talk to half the clients. Do the math. You can do it!
Process 8: Re-Marketing
While we don’t advocate re-marketing, it is a great tool in the right situation. However, your team needs guidance on what qualifies for a re-market and how to handle the situation if the client does not qualify. Here are a few re-marketing questions for you to consider:
- Do you want to automatically re-market or talk to the client first? (Hint: talking first is better.)
- What rate increase qualifies?
- How many years in between re-markets?
- Do you have a list of all discounts for each carrier to try to apply first?
- Is there a minimum premium you are targeting to re-market?
- Do you alert them to any inspections?
- Do you ask what savings they would be looking for in order to change companies?
- What underwriting guidelines should we check before a re-market? (i.e. pets)
- Do you re-market monoline accounts or require a quote on the other line?
- Do you like them enough to re-market? We shouldn’t reshop accounts we may want to get rid of.
Process 9: Feedback
This one has nothing to do with your clients but is more about your internal process. How often are you meeting with your biggest investment — your team? Are you providing constructive feedback (both wins and lessons), and is it in a consistent format so your team can get comfortable with it? Here are some questions to create your team feedback process:
- How often?
- What do you want the team member to prepare for?
- What metrics will you use?
- How will it be documented?
- What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Set them up for the next year so they don’t get forgotten.
“Are you providing constructive feedback (both wins and lessons), and is it in a consistent format so your team can get comfortable with it?”Kelly Donahue-Piro
Process 10: Team Meetings
No one likes meetings, but they are critical for talking about different items. Our ideal team meeting is:
- Everyone shares a success and a lesson.
- Metrics review
- Coaching moment — What’s one issue we see coming up repeatedly?
- Process review — Pick one process and review it.
Processes can seem overwhelming. Remember, if it’s overwhelming for you, imagine being at the desk having to do them all! It helps to have a committee that is working on them so it’s not all on you!