AUGIE Helps Agents Move to Sales Culture, Increasing Business
PEARL RIVER, NY – November 15, 2007 – With real-time and download communications providing more efficient operations, independent agencies are turning their attention to driving new sales, account rounding and value-added customer service.
To enable this shift to a “sales culture,” the ACORD-User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE) has formed a task force to develop practical tools.
AUGIE’s “Real Time Leads to Real Growth” initiative will pull together sales-and-service training material and offer a step-by-step approach to agencies. The task force will:
- Identify criteria that an agency will use to determine if it is ready to become a “sales culture.”
- Define the steps for an agency to communicate this change to employees.
- Publish materials to assist the agency in improving relationships with existing and new customers.
- Suggest how to handle employees who are unsure of how they fit in to the new sales culture.
“When an agency embraces real-time communications with business partners, it can lead to a tremendous reduction in the time required to complete customer service transactions,” said co-chair Stu Durland, vice president, operations, with Seely & Durland, Warwick, N.Y., and co-chair of the AUGIE initiative. “This savings provides the service staff with the time to proactively touch clients. Consistent, proactive, caring contact translates into increased retention, which in turn results in increased profits for the agency.
“Paying attention is more than courtesy and common sense … it also contributes to keeping customers from leaving and taking their business to competitors,” Durland added. “Studies prove that finding new customers is much more expensive than retaining an existing client.”
Helping agency owners develop soft-skills for CSRs, such as relationship-building on phone calls with customers, will be among the practical tools offered, according to task force co-chair Kitty Ambers, CPIA, CIC, CISR, CPIW, CRMCS, executive director of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales Society (AIMS Society). “CSRs often do not see themselves as sales people,” she said. “But in fact they are excellent at customer contact and account development. Agency owners need a framework around which to empower the staff for long-term change and more consistent sales and retention results.”
Agency owners, too, will have some fears about the change, said Durland. “They worry about cost, how long change will take to occur, and attempting to fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken,” he said.
The “Real Time Leads to Real Growth” initiative comes at a time when agency owners have exciting new options to reconfigure jobs, such as telework and part-time options, Durland noted. “With agencies coming up to speed with real-time technology, the owners now can tap into excellent talent throughout the various generations in the work force such as return-to-work and stay-at-home parents,” he said.
But the change must come from the top, Ambers added. “When an agency does not have a philosophy in sales, this won’t work,” she said. “Many independent agents are living off of current revenue. Our job is to convince owners that a sales-culture agency is worth more.”
Based in New York, ACORD (Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development) is a global, nonprofit insurance association whose mission is to facilitate the development and use of standards for the insurance, reinsurance and related financial services industries. With offices in London as well, ACORD accomplishes its mission by remaining an objective, independent advocate for sharing information among diverse platforms. ACORD Standards and services improve efficiency and expand market reach. Affiliated with ACORD are hundreds of insurance and reinsurance companies, and thousands of agents and brokers, related financial services organizations, solution providers, and industry organizations worldwide. Visit www.acord.org.