By Cyndee Morton, Vice President of Policy Services Administration, Safety National
If your customers draw back the policy services operational curtain, will they see someone pulling levers and turning cranks while announcing, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”? Do you often feel your system processes are one Jenga move from falling apart? Are you fighting a losing battle trying to meet customer expectations while lowering operating costs? If you can relate to any of these questions, it may be time to assess your policy services best practices.
Policy services, in general, refers to the activities related to the issuance of policies and policy transactions, premium booking, processing of notices, and distribution of workers’ compensation posters. Its role in the overall profitability of the company is to control operational expenses while providing consistently superior products and services. The challenge is to keep costs down without negatively impacting customer service.
Proficiency in a policy services area directly impacts a customer’s perception of your overall organization. At the end of the day, regardless of product price, the customer expects and demands quality. Accuracy and quality of the product, the speed in which products are delivered, and the thoroughness of services are often the difference makers in the eyes of the customer. Score well on these, and you have gained a competitive edge – customer loyalty.
Grabbing the brass ring is one thing, but moving to the next level requires an innovative spirit and the desire for continuous improvement. Maintaining a competitive advantage requires a holistic “best practices” approach to the overall policy services operations. Best practices in policy services are pretty simple – forget the management fad du jour and get back to the basics. It’s all about supporting profitable growth through streamlined processes, perpetually improving performance, and leveraging technology for automation. Simply put, it is the communication, the people, and the processes (with corporate core values and culture thrown in for good measure).
Communication can take many forms, whether it is e-mail, phone, chat or blogging. Maintaining an open dialogue with customers results in better service, builds sustainable relationships and improves quality.
- Keep internal and external customers actively engaged and involved.
- Solicit feedback and information regarding policy services performance. Discuss objectives and strategies as they relate to customer servicing, and be open to constructive criticism.
- Be responsive to all questions and requests. Even if you can’t provide an immediate answer, let your customer know you are actively working on his or her issue.
- Work with departments cross functionally. Create a synergy that promotes teamwork.
- Over communicate. Error on the side of providing too much information rather than going into a perceived black hole.
- Be humble. If your team has made a mistake, acknowledge the mistake, accept responsibility, fix the issue and put a control in place to mitigate the potential of a repeat.
“Kaizen” is the Japanese word for practicing continuous improvement resulting in operational efficiency. Operational efficiency helps to control expenses across the value chain. The impact of continually improving processes will be realized in cost reductions due to efficiency gains, improved employee morale, improved customer satisfaction, and increased productivity by redistribution of valuable resources.
- Automate or remove (if you can) the manual processes.
- Eliminate tasks that are duplicated in other departments.
- Detect and remove steps that do not add value.
- Catch errors early in the value chain to mitigate downstream effects.
- Encourage your team to innovate routine processes.
- Be a catalyst for change!
- Don’t get stuck in the “this is the way we have always done it” trap.
Are You Building Your Talent Pipeline?
A hot topic is the rising concern related to the impending industry talent shortage due to baby boomers retiring. Attracting new talent in our industry is not easy. The insurance industry is often viewed by the millennial generation as conservative, stuffy and “uncool.” Attracting the brightest millennials will sustain our industry through the next decades, but how can we recruit and retain these individuals?
- To build and sustain your team, hire inexperienced millennials into entry-level policy administration jobs then build their skillset to make them invaluable to your corporation.
- Provide proven stability. They want to know you are not going anywhere.
- Give these young innovators work that makes a difference. They want to know what they do has value (as we all do).
- Inspire and reward their creativity.
- Understand their need to have work / life balance.
- The millennial generation grew up in a digital world. The insurance industry is often viewed as lagging in terms of technology. Using technological advances to drive innovation will keep millennials engaged and retained.
- Core values and culture matter. When policy services personnel are aligned with the corporate core values and culture, you will find a cohesive team working together to do something they believe in. A positive culture will differentiate your company from competitors and make a positive impact on your customers.
In today’s environment, “doing what we’ve always done” should not be the status quo. Policy services teams are tasked with controlling costs while producing positive results. Adopting best practices philosophies, methods and processes will make your team “best in class.” Customer service is the “moment of truth” for policy services departments. Uncompromising excellence provides our customers with a positive experience that will meet or exceed their expectations. What are your policy services best practices?
We are not in Kansas anymore Toto.
About Cyndee Morton
Cyndee Morton serves as Vice President of Policy Services Administration for Safety National and has over 22 years of industry experience in operational management, client servicing, and software implementation projects. She joined Safety National in 1993 in the underwriting department, and has led its primary policy service operations since 2000, which includes policy operations, premium audit and regulatory reporting functions. Cyndee holds several designations including Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Risk Management (ARM), Associate Compliance Professional (ACP), and is a Six Sigma Green Belt.
About Safety National
Safety National is a leading provider of alternative risk funding products such as excess workers’ compensation, deductible casualty, loss portfolio transfers and reinsurance. The company is rated A+ (Superior), FSC XIII by A.M. Best. Learn more at www.safetynational.com.