Today’s insurance agencies are challenged as never before to keep pace with highly dynamic markets. Swiftly changing industry rules and a constant stream of new products and services mean that agencies have to be agile and responsive. Intense competition, much of it from new online channels, means costs must be continually lowered and service standards and offerings constantly improved. Yet despite the need for rapid ongoing improvement, many agencies unwittingly sabotage their improvement efforts every day. In this article we outline four ways that this happens.
First, they do not systematically capture and address their problems. Some may be handled in an ad hoc manner, but many fall through the cracks and are never solved, building in extra costs and permanent headaches. A simple way to capture and address problems is to set up a idea board in your office and ask individual staff members to post problems as they encounter them, together with any ideas they can think of to resolve them. Once a week, meet for a half-hour around the board, review the posted problems and ideas, and brainstorm new or better ideas. Then assign actions to be taken, which might involve collecting data to better understand problems, or implementing ideas. Begin the next week’s meeting by reviewing progress on the assigned actions. Keep doing this for a few months, and neither you nor your staff will ever want to stop.
Second, most companies do not teach and emphasize the importance of digging out and eliminating the root cause of a problem. When problems arise, they are solved with quick fixes or workarounds. One of our personal favorite cop-outs is the FAQ (Frequently Asked Question). Think about what an FAQ says: “We are aware that customers are constantly confused by this issue, but rather than improving our information/product/service/process to eliminate the confusion in the first place, here is our attempt to clarify after the fact.” Companies that focus on finding and eliminating the root causes of their problems do a lot less firefighting because they are much less likely to encounter the same problem more than once.