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Driving top-line growth through customer satisfaction

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During periods of business expansion, sales teams are traditionally credited for client wins and top-line growth. Behind the scenes, however, customer loyalty and increased profitability is often the product of sales representatives and account managers working together to deliver the highest level of service to their clients.

Insurance carriers take many different approaches to account management, but recently, two primary models have emerged: (1) a centralized or “home office” model; and (2) a local or “distributed” model. While both approaches have their pros and cons, certain client portfolios are clearly conducive to one of the two.

Below is a breakdown of each model as well as potential benefits for carriers, brokers and employers, and instances where one model may be superior to another.

The centralized model

The “home office” or centralized account management model typically consists of a team of home office account managers who provide services to a designated group of customers. For instance, some teams are broken out by regions serving specific time zones, or by experience serving employers in different industries such as healthcare or financial services.

The centralized model can be very effective if the plan designs or needs of all customers in the group are very similar, and if there is little variation driven by state regulations or other requirements. This model is also effective when there is a high volume of calls or inquiries coming in from customers to the service team.

While account managers in a centralized model are typically more tenured than traditional customer service representatives, members of the team will often share the same skill set, such as experience with billing and enrollment issues.

This allows them to respond to inquiries from many customers, regardless of whether or not they’ve been in frequent contact in the past. They may also be able to build a bank of industry knowledge that can be applied to future interactions with employers in the same region, industry, etc. 

The local model

A “distributed” or local account management model is one where the account manager is located in the same market as his or her customers, and tends to develop stronger, long-term relationships with those employers. In these situations, the account manager is typically the single point of contact and becomes attuned to that customer’s specific needs, plan designs, regional specifications or other nuances.

This more frequent in-person interaction results in a deeper institutional knowledge of clients’ business. The account manager understands employers’ benefits philosophy, including their approach to healthcare and other products. The account manager can therefore offer solutions and suggestions to keep various plans aligned. 

Hybrid approaches have emerged to address the unique needs of employers of different sizes and within different industries and geographic locations. But regardless of the model, an account manager’s contributions to the continued growth of the business cannot be underestimated.

Following the initial sale, these individuals often dictate the kind of experience an employer and their employees have with a chosen carrier. They ensure that the plan design is implemented successfully; and they work diligently to identify challenges and provide creative solutions to ensure a positive customer experience.

The account manager can also act as a liaison between customers and the insurance broker, providing this key partner with a carrier contact who can quickly respond to inquiries and help troubleshoot more detailed, product-focused problems.

A strong relationship between a customer’s sales representative and account manager is critical to ensuring that expectations are set with the customer from day one. An empowered, experienced account management team, working hand-in-hand with talented sales professionals, will be well-positioned to execute for their customers and successfully grow their business.

 

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