Empowering your agents
Can you think of a time when you’ve requested something seemingly simple from a customer service representative, only to have the situation become more complicated and frustrating as it progressed? We’ve all experienced this in some capacity—it comes with living in the modern world. And it’s often the result of a lack of employee empowerment.
Many times, the person you’re speaking with doesn’t have the necessary authority to help you resolve your problem. It could be an overall company policy or a specific micromanager in their chain of command, but either way, they don’t have the ability to make decisions that could solve things on the spot.
The same thing can be true within an independent insurance agency. Your clients could be experiencing this type of frustration if your agents aren’t empowered to solve client problems themselves. The good news is you can avoid this by taking steps to empower your agents.
Model empowerment to your agency team
The first step towards empowering your agents is to demonstrate what that looks like yourself. As an agency leader, you can model the behavior and attitudes you want your agents to embrace. Whatever values you want your agents to have, whether it’s accountability, ownership, continuous improvement, or anything else, make sure you’re walking the walk. If this isn’t happening, it’s difficult to create a workforce of agents that feel empowered to help your clients because a basic element of leadership is missing.
Delegate duties and decisions to your insurance agents
Many leaders find giving responsibility to others overwhelming and intimidating at first. It’s not uncommon for members of insurance agency management and leadership to struggle with delegating some of their duties. Leaders sometimes think they can get things done faster by just doing it themselves. While this may be true in some situations, it isn’t always so. Stretching yourself too thin can reduce the quality of work you’re putting out, take your time away from more important tasks, and limit your agents’ own professional growth. After all, if you never delegate duties, no one else will ever learn how to do them.
Empowering your agency’s insurance agents to make decisions is a great way to clear roadblocks they may face while taking care of your clients. In many cases, agents have the know-how to solve problems quickly without needing to defer to agency leadership, if you give them the permission and confidence to do so.
Build a foundation of trust between insurance agents and agency leadership
Building trust between agency leadership and your agents is essential to your agency’s success. You need to feel comfortable and confident that all staff will complete their responsibilities excellently. At the same time, your agents need to know there’s an open-door policy and they can discuss challenges without judgment or fear.
Taking time to ask your agents about their goals and career aspirations, learning about their strengths and weaknesses, and providing them opportunities to grow are ways to build their trust and loyalty in agency leadership. When communicating with your agents, practice active listening techniques to ensure you’re really hearing and understanding their concerns. This includes repeating back what you’ve heard to make sure you understand and asking them how you can clear roadblocks they’re facing.
Employee development takes time. While we often expect immediate results, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is different. Some agents may quickly excel when given more independence and authority, while others may need more supervision and frequent check-ins to nurture their performance.
Foster an environment of creative solutions and innovation for your agents
Insurance agencies aren’t always known for being the most “innovative” workplaces. As agency leadership, you can change that! Your clients will see a difference when you emphasize creative problem-solving and out-of-the-box thinking with your agents.
As long as everyone’s working within the scope of their insurance licenses and following all applicable laws and regulations, you can encourage your agents to find creative solutions to client problems.
Emphasize continuous improvement and professional development at your independent agency
From weekly manager one-on-ones to annual performance reviews, you can empower your agents by creating a culture that values ongoing learning, evaluation and improvement. Some best practices for feedback and improvement include:
- Schedule regular and consistent times to meet with each agent
- Dedicate time to discuss both the good and the bad of each agent’s performance, challenges and opportunities
- Explore what motivates your agents
- Document your conversations so you and your agents can refer back to action items later and see where they’ve made progress
- Be clear, consistent and honest with the feedback you give your agents. While no one likes to hear they aren’t meeting expectations, sugar-coating the facts won’t build trust or empowerment in your agent population
Give insurance agents the tools to succeed, including modern technology
A vital step in empowering your agents to provide the best service possible to clients is equipping them with the tools they need to do their jobs. Even the most motivated agents can only do so much if they’re hampered by outdated systems and processes.
When you embrace innovation and utilize tools like insurance technology to streamline your agents’ workflows, they are more empowered to focus on the work only they can do. For example, technology can save agents time by making leads and current client information organized and easily accessible, and communication with prospects easy. Removing busy work from your agents’ plates gives them more time for revenue-generating activities, and definitely makes them feel appreciated.
Empowered insurance agents drive your agency’s growth
If all this sounds like a lot of work, keep in mind that the more you invest in your agents, the more they can give back to you. By modeling good leadership skills, creating a culture of accountability, giving your agents permission and authority to solve client problems, and more, you can create a team of excellent insurance agents who’ll prove valuable to your business for many years to come.
Thanks for reading our educational resource! Any above reference to a specific company, method, or product is meant for educational purposes only and is not specifically endorsed by Pie.