September 2017

Recently I had the opportunity to tour the Safeco Gold Service Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. We all have our own notions of what a service center is and does, and why we will or will not want to use them. Here are my personal observations.

First, let me say that I have always believed that service centers do an excellent job and are worth the expense for most agencies. We know that the Gold Service Center will treat your customers like “Gold”. Your customers (and you, the agent) can make changes, file claims, pay their bill, and many other things 24/7/365. In fact, MSAA places our Safeco Access Plus business in the service center. This allows you, the agent, to service the customer while it is in Access Plus.

Second, the Gold Service Center never closes, which means your agency is never closed for your customers. This is a very good thing for you, the agent, since we know that the expectations of our customers are changing and that they expect much more than they did previously. We must adapt to those changes and meet their expectations, or we will lose them as customers.

My tour of the center began with a short Power Point presentation. In it, they shared survey numbers which pointed out that the current agent spends 23% on working on retaining present customers and about 21% of their time on responding to service needs (changes, payments, etc.). Agents reported spending only 21% of their time quoting new business and a scant 9% on prospecting for new customers!

The agent of the future will be spending over a quarter of their time quoting and increase the time spent prospecting to over 16%. In the future, only about 25% of an agent’s time will be spent on both retention and responding to service needs. This is because the savvy agents will have their business in a service center. Where the extra time comes from is by letting the service center take care of day to day transactions, allowing the agent to focus on money generating activities such as new business sales, marketing, and proactive communications with your existing customers to help deepen the relationship.

What I Saw

I was paired with a CSR named Brittany. She impressed me with her high level of training and expertise. She had a computer with dual screens. When a call came in the incoming phone number showed up on one screen, along with the name and policy number of the customer if the phone number was paired with the customer. If not, she asked for the name on the policy or other information until the policy came up. It was a very slick operation.

I saw her take quite a few calls but I will only share the details of a few.

  • A woman who was also the agent called. Her HO policy had lapsed because the escrow had not paid on time. Brittany got the policy reinstated with no lapse of coverage.
  • A man called to find out how much more it would cost him if he bought a new truck, replacing the one currently on the policy. She found that it was $365 annually, “just one dollar a day”. He said he would buy the new truck. She noticed he had no umbrella and rounded the account, earning the agent a new commission.
  • A man called to cancel his policy as the renewal was “too high”. Brittany calmed him down, worked with him on options and retained the account.
  • Another man called to cancel his account. He was upset that his premium was rising due to a recent at fault accident. He insisted that the woman in front of him at the red light backed into him. After talking with him she placed him on a brief hold and talked with the Save Team. They indicated that the agent had requested to let him cancel, as he was apparently a nuisance customer. She then told the customer that she had checked and there was nothing she could do since the police report indicated he was at fault. (He was calm when he hung up. I think he may have stayed with the agent anyway.)

As you can see in just these few examples, the CSR was able to access each situation and come up with a solution. Imagine that these are your customers and that they are calling after your agency is closed. These are customers that were not calling Geico, Esurance, or another direct writer. They were customers who were taken care of in a timely manner on the customer’s schedule, and not the agents’ schedule. Much of this servicing is going on while the agency is closed. According to the statistics from the center, roughly 26.5% of the calls received come in after hours or on weekends. Conversely, that means that almost 75% of the calls are during regular business hours that you would have serviced. This is a way to buy more time, which can be utilized prospecting for new business and quoting.

Also, I thought about the math on the situation. What if each of these calls was on a $1000 premium account, generating $120 in commission at 12% renewal. If you had ten of these accounts for $10,000 premium per month would generate $1,200 commission. The cost of the service center is 1.5% or $150 that month. The agency still gets $1,050 that month. One account saved still would be $105 not lost to the agency. Add in the rounded account, and the increased premium we are close to even or possibly ahead. This is not a made-up number, since MSAA’s retention rate is less than 90% (but still ahead of our competitors), or more than one account lost per month in this scenario.

One Final Thought

One main reason to use the service center occurred to me in light of the recent hurricanes. CAT losses are when we, as agents, have our chance to shine. The only reason to have insurance is to cover potential losses. In our territory over the last several years we have had a derecho, severe flooding, and massive snowstorms, all of which have caused disruptions of phone service to our offices and generated claims. The service centers were unaffected by our local CATs. If one goes down the others take the calls. These centers can begin the claims process while your office is closed due to power and phone interruptions. Your customers deserve to know that someone will be there to help them when they need it most. After all, that is what they pay us for.