Among carriers, the silo model in which departments operate independently and do not easily collaborate on common goals is well-documented. Among agents, however, no matter the size, silos can create problems and unintended consequences.
“I’m not big on silos, except on the farm,” says Brian Bartosh, president of Top O’ Michigan Insurance Solutions of Alpena, Mich. “People will build barriers around themselves even within an agency, in personal lines, commercial and benefits,” he says.
“More of our clients, especially millennials, want a more personal relationship with a single point of contact, so we work hard to accommodate that,” he says.
Bartosh says it has been his experience that millennials want the personal touch more so than members of the baby boomer generation.
Silos within an agency generally fall into three broad categories — data, service and communications. A data silo exists when data is only accessible to one group or team in the agency, or is housed in a system that cannot be shared with other systems. Examples can include the agency management system, marketing, enrollment, commission tracking software, a CRM and carrier websites. Most agencies use data from multiple platforms, so it’s critical to have it accessible to all agency teams.
Many agencies maintain service silos, including personal lines, commercial lines and even claims. Even if staff meet together on a regular basis, they can present an inconsistent experience for the client.
“Silos can be efficient, but they can also frustrate clients,” says Jay Byrnes, president of the Byrnes Agency of Norwich, Conn. “We have tried to reduce their effect, however, by giving clients multiple ways to stay in touch with us and we with them, through our portal, social media and texting.”
Communications silo exists when clients and prospects are forced into using a channel chosen by the agency, not one they prefer.
“A critical component of customer experience is giving both clients and prospects the option to choose what channel they want to use and what time they want to contact us,” Byrnes says. “Not providing them that option creates an unintended silo.”
Bartosh adds that choosing the right social media sites can create a silo. Millennials, for example, have moved away from Facebook and Twitter, so the agency added SnapChat and Instagram to its repertoire.
Agencies are siloed by function, including owner, producers, account managers, marketing and IT, according to Deborah Smallwood, founder & CEO of Strategy Meets Action. “All of them should share, however, the goal of providing the best possible customer experience,” she says. “To bring them together, they should look at their own departments through the customer experience lens. If they do that, that changes the conversations they have with each other and with clients.”
Smallwood adds that agencies should cross-train staff. “The extent to which every staffer understands the function of each department helps develop a more coordinated approach to customer experience,” she says.
Wetzel is CEO of Thomas H. Wetzel & Associates, an insurance marketing firm. Website: www.wetzelandassociates.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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