Report Reveals Perception Gaps, Improvement Opportunities in Sales & Service Roles

By Kyle Hardner | February 10, 2020

When properly aligned, sales and service teams can unlock massive revenue potential, improve working relationships and transform the customer experience. Unfortunately, gaps in processes, performance and customer outcomes exist, undermining that alignment and potentially resulting in lost revenue, underinsurance and increased risk.

The recently released Sales and Service Report, based on a survey conducted by ReSource Pro in partnership with Insurance Journal, quantifies the perception gaps among management, sales and service team members. This first-of-its-kind study aimed to uncover how well cross-functional teams collaborate, what client services might be falling through the cracks, and what revenue opportunities were being missed.

To get the answers, researchers asked representatives of U.S. agencies about the alignment of their sales and service teams on new business and renewals. Participants answered questions about processes within their organizations and attributes of the day-to-day work within their industries.

“We discovered some significant gaps and friction that arise out of challenges between the production and operations teams,” said Dan Epstein, chief executive officer (CEO) of ReSource Pro. “We also uncovered a significant opportunity to improve risk management and service differentiation by improving the sales and service alignment, understanding and technical training.”

Renewals, Urgent Requests Among Top Disconnects

Some surprising gaps appeared when respondents answered questions about renewal policies. Almost two-thirds of producers surveyed said they rarely instruct service staff to renew as-is, but only 45% of service staff and 46% of management agreed. In addition, while 67% of producers said they rarely transact renewals without updated risk data, only 47% of service staff and 46% of management agreed.

“That’s really problematic, because if you’re renewing an account and haven’t done any kind of risk assessment as to whether coverage limits, deductions or other conditions have changed, you’re exposing the policyholder to considerable risks,” Epstein said.

“Renewing a policy without updated risk data also means a client hasn’t been given the opportunity to make a decision about emerging risks, such as cyberliability, employment practices or employee dishonesty,” added Frank Pennachio, partner and co-founder of Oceanus Partners, a ReSource Pro company.

Urgent producer requests also marked a large area of disconnect. A total of 55% of service staff said producers’ requests interrupted their workstreams and complicated their day-to-day work, but only 14% of producers agreed.

“This tells us sales staff is having a negative impact on their service staffs’ day-to-day work but they may not realize it,” Epstein said. “This not only hurts the sales-service staff relationship, but also affects overall morale, employee engagement and retention.”

The good news: Producers have an extremely high opinion of their service teams. A total of 76% of producers agree their service teams have the skill sets and experience to support client needs, while 73% agree their service teams understand the needs of their customers.

Concerns About Producers’ Core Functions

The widest perception gap came from respondents to the question, “How effective are your producers at facilitating cross-sell or account rounding opportunities?” A total of 80% of producers ranked themselves as very effective; however, only 18% of service staff agreed with that perception. Management responses, at 17%, aligned with those of service staff.

In addition, the responses to two other questions raised concerns about whether producers have the tools they need to be most effective in their jobs. Only 38% of producers agreed they are effective in communicating the value of account manager services to clients. And while 50% of producers said they are effective at communicating client expectations to service staff when onboarding new accounts, only 24% of management and 21% of service staff respondents agreed with their assessment.

“We’re in an environment where risks are increasing, business is more complex, our economy is more complex, the chance of loss is increasing, and at the same time, producers seem to be saying they’re not really up to the task,” Pennachio said.

In particular, the onboarding concerns expressed by producers point to potential customer experience issues down the road. “Agencies want to differentiate themselves, but they can’t do so if they aren’t effective at communicating client expectations to service staff during the onboarding process,” Epstein said. “If your employees don’t really understand your client’s needs and expectations, they can’t be responsive to that client.”

Standardization Exists, But Isn’t Always Followed

Standardized sales and renewal processes bring the promise of improved customer service and reduced risk. However, such processes are not yet followed by all agencies. A total of 60% of managers say their agencies have standardized sales processes, while 58% of service staff and only 43% of sales staff agree.

However, fewer respondents (29% of management, 27% of service staff and 22% of sales staff) say producers rarely deviate from that standardized process. Process deviations can lead to unnecessary losses, misunderstanding risk and approaching an account with incomplete information.

When it comes to renewals, a majority of respondents in all three areas (84% in management, 80% in service and 65% in sales) agree their agencies have standardized renewal processes. However, fewer (56% in sales, 50% in management and 39% in service) say producers rarely deviate from those standardized renewal processes.

“We believe these responses indicate that a lack of technology and technical knowledge could be a barrier to more structured onboarding or renewal processes for many agencies,” Pennachio said.

Gaps Among Lines of Business

To dig deeper, the survey broke down specific questions by lines of business. “We were intrigued to see whether there were bigger gaps on the Employee Benefits, Commercial Lines or Personal Lines, and these questions gave us that data,” Epstein said.

For example, 72% of Employee Benefits respondents said their agencies had standardized sales processes, while only 57% of Commercial Lines respondents and 53% of Personal Lines respondents said the same. Respondents in Employee Benefits and Commercial Lines were near equal (64% and 63%, respectively) in disagreeing that urgent producer requests rarely interrupt service staff workflows, but only 48% of Personal Lines respondents disagreed with the same statement.

When asked whether service staff meets face-to-face with sales staff before accounts are submitted to market, respondents in Employee Benefits (71%) and Commercial Lines (53%) disagreed in larger numbers than respondents in Personal Lines (35%).

Discussing Results With Individual Teams

“This survey gives us plenty of data to help find pain points within an agency, how that creates risks for the agency and its policy holders, and how it creates pain internally for people who are supposed to be collaborating to give the best customer experience,” Epstein said.

He encourages agencies to review the survey results as a benchmark and discuss how they can partner and collaborate more effectively. “Ask managers and employees to what extent do they agree with the results, to what extent do you feel we have gaps in our operations, and to what extent do we follow standardized processes,” he said.

Companies can also request an agency-specific survey by contacting survey@resourcepro.com. Hardner is a freelance writer and content strategist with expertise in the insurance, real estate, healthcare and tech industries. He can be reached at kyle@hardkorecontent.com.

About Kyle Hardner

Hardner is a freelance writer and content strategist with expertise in the insurance, real estate, healthcare and tech industries. He can be reached at kyle@hardkorecontent.com.

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Insurance Journal West February 10, 2020
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