Agencies Underpay CSRs, Overpay Producers, Argues Consultant Bates at 1752 Club Meeting

April 19, 2004

  • April 16, 2004 at 7:04 am
    Louise D. Neigel says:
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    Copy of this article should be posted in every producer’s office.
    Agree 100% with her that the agencies who have recognized this and made the chang have reaped the rewards of keeping quality people employed at their agencies.

  • April 16, 2004 at 8:51 am
    K Grimsley says:
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    Agree 100% with V. Bates. CSR’s handle the bulk of the responsibility while the producers enjoy all the benefits.

    CSR’s are more likely to be successful, long-term employees than are the producers. Typically they are eager to keep themselves current and well informed.

    There are plenty of knowledgeable, skilled people out there for the CSR positions. Many of whom are currently on the company side. They have traditionally stayed on the company side because the pay and the benefits are better. However, as the number of companies decline, these people are looking for positions and the agency side would be a perfect fit but would mean large pay-cuts.

    There is plenty of money in the agencies between the commissions and the contingencies. Pay these people what they are truly worth and they’ll be knocking down the front door to get in.

  • April 16, 2004 at 12:35 pm
    Laura says:
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    I have been saying this for many many years! I applaud those agencies who have made the change. Where are they??CSRs in more cases than not are the brains behind sale.

  • April 16, 2004 at 12:43 pm
    Kelsey Wood says:
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    Right on the mark. Problem is that the insureance companies think the agency system would do better to fire all CSR’s and take their call center and just have producers. Sorry, I’m not buying their story. My agency has the relationship with the client, not the company, and my CSR’s are the reason for the continued relationship. I’m not in this business just to see policies. I’m in this business to provide professional consultation on insurance. To assist my clients with making informed decisions to best meet their needs, not the desires of the company issuing the policy.

  • April 16, 2004 at 12:55 pm
    Beth says:
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    I agree 100%. Usually a producer/agent has nothing to do with the account after it has been written. All the responsibilities fall to the CSR from that point on.They process endorsements, renewals, maintain the records, etc., etc., etc., Meanwhile the producer/agent is being rewarded with trips and the like. It’s time that agencies realize just how important it is to recognize the CSRs with more than just a pat on the back and a “good job” remark.

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:01 am
    Theresa says:
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    I agree too. I am now a producer, but would rather be a CSR. I changed to a producer for the money. I would go back in an instant if I could make the same or more. I miss having a year to year relationship with the client. I feel like I am neglecting them when after a sale I have to turn the account over to someone else. As a sales person I could not do what I have to do without my CSRs. It is about time someone spoke up. Thanks!

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:08 am
    Bob says:
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    Good, Solid Producers who know how to take control of a market are also hard to come by.

    Agencys who are sales AND service oriented will have trouble hiring, and keeping CSR’s, Account Executives AND Producers or Marketing folks if salaries are not in line.

    Agencies who invest in the tools CSR and Staff need, and bonus good performance will find it easier to hire and keep CSR’s who work for firms NOT doing these things today.

    Agencies who keep poorly performing producers will have issues with CSR’s.

    A new producer who earns just 30% on NB and 25% RE with and average rate of 12% Agency Comm – and sells in excess of 700,000 of “new” business per year (let’s be real) will take about 5 years before they see a decent income vs. many other sales careers.

    Producers often work as independents, paying all “expenses” related to acquiring accounts, and health benefits.

    Agencies who invest in Marketing, Lead generation, and good post sale service will keep producers.

    Pinning CSR’s against Producers is not the answer to managing the profit margins of the agency, which results in adequate pay for ALL EMPLOYEES.

    It starts with Owners, and their management teams.

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:27 am
    Robert says:
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    Overall I agree with the article and disagree with Bob, in particular his numbers. I pay the producers 50% on new business and only 10% on renewals, the rest is divided between the agency and the csr’s.

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:37 am
    Matt says:
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    Let’s face facts that most agencies are poorly run businesses, because most are owned and run by salespeople not business leaders. It is only natural that agencies are empathic towards producers more so because of their background in sales. Great agencies see the need for managers and leaders tat plan for long term growth and business development. It is very hard for the majority of agencies to come up with a basic business plan or operating philosophy. Many today are second or third generation family owned businesses and they think they can just come in sit behind the desk and wait for th phone or the producer to bring business in . They don’t know how or don’t want to put in the time and effort to come up with sales plans/strategies with appropriate funding and resources and also plan staff advancement, education and reward systems based upon agreed upon employee objectives.

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:39 am
    Jessica Lee says:
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    Equal pay for a job equally as important is always a problem. Bonuses are probably the only way to equalize the current system, but it certainly needs addressing. Hats off to my industry for helping to keep the job market competitive. We at least help those that are truly in need of bettering their situations.

  • April 16, 2004 at 1:43 am
    Theresa says:
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    It seems like every agency pays different. In my agency producers received commision on NB only at 40% and a base salary. CSRs get paid by the hour in hopes of a yearly raise. The CSR has to not only take care of the customer, but follow up and “take care” of the producer. The CSR cleans up alot of mistakes or items that are just overlooked or left undone by the producers. Maybe this is the way it is suppose to be. Personally, since I have been in both positions, I try hard to take care of my CSR and assistant. We work as a team and when I see they have covered for me or helped me make a sale I reward her with a small gift. In return if the renewal CSR needs me to talk to an insured about an increase in premium or decrease in coverage, I do so gladly. I have worked the product longer then they have and have the experience to discuss more issues that might pop up in the conversation. This is what I wanted when I was a CSR, recognition, appreciation and help from the producer in difficult situations. I know some producers have an “attitude” problem. I don’t know what the answer is except maybe that owners/managers should take the hint and treat the support staff with as much recongition as they do sales. CSRs need just as much attention as sales does.

  • April 16, 2004 at 2:35 am
    KEVIN says:
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    IS IT FAIR TO PAY THE PRODUCER 50%,40%,30% OF THE FIRST YEAR COMMISSION AND THEN THE SAME AMOUNT ON RENEWALS, WHATS THE AVERAGE?

  • April 16, 2004 at 2:44 am
    Ann says:
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    How long could an agency keep its doors open if the CSR’s walked out? It’s the service AFTER the sale that retains the customers.

    Back in 1986, my last year as a commercial lines underwriter, I made about $30,000/year. 18 years later, with 18 years more experience, I am making $30,000/year as a commercial CSR. What happened? I moved to a small city.
    If you don’t live in a big city with underwriting jobs, the only way to make money in insurance is to SELL insurance. If you don’t want the ups & downs of commission-based performance, or don’t have the skill set to be a successful salesperson, then you’ll be stuck at CSR wages with no upward mobility.
    I should have gone for a CPA instead of a CPCU!

  • April 16, 2004 at 3:05 am
    SALVATORE LUNDY says:
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    I manage a large personal lines department in NYC and I can’t agree with this more. In fact, it is so true that we completely changed the way we compensate our CSRS. Instead of a salary, we pay them a % of the gross commissions they handle. If the book grows, they make more money, if it shrinks, they make less money. We don’t even have producers in personal lines, they are not needed and demand too much money for doing almost nothing! CSRS are the life blood of any agency, I don’t care if any agency owner disagrees, they are dead wrong!

  • April 16, 2004 at 3:20 am
    Producer says:
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    Very simply if CSR think producers are overpaid than they should become Producers.

    In every organization sale persons are the highest paid and there is always envy!

  • April 16, 2004 at 3:25 am
    Producer says:
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    Insurance is an intangible, a future promise.

    The tangible is the Producer.

    When all blank happens the insured always sues the Producer not the CSR. Why because the Producer is the person with the blank on the line, not the CSR.

  • April 16, 2004 at 3:43 am
    CSR says:
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    And you’re a producer with a blank attitude. Glad I don’t work with you.

  • April 19, 2004 at 3:16 am
    Matt says:
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    Lets face it folks, we live in the business world, it’s not a wealth distribution system. A business is not a “Soup Line” When I was a CSR, I worked nite and day to make my Producer and the Agency more money. If I hadn’t I may not be in the business as a producer today. I bit the bullet and paid the price. Sometimes, the price looks too high. When the market tanks or goes soft, the top line shrinks, and the shortage falls to the bottom line. The operating expenses, equipment purchases, training, payroll, taxes……all go up, not down. I don’t disagree that “CSR’s” in general are under compensated, but many are over compensated for the “actual” value (that’s Money) that they bring to the agency. Many people are being paid “Exactly” what they are worth, not a penny more. Many have not taken the risk to go out on their own or showed a profitable (Monetary) reason for their compensation growth. We are in a “percentage” business. It is very easy to measure what a person is worth. How much do they actually bring into the door (new commisions). Does their “non sales” assistance allow the producers to “Produce” more. How many people do you see “not” pulling their share ? If we are talking about Money, the conversation must go “Both” ways. Ask yourself about Money brought in the door, Money kept in the agency, Cross selling, Asking for the referral…. Remember the Producer/Agent is paying the final bill, paying the costs of the “under proformer” as well as the “over proformer”, it comes from somewhere folks….As an old manager used to say, your raise becomes effective when you become effective. I don’t mean to be too insensitve, but if the shoe fits…………move on. Success is not limited to being a CSR. Maybe some other calling may allow for what you really want to do in life. If you are being under compensated, you are free to “take the plunge”. It’s funny, people who complain about “Lottery” winners usually do not even “Play” the game. Try out the business, see what it is like from both sides, not just one side. Then form an opinion. If you fight this fight, maybe your CSR package (cost and benefits) may not look sooooo bad.

    LOL,

    Matt

  • April 19, 2004 at 7:57 am
    Mark says:
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    Interesting debate. I’ve worked on the companty side of the industry my whole career (so far). It strikes me as a matter of economics; a case of supply & demand. In the past 25 years of talking with producers, agency principals, and brokerage office heads, the lament I have heard consistently is it’s difficult to find a qualified CSR. So the demand appears to be there, but the supply appears to be limited. A couple points to consider is that the acquisition costs for a new piece of business is disproportionately large compared to the cost of renewing an account. It strikes me that the lion’s share of the first year’s commissions should then rightly go to the producer. But it is the day to day interaction of the CSRs with the clients that maintain the account for an agency. Therefore more of the subsequent years’ commissions should compensate the CSRs. It would help to level the playing field if everyone (producers and CSRs) got the lion’s share of new commissions drawn into the agency for an existing customer through cross sales of additional products. This, of course, requires the CSRs to be licensed. All of this, of course, assumes the business model of the agency/brokerage house is one of sales AND service.

  • April 19, 2004 at 8:02 am
    Jay sims says:
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    I am a Producer with Sales experience but no insurance sales experience a company wants to give me a draw maybe between 25000-30000 what is the time range for an average producer to make that range of money back? and what is the same for a ambitous produce?

  • April 19, 2004 at 8:04 am
    jay-sims says:
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    Can I decline to take a draw from a company and pay my expenses myself?

  • April 19, 2004 at 8:15 am
    cobbs nixon says:
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    We have producers making 10 times what we pay our much appreciated CSR’s and in my experience (37 years) very few CSR’s are willing exchange a guaranteed paycheck for the STRESS level of a 100% commissioned salesperson!
    We believe the sky is the limit for producers income. Why not?
    By the way, our turnover rate (knock on wood)for our CSR’s is less than 10%.
    And,I agree that agencies who do not pay the market rate for their CSR’s are seriously hampering their long term growth.

  • April 19, 2004 at 8:43 am
    abdul says:
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    Bottom line nothing happens until a sale is made lets repeat 3 times aloud nothing happens until a sale is made…
    Now as for the CSR comp goes why not profit share as each time the client deals with the CSR an opportunity is made and if the CSR is able to foster more business to that Agent then the CSR is due more recognition and the logical source of this would be from the beneficiary (eg the producer) Ultimatly people vote with their wallet and he who is able to pry that baby open is due recognition because a spending client is a happy client–doubters? when was the last time a less then happy client volunteered some of his/her money or said what else can you do for me/ my firm?

  • April 19, 2004 at 8:44 am
    Robert says:
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    Posted On: April 19, 2004, 4:46 pm EDT
    Posted By: Kathy
    Comment:
    I could not agree less with this article. As an independent broker that has built a book a business I resent the comparison. There is no real comparison. I live on commission only and have to pay my own expenses and benefits. I have paid my dues; it took me four years of work before I was making AS MUCH as our CSR’s. I have worked with many CSR’s that resent the producers but they just want all the financial security of being on salary with all the paid benefits and have never considered the sacrifices that the producer made to get to that point. CSR’s are important in an agency but I do not trust my most important accounts to the staff, they just don’t have the stake in keeping the business. Without producers producing there is nothing for an account manager to manage. I worked my way up from the very bottom of the food chain in the independent agency system and find that the ones whining are the same ones that don’t want to move up, they just want more money.

    I take my hat off to this person she hit it right on the head. And why would anyone with any brains compare the two. Yes some producers are paid too much and some csr’s are to, I even know some heads of brokerages that are paid too much. But every business has its good and bad, but don’t try to be-little the job producers due, if it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t CSR’s, or any of the top heavy personnel to worry about. And you wouldn’t have anything to write about, bet you never spent one day out there with 100,000 other agents/brokers trying to write the same account. ( producers don’t set on there butts they are out in the trench’s.

  • April 19, 2004 at 9:10 am
    abdul says:
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    you should post your desire for a new job in the classifieds i would be interested in emailing you but i have no way to respond to your comment other then this broad open forum any way for what its worth if you are an experienced CSR and available contact me @ abdul@goconfia.com take care and good luck

  • April 20, 2004 at 1:53 am
    Matt says:
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    Lisa,

    Why don’t you change over from a CSR to a Producer or Agency Owner. The “Line is Short” for people willing to take the plunge, but long for “People who Whine” instead of making a change. I don’t understand the mentality of this line of thought. Is anyone holding you back ? or do you just like the comfort of 100% of your pay check vs. the uncertainty of a life on commission ?

  • April 19, 2004 at 2:38 am
    Bob says:
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    I’ve been saying this for years and I’m a Producer. Virtually all agencies I am aware of pay CSR’s as little as posible. The result is they don’t have very good CSR’s. I’d rather slightly overpay (measured by the market) and get the best and brightest. That allows me to do what I want to do, sell.

  • April 19, 2004 at 2:39 am
    Lisa Golden says:
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    I completely agree with this theory. There are accounts in our agency that a producer hasn’t touched since it was written, however; they keep getting a percentage of commission on it each year! It’s unjust – if the customer calls or stops in, they don’t see the producer, they see the “account manager.” We handle all of their requests and “opportunities.” Agency owners need to do something about this!

  • April 19, 2004 at 2:52 am
    Rodger says:
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    A good CSR is worth his/her weight in gold, however, if they’re looking for the pay that the producer is making, they should give strong consideration to getting into that line of the business. It’s no different than the situation of a nurse vs. a physician or a mortgage processor vs. a mortgage originator. It may not seem fair, but that’s the way it is.

  • April 19, 2004 at 2:55 am
    Wayne says:
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    I do see the need for CSR’s to be fairly paid for the work they do. I do not see the need to “bash” producers for what they are paid. Most of the CSR’s I have worked with do not want to be on the phone selling insurance. Also, as a producer who has been a CSR I also disagree with the comment that producers are not up to date on their products or policies compared to CSR’s. One person here commented that they are now a producer who would love to go back being a CSR if they could make the same income. Why was that? If the producers are all just a bunch of people who do nothing but earn all the perks why would you want to leave? Producers earn their income at this agency as we bring in the money that pays the CSR’s salary and continue to bring in the money when the clients leave or are non renewed. I have lost clients due to poor service by CSR’s also. Try focusing on why CSR’s should earn more money based on what they do rather than why others earn more. You could always go into sales to earn more.

  • April 19, 2004 at 2:58 am
    Robin says:
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    I agree that CSR’s or Account Managers are underpaid for the service work that is expected from them. I have worked as both an Account Executive and Account Manager. The problem with some Account Managers is that they do not care if they keep an account or not. Some Account Managers are not willing to go the extra mile for the customer, because they will draw the same salary should the customer stay or go. I believe there needs to be some incentative for retaining accounts.

  • April 19, 2004 at 3:46 am
    Kathy says:
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    I could not agree less with this article. As an independent broker that has built a book a business I resent the comparison. There is no real comparison. I live on commission only and have to pay my own expenses and benefits. I have paid my dues; it took me four years of work before I was making AS MUCH as our CSR’s. I have worked with many CSR’s that resent the producers but they just want all the financial security of being on salary with all the paid benefits and have never considered the sacrifices that the producer made to get to that point. CSR’s are important in an agency but I do not trust my most important accounts to the staff, they just don’t have the stake in keeping the business. Without producers producing there is nothing for an account manager to manage. I worked my way up from the very bottom of the food chain in the independent agency system and find that the ones whining are the same ones that don’t want to move up, they just want more money.

  • April 19, 2004 at 4:07 am
    Julius says:
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    I have been on both side of the fence and yes producers do pay their due before they really start to make great money, but in the same light its not always the producer rounding out accounts, its the CSR. I do beleive strongly that CSR should be paid more fro what they do but the agency owners feel that they are a dime a dozen until they loose a good one.

  • April 19, 2004 at 4:14 am
    Jack J Maniscalco says:
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    As an agency owner/ producer/ and CSR, former agency manager, and former CSR, I would like yo weigh in on the topic.

    Good CSRs are worth every dollar they get and then some. However, the ones that merit that dollar are the ones who can properly prioritze their work and take pride in accuracy and competency. Far too many times, as a manager, I had to remind the CSRs I worked with that the client on the phone asking for a Certificate, Binder, ID card, etc. was far more important at that time than the renewal they were processing. In this age of automation, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of excuses I receive when requesting such documentation from agencies. Waiting 2 -3 hours for ID cards or Certificates does not bode well for greater pay.

    My own assistant/CSR knows that I expect excellence. She and I agree that our clients needs come first. Consequently, her salary reviews and benefits reflect her competence and committment.

    A good CSR is a professional and should act and be paid accordingly.

  • April 19, 2004 at 5:03 am
    Thomas Wright says:
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    You have made some bold statements but I don’t see any employment or income data to substantiate your assertions?

    It is one thing to express your opinion or to report the opinion of a disclosed polling group who believe this is the problem, it is an entirely a different report if you have statistical data regarding comaprable pay for related service sector businesses and the data showing averages of pay for CSR’s vs. producers in various markets for various levels of ability and experience. And what about the asserted disperity in income between CSR’s and producers? What data do you offer to support that theory?

  • April 19, 2004 at 5:17 am
    Faye says:
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    Just a suggestion—many CSR’s who truly still enjoy their jobs at the age
    of 50+ would like a four-day work week or a little more flexibility with their
    hours due to the fact they now have a
    grandchild or two or aging parents OR
    they want to have a little free time to
    enjoy life.

    I’m a prime example. I do not see myself retiring for another 15 years
    BUT I would like more time during the
    week rather than trying to cram all the
    errands, visiting, etc. during the weekend. I would knock myself out for
    anyone who would hire me for four days
    or more flexible hours if five days.

    Agencies need to understand that a lot
    of times if you give a little you can
    get a lot!! At a certain age you know
    you don’t just show up for work to get
    the paycheck you have to earn it! Some
    people give more in four days than someone who works five!

    Maybe looking for younger CSR’s is not
    the only answer. Older CSR’s for the
    most part are not interested in moving
    from one Agency to another. Younger
    CSR’s are enticed to move on to “bigger
    and better jobs.” I think that is
    wonderful. It’s a big world out there
    and they should take advantage of any
    opportunity to advance themselves, as
    long as it makes them happy and they
    are fulfilled.

    As for CSR’s having to “cover” for
    Producers, I don’t have a problem doing
    that. I would love the opportunity to
    help a young producer fill out the
    paperwork properly or help an older
    more experienced producer close the sale. Producers should be out selling
    and not sitting at the desk day in and
    day out. Yes, CSR’s do babysit a lot
    but that’s what any CSR job is about.
    It’s about having empathy for the customer. There is no better feeling
    than to get an irate customer on the
    phone and by your saying something or
    doing something that makes them feel
    better about the situation they’re thanking you for your help and they do
    understand (even if they don’t like the
    answer!) Most of the time the customer
    just needs a little bit of education.

    Has V. Bates looked into the problem of
    the lack of CSR’s from the flexibility
    standpoint. IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE
    MONEY!! I bet if you looked into the
    lack of flexibility in the Agency, that
    would be another major reason for lack
    of qualified CSR’s. Most Agencies want
    you there five days a week—end of discussion!!

    I’d love some feedback on this point
    both from CSR’s AND Agency Owners.

    Thanks!

  • April 20, 2004 at 8:48 am
    Mary says:
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    I can personally attest to the issues raised in this article. I worked for 10 years as a Lead CSR in a large agency here in Atlanta. Due to the low pay and lack of importance placed on my work by principals in the agency I have moved on to another much more rewarding field in the technology sector. Unless something is done to equalize the playing field in the agency arena more good people will be lost to other industries.

  • April 20, 2004 at 8:52 am
    Karen says:
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    Independent agencies traditionally do not place the same value on CSR’s that they do on producers and therefore pay them accordingly. The CSR needs to show initiative to add value to the agency through motivation, service added and going the extra mile. Ms. Bates is correct that most CSRs want all the benefits, compensation, etc. but are unwilling to commit to their own professional growth through education, training, etc. Agencies reward and recognize the producer as the source of revenue which allows for their future growth. A CSR needs to find a way to increase revenues and play a part in the future growth of the agency if they added compensation. Most agency owners easily recognize and reward those that can and do contribute and this would include above-average and excellent CSR’s.

  • April 20, 2004 at 8:59 am
    Karen says:
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    Matt, Kudos to you!

    This type of thought process by a CSR is exactly why the agency owner will continue to treat CSR’s is a lesser role. Does Lisa not realize that her continued service, handling requests and meeting with the client IS HER JOB as an ACCOUNT MANAGER? What exactly does she think she should be doing? If she wants to be paid for ‘PRODUCING’

  • April 20, 2004 at 10:08 am
    Not Just A CSR says:
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    producers, account executives, account managers, customer service representatives. out of all four of those titles only the title “producer” is consistently and properly identified by the commenters here. having worked at a large brokerage firm, a small agency and spoken with many captive agents the title CSR is used to describe far too many of us in the insurance industry.

    i firmly believe that using the term CSR is problematic- the title customer service representative, for many, brings to mind someone who is not very technical or knowledgeable about the industry in which they work, and that their main purpose is to “process the paperwork” and be a live body for the client to speak to, basically the csr is a 9 to 5 clerical person that is just there for a paycheck. and for some producers that is exactly what they have, a csr. however, the other 95% of us are not simply csr’s , we are account executives and account managers who are highly educated, have a considerable amount of technical knowledge, who are instrumental in helping the producer not only land the account but also help the producer retain the account. there is a saying that you are only as good as the people beneath you. the most successful producers that i have encountered understand this saying and realize that it takes a TEAM to build a profitable book of business.

    this brings me to the second misunderstanding that has occurred here- â€Ŕnot all producers are created equally”. many producers have worked very hard to become a successes and i can understand why they would be offended by others telling them they didn’t deserve the amount of commission that they receive. however, there are many producers, young, fresh out of college, that are given books of business and have done virtually nothing to earn the commission that they receive. those young producers are hired based upon their perceived potential. many of these young producers never make it and they are cut, some of the young producers do make it but it takes them many years to become an effective salesperson. in both cases it is the account executives and account managers who keep the book of business going.

    in todays market the competition is great and the prices are high and as a result a high level of service is being demanded by the client. the brokerage firms and agencies need to realize that it takes a team to be successful and that â€Ŕservice” sells. And if service is what will separate one from the rest of the competition the brokerage firms, agencies and independents would be wise to get the best and the brightest service team that is available.

  • April 20, 2004 at 10:25 am
    Jan Jesberger says:
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    To Agency owners:

    I am an agency owner who believes that a good CSR IS paying their own way by closing the ‘back door’ in the agency. My lead CSR treats our clients as friends and they respond in kind. The almost non-existent ‘dead file’ count in our office is proof of this. I give her small pay raises several times a year to make sure she understands how valuable she is to me and my agency. I cannot afford to lose her!

  • April 20, 2004 at 10:28 am
    Anonymous says:
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    This article is absolutely true. I worked for an exclusive agent as a CSR, Receptionist and ran the office when he was out town. I left because I was stressed and pressured to sell while being underpaid.

  • April 20, 2004 at 11:07 am
    Marsha McLaurin, CPCU says:
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    This makes interesting reading, and as is typical, and you can see the entrenched thinking of those who are producers vs. those who service the accounts. As an agency owner, producer and former Account Manager, I have experienced all the roles and agree with Virginia Bates, that generally, producers ARE paid too much on renewals books. The role of ‘producer’ is to sell, the role of the account manager, is to manage an account, which includes selling, relationship management, ability to handle details, strong customer skills, and I could go on. If an agency pays a producer more than 10-15% on renewals, they are paying them too much. Producers don’t want to hear that, like the one who said ‘he paid his dues’ because he worked 4 years to make as much as a CSR! Duh! that is what you signed on to do, if you choose sales, you must keep producing more and more new business, not sit back and rest on those laurels by being paid excessive commissions on renewals…agencies shouldn’t pay sales people to service …they aren’t very good at it…they need to sell!

  • April 20, 2004 at 1:12 am
    Theresa says:
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    I am the producer who said that I was a CSR and went Producer because my company did not pay the CSRs very well and if I could be a CSR again I would. The reason I would go back is because I enjoy maintaining and “taking care of” my customers. In my agency the Producer handles an account for the first 9 months then gives it up to the CSRs. The CSR earns NO commission and some don’t care if the account is renewed or not. I worked both CSR & Producer on the product I sell for a couple of years and I enjoyed that the most. I had the best of both worlds. Now that the book has increased and the demand for the product is higher I can’t do both. So I opted for producer because I wanted the commission and the chance to controll my income. It was truly scarey. I sometimes regret my decision when I think about the comfortable feeling I had when doing the CSR full time and part time. Plus I truly miss having a year to year relationship with my insureds. I wish there was a solution, but as we all know the business world is what it is and we all have to make our own decisions and either live with it or get out.

  • April 20, 2004 at 1:34 am
    Carolyn says:
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    Having started on the retail agency side as first a CSR and later as an account manager, I would tend to agree that for the most part CSR’s are underpaid. However, excellent CSR’s in our marketplace are not. There will always be a competition for outstanding account managers and they are paid what the market will bear, and are actively stolen away when they are not.
    In addition there will always be the marginally and less than experienced CSR’s who have to learn and think 4 yrs exp. is alot. It isn’t. Now being a Underwriter for a General Agency, I am finally being compensated but it was a long haul and for a while I too was making less than the CSR.
    One important thing to remember is when a CSR makes a error or a premium mistake, the Producer has to fix it or compensate the insured for the error, and guess where it comes from?? It comes from our commission, it doesn’t come from the CSR’s salary. The last time I had an assitant trained I ate about $5000 in errors.
    The retail producer if they are successful works long hours, also listens to the problems of the insured, and prospects the client. Yes the CSR and account manager maintains that relationship, but it is the producer who initially makes the prospect and brings the insured to the agency. It’s hard, its soul renching sometimes and if you have to cold call, you don’t get paid until you make the sale. The CSR get’s paid regardless. A producer bears the expense of prospecting, entertaining , mailing, phone and auto expense of driving up front.
    I think the assumption is that the producer doesn’t value the CSR, and sometimes that may be true, but a great producers rewards their support staff, with both professional praise, and monatary support–if they are smart. Often the CSR doesn’t see or value what a producer does, the long hours, often not compensated, and the loss of a client. The soft market reaked havoc on many a good producers’ book of business, the hard market and or loss of current markets is doing the same, but the CSR’s salary is not effected as a Producers’ are. The CSR also doe not take into account often when they look at their salary vs the producers, is the skyrocketing cost of E & O insurance, and other factors that the agency has to pay. Contingency works both ways, losses factor into that formula for contingency for both the agency and the market. And let us not forget the greatest area of expense, especially in California, the cost of benefits and workers comp. Running an agency is certainly profitable, but you have to know what you are doing and always work to keep the expenses down, that in itself is a full time job.
    I think a CSR is the front line of our industry, and yes I agree for the most part they are undercompensated, but depending on the marketplace, it is a reflection of what the market will bear.

    I try to take my support staff to lunch at least once an month, I argue for their pay increases and I set goals for them. When they meet our goal they are part of my bonus structure with managment.

    I don’t agree with the us vs them mentality and try to foster a mentoring atmosphere. My training of my account exec and csr helps me grow my book and helps them establish themselves a producers, which is good for everyone.

    Part of thet growing of the book includes “gifting” them part of my book as theirs as they move into production.

    Having come from where they are now the hardest thing to overcome was the idea that I was going nowhere. By fostering mentoring, they grow, my book grows, and become theirs and the agency grows. Along with that growth, comes the increase in their salary.

    It works, it’s hard and not everyone gets it, but it is awesome when it does.

  • April 20, 2004 at 2:26 am
    Jan Jesberger says:
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    Cudo’s to you Carolyn! Taking that kind of an interest in making sure your CSR’s are mentored and well cared for will keep those good people with you for many years. You also ‘make’ money by not having to constantly train new people.

  • April 20, 2004 at 6:19 am
    DMC says:
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    I want to be compensaterd like the CEO of the insurance companies I supply $20 million a year in sales to…there is always a bottom of a pyramid with little room but for one on top and allll sorts of room down below. You wanna be on top, baby, get out and sell your soul to the SOB’s that pay the premiums.

    I spent 4 years getting a degree, 4 years getting licensed and my CIC, working in a father son agency with hardly enough money to keep me in sake and shoe laces. I am where I am now becuase I went out and beat the streets and wore holes in my soul and sanity trying to build a book of prime accounts.

    CSR’s pay is commensurate with an agent’s needs. Since there is a shortage, the cheaper the CSR the less stable they likely are. It’s hard enough to find people that actually WANT to work in this industry let alone at the bottom rung of it. This isn’t a communist society and pay “disparity” is due to many factors and this industry can hardly afford to have principals pairity to where any CSR can open shop as an agent. Wait, I guess they call those Direct Writers! Ha!…..

    I guess what I mean is, as an independent agent I’m probably going to pay more for a quality CSR to manage my renewal accounts and I need a sharp and focused person at the desk 35 hours a week. I expect to pay a median wage + bennies…..but for you sorry saps in the direct writer camp…well….go fish.

  • April 21, 2004 at 1:00 am
    Been there done that says:
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    Wow! I figured this might be a very pensioned discussion, but not at this level.
    I agree with allot of what everyone is saying as far as “perceptions”, and I think I is very interesting that some of the comments talk about how unfair the system is, and how much education they have etc. But the emails are riddled with misspellings, improper grammar, and definitely not proofread before hitting they “send” button. I personally took the time to cut and paste this email to my word and use spell/grammar checker, re-cut and paste it back. It only took a second to do, that is the extra step that it takes sometimes to advance, and what good managers look for in people we want to advance.
    Professionalism is 24/7. It is in attitude, demeanor, and how you present yourself and your company/agency all the times. That also includes how you send your missives. I truly understand the passion that some of the comments sent were penned with and give the authors the benefit of the doubt that they were sent in passion.
    But there is a difference in producers and the account managers or customer service techs. There is a difference in the account manager and the principals of an agency. The fact that some CSRs’ don’t get what it is, a lack of that particular agencies training in how an agency runs and what part each individual plays in that agency. A great agency recognized the contribution of each employee, and nurtures Team Building, and growth opportunities for it’s employees. Now, opportunities are NOT entitlements. Just because you work somewhere for a very long time does not mean you have a RIGHT to advance. Advancement comes from initiative and growth, maturity and ambition. Entitlements have no part in the private sector.
    For the most part- agency owners, principals and even producers are “entrepreneurs”. Most folks don’t get how entrepreneurs operate, so maybe that’s part of the problem.
    Fostering team building, and letting employees know what their part in the agency means could make a difference in the overall perceptions. It certainly helps in the overall productivity of the agency, and a smart agency will trickle that profitability down to each employee. Otherwise, the really smart ones, be they accounting, customer service or producers will leave.

  • April 21, 2004 at 2:25 am
    Anonymous says:
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    I appreciate what you are trying to say, but when you go critizing other people’s writing, maybe you should not rely so much on Word. In reading your response I found several gramatically incorrect sentences and spelling mistakes where the spelling of the word was correct, but it was the wrong word. So before you go calling the kettle black, you should double check your own. The bottom line in all of this is that we all need to work as a team, appreciate the work that is done and let people know it! Compensation is a matter of what you can negoiate. Then if you don’t like it, leave. However, sometimes your surroundings and “extra” bennies are more important then just money.

  • April 21, 2004 at 4:10 am
    Tracy says:
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    You certainly may have used the â€Ŕspell/grammar checker”, but you can’t possibly have proofed this post yourself. I ordinarily would not be so critical, but your arrogance and self-righteousness irked me.
    Please remember that the MS Word spelling and grammar utility is only a tool and cannot replace the human eye (and ear). Language is an art that no artificial (nor biological, it often seems) intelligence yet created can master. As one who claims to hold grammatical accuracy in high regard, you may find my annotations below helpful.
    I tried to refrain from comment on matters of style, as opinion on that subject can vary widely. Moreover, this message board is a casual forum that cannot, and should not, be held to the highest rhetorical standards – with the exception of posts by writers who pompously trumpet their superior language skills, of course.

    The original text, with annotations in brackets:

    Wow! I figured this might be a very pensioned [impassioned?; note: MSWord grammar check suggested using â€Ŕmuch” instead of â€Ŕvery”, but that, of course, would apply only to the incorrectly used â€Ŕpensioned”] discussion, but not at this level.
    I agree with allot [a lot] of what everyone is saying as far as “perceptions”, and I think I [it] is very interesting that some of the comments talk about how unfair the system is, and how much education they have etc. But [In this sense, â€Ŕbut” is a conjunction, which means it must connect two clauses of the same sentence. Word Style suggests using â€ŔHowever,” or â€ŔNevertheless,”.] the emails are riddled with misspellings, improper grammar, and definitely not proofread before hitting they [the] “send” button. I personally took the time to cut and paste this email to my word and use spell/grammar checker, re-cut and paste it back. It only took a second to do, [punctuation: use semicolon or new sentence] that is the extra step that it takes sometimes to advance, and what good managers look for in people we [subject disagreement – or at least ambiguity] want to advance.
    Professionalism is 24/7. It is in [Awkward syntax reverses the intended sense. Off the top of my head, I would suggest â€ŔIt encompasses/comprises/includes…” instead of â€ŔIt is in…”. Actually, I would rewrite the entire paragraph.] attitude, demeanor, and how you present yourself and your company/agency all the times [time]. That also includes how you send your missives. I truly understand the passion that some of the comments sent were penned with and give the authors the benefit of the doubt that they were sent in passion.
    But [See first paragraph, above] there is a difference in producers and the account managers or customer service techs. There is a difference in the account manager and the principals of an agency. The fact that some CSRs’ [plural, no possessive: CSRs] don’t get what it is, a lack of that particular agencies [singular possessive: agency’s] training in how an agency runs and what part each individual plays in that agency. A great agency recognized [tense agreement: recognizes] the contribution of each employee, and nurtures Team Building [unnecessary capitalization, unless this is a specific program of which I am unaware], and growth opportunities for it’s [its] employees. Now, opportunities are NOT entitlements. Just because you work somewhere for a very long time does not mean you have a RIGHT to advance. Advancement comes from initiative and growth, maturity and ambition. Entitlements have no part in the private sector.
    For the most part- [punctuation: use comma, not dash] agency owners, principals and even producers are “entrepreneurs” [reason for quotation marks is unclear]. Most folks don’t get how entrepreneurs operate, so maybe that’s part of the problem.
    Fostering team building, and letting employees know what their part in the agency means could make a difference in the overall perceptions. It certainly helps in the overall productivity of the agency, and a smart agency will trickle that profitability down to each employee. Otherwise, the really smart ones, be they accounting, customer service or producers [part of speech agreement among items in a list] will leave.

  • April 22, 2004 at 7:54 am
    Mark says:
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    You have a grammatical error in your second sentence.

  • April 22, 2004 at 6:53 am
    Anonymous says:
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    Thanks! You said and did exactly what I wanted to say and do. Plus you said it very eloquently.

  • April 26, 2004 at 2:47 am
    kok says:
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    “CSR’s are important in an agency but I do not trust my most important accounts to the staff, they just don’t have the stake in keeping the business.” Maybe if you trusted your employees more they would care more about your agency. If I know my boss believes in me and trusts me, I will walk to the ends of the Earth for him…it’s hard to be loyal when you know your employer thinks you’re not capable of the doing the job right.



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