It’s an age-old problem for agency owners: where to find customer service representatives. Ask agency principals to name their biggest challenges and locating CSRs is right up there at the top of most lists.
“Universally, agents ask, ‘where are we going to get CSRs? We are stealing them from each other and in some instances stealing each other’s problems,'” says Bob Bradshaw, executive vice president for the Independent Insurance Agents of Virginia.
Insurance agents are not alone in seeking qualified CSRs. “Bankers and realtors are just as concerned. There is competition for this talent,” he notes, adding “So it’s only going to get worse.”
IIAV staff and board became convinced that the CSR shortage is such a big problem that they decided to do something about it…something big.
Earlier this month, IIAV broke ground on what members hope is an answer. The shovels began clearing the way for a $1 million addition to IIAV’s current headquarters in Richmond. The extra 4,000 square feet —almost doubling the current building size — will house IIAV’s new Insurance Career Institute, the first phase of which is a CSR recruitment, training and job placement program.
The IIAV-designed curriculum incorporates the ACSR designation while also addressing specific state laws and licensing requirements, insurance terms and coverages, as well as realistic office situations including how to operate popular agency automation systems such as AMS and Applied Systems. In short, graduates should be licensed, trained, credentialed and prepared for employment.
And agents are ready for the graduates. “We can almost guarantee a job,” notes Bradshaw, citing the pent up demand not just in Virginia but in neighboring states as well. “We want them employed as soon as possible.”
IIAV is in the midst of a fundraising campaign, hoping to raise about $800,000 from members to keep its mortgage low. Members are being asked to contribute from $75,000 to $400 or whatever they can afford.
This is an edited version of a story that ran in the East edition of Insurance Journal magazine, July 18, 2005.
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