As employers who provide group health care coverage to their employees know, the agency in which they place their insurance through plays a significant role. Agents help negotiate renewals with carriers, assist with employee coverage onboarding, offboarding, help communicate the employer sponsored benefits to employees and educate on Federal/Legislative impacts to their organization.
The agency in which they select as their Agent of Record likely has a hierarchy of dedicated staff to assist with the day to day administration of their benefit programs. For an agency, assigning account managers can have a significant impact on not only satisfaction, but also financial performance. Clients who have an assigned account manager have a higher advocacy, retention and develop a partnership that includes two key components:
Understanding of their business and company values
Becoming a trusted advisor to them
Such a partnership doesn’t just happen right out the gate. It takes time and continued attention to grow and develop.
What happens when account managers leave, or the agency reassigns account managers?
As can be expected, overall client satisfaction drops when they are assigned a different account manager. This tends to be a more frequent occurrence in agencies that have high overall turnover due to employee dissatisfaction. Many causes for turnover in agencies result in the following:
Lack of support from upper management or agency principals
No connection to the big picture
Limited career path within the agency
Low income thresholds
No fun as the agency has not embraced a culture of increased autonomy and innovation to engage their staff
The Insurance Journal published an insightful article that captured what a profile of a great account manager is. The article goes on to explain common issues that management has with keeping qualified account managers by not having a clear communication of what is expected from the employee in their role.
All the while clients are caught in between. If the account manager is not happy, what’s the chances this spills over to the client. One of the most important parts of an insurance account manager’s job is making sure the client(s) to which they are assigned are kept happy. An insurance account manager usually serves as their clients' main contact at the company and is the person the clients contact when they want to make a change in their current insurance policies, need another type of policy, or have questions or concerns. Since an insurance account manager’s job is to keep their assigned clients' business, he/she usually works to resolve his/her clients’ issues as quickly as possible.
Red flags within your agent of record are raised when the client’s account manager turns over often or is reassigned several times throughout the partnership.
Is it the account manager or is it the agency principal/management that is the root of the problem? Furthermore, when this does occur the client is likely starting back at square one to re-educate on the understanding of their business and additional time spent to re-develop a strong relationship of trust and confidence.
Having seen firsthand these Red Flags within other insurance agencies, AJM Associates has modeled an approach to minimize the impact of account manager turnover by providing a positive work environment, support and tools, clear vision of what is expected, and effective processes. “We can’t eliminate turnover, but we can mitigate the negative impact change has on our clients.”
As an agency principal, client, and once an account manager, it’s fair to say I’ve seen all sides. What’s common in either roll is to act quickly when there is turnover.
Contact impacted customers right away about the transition and personally introduce the account manager as soon as possible. This should be done by the principal or primary manager in charge to show the customer that the account manager is just one piece in the administration of their coverage, but not the only cog working on their behalf or understanding of their business. Do not delay or put the departed account manager’s email on autopilot waiting for the “right time” to notify clients of the change.
Define the client experience by employing best practices in responding to customer requests within a day and to meet with customers at least once a quarter. It’s not only the role of the account manager but also the responsibility of the agency principal or manager to be the face of the organization.
Reward performance by recognizing account managers who follow the established practices (i.e. being proactive, responsive, solution-oriented, and developing an understanding of their customers business needs).
Business owners and Human Resource Managers should keep close eye on these turnover red flags to ascertain if the agent of record is the right fit for their organization. There are a plethora of dedicated agencies out there providing the same benefit offerings through carriers and maintaining a high employee retention, due to similar modeled approaches. It comes down to the level of service, innovative cost savings approaches, and longevity of trusted account management.