Josh Stirpe – Agents Buying Into Gold

Agents Buying Into Gold

It’s not the economy that the Independent Agent (IA) is worried about, it’s growing their business. And to help achieve this growth, they’re buying Safeco Gold Service. A new high for Safeco Gold Service was recently attained when the premium for policies serviced reached $1.5 billion!

“It’s pretty amazing how the amount of booked business has doubled in size in the last four years. We are currently ahead of our forecast for this year,” said Dave Peirce, director, Business Development and Marketing. “If this trend continues, we could double the business again in five years. Gold Service now accounts for 26% of all Safeco business— up from 17% only four years earlier!”

 

Why Safeco Gold?

One could assume that the value of Gold is rising, and, as a whole, you’d be right. But there are several factors contributing to Gold’s success. Existing IAs are reaching a point with their business that, in order to grow their book, they have to off-load the day-to-day management so that they can focus on maintaining their existing customer business as well as pursuing new business customers.

“Several factors contribute to Gold’s success. Gold agents, as a group, perform better than non-Gold agents, and generally have higher renewal retention. Gold CSRs also help cross-sell accounts, growing the agents’ book of business and driving growth for Safeco,” said Josh Stirpe, director, Licensed Sales. “We have also just gotten better at articulating the Gold Service value proposition to the agent.”

Working with Licensed Sales there is a constant referral and cross-sell of services with Gold Service. One out of every 10 calls that comes into a Safeco customer call center is an opportunity to sell. To identify these opportunities more precisely there are more metrics available from which to make informed decisions as to where, when, and how to target IAs for these cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. “We’ve been successful in bringing a suite of products and tools to help them grow in this space,” adds Josh Stirpe.

“We’re proud of the fact that Gold Service has reached this milestone. Through better communication and a continually improving level of collaboration between our teams, we are achieving even greater results,” said Carly Wells, site manager of the sales center in Spokane, Washington.

The biggest reason for the rush to buy Gold just might be the CSRs themselves. “When an agent comes to visit us at our site and I get to speak with them, they continually comment on how the Gold CSRs make the program so successful,” said Greg Salsbury, gold customer service manager. “The agents consider the Gold CSR as an extension of their agency and a trusted advisor for their clients.”

The current trend to “buy Gold” looks good, and so does future business growth for Safeco.

agents Buy into Gold

Josh Stirpe – Licensed Sales Center Leaps To New Record

Licensed Sales Center Leaps To New Record

If superheroes were asked to write policies, they might be hard pressed to be beat the Safeco team. The Licensed Sales Center (LSC) reps just finished closing the books, and they set a new record for policies written in the month of August!

The previous August record for policies written, which was set in 2012, was 7,035. So the LSC reps decided to challenge themselves and soar to new heights in August of this year. They reached those new heights and wrote 7,138 policies in August. They even came close to breaking the all-time single-month record of 7,214 set back in June 2011.

Team members were inspired by Superman-themed posters, break-outs, and lunches, as well as Superman trivia, which all contributed to their “super powers” and their reaching the record plateau.

“The business analyst team, led by Robert Warnock, provided some great support with analyst Amanda Maifeld providing progress reports and updates to the department. Everyone stepped in to help push for the record, with the management team working to coordinate an impromptu contest for the Labor Day weekend to drive results,” said Carly Wells, site manager for the sales center in Spokane, Washington. “This work, as well as the exceptional efforts from all of our LTRs, made August a month to be proud of.”

Our super team also had some nifty gadgets to help in their super endeavors. Profitability indicators were added to the OSCAR tool, making it easier to filter out the business that doesn’t align with Safeco targets, allowing the reps to focus on the business that does meet our criteria. And Symon desk view gives them a real-time status of the number of calls in the queue and when the optimal times are to make outbound calls.

“We’ve seen a lot of different tools and processes finally come into a mature status, and that can now be fully utilized by all team members. It allows us to set and attain these goals,” said Josh Stirpe, director, Licensed Sales. “It’s almost an art form to have achieved this balance of information, tools, and optimized employee time.”

Congratulations to the LSC reps for a super August and for helping Safeco soar to new heights. Whoosh!

Supere

Josh Stirpe – Closed-Loop Feedback Improves Safeco Customer Interactions

Closed-Loop Feedback Improves Safeco Customer Interactions 

Closed-loop feedback is being used throughout Safeco’s Licensed Sales Centers (LSCs) across the country to help improve the customer and agent experience. Since May 2011, the LSCs have been using this tool to request instant feedback from both customers and prospects after interactions with representatives.

In closed-loop feedback, customers receive an email survey shortly after a call. The survey asks if the customer would recommend Safeco to others and to rate the experience with the representative on the phone. If the feedback received is negative, a manager calls the respondent back, usually within 24 hours, to try and find a solution. ”It gives us a 360-degree lens on how our interactions impact customers,” said Josh Stirpe, director of the Safeco Licensed Service Centers. “We can understand exactly where a sale is failing, and where we’re really succeeding.”

While closed-loop feedback can help with sales, it isn’t always about closing the deal. “We’ve evolved from just saying we’re customer- and agent-focused to actually proving it,” said Carly Wells, site manager for the Spokane, Washington, LSC. Wells shared a recent story in which the premium quoted on a policy was wrong. In the post-call survey, the customer gave the LSC the lowest possible rating, and said that he would definitely not recommend Safeco to others. When management followed up with this customer, he was extremely appreciative of the opportunity to share his story. “Sometimes a customer is just looking to be heard,” said Wells. “And we were able to take his feedback and share it with all the appropriate departments to get the issue addressed.”

“We don’t always have the right product or rate to meet a potential customer’s need,” said Stirpe. This was the case with another recent caller to the LSC, who did not become a Safeco customer but gave high marks for customer service. In fact, in the post-call follow-up, the prospect noted that price was the determining factor in his decision, and that he would quote with Safeco again in the next year. 

“Using closed-loop feedback, we create enhanced, positive perceptions of Safeco,” said Stirpe. “It helps us stand out in the independent agent marketplace.” 

Closed Loop Feedback Improves

Josh Stirpe – Roadshow helps build relationships and business

Roadshow helps build relationships and business 

Generating leads to the Licensed Sales Center (LSC) is an important component of a Gold CSR’s role in Service Operations. In fact, half of the policies sold through the LSC come from customers transferred over by Gold Service CSRs. Because this partnership is so core to the LSC’s success, the LSC management team did a roadshow at each service center to meet with the Gold teams and help strengthen their relationship.

“We saw an opportunity to show the Gold teams just how important they are to our success,” said Carly Wells, site manger sales center in Spokane, Wash. “It was important that we share best practices, learn about each other’s roles and develop a stronger relationship.”

The LSC team presented numbers on total quotes, transfers, close ratios and other data to highlight the existing business relationship. For example, many were surprised to learn that of the calls transferred to the LSC for a quote, an LTR closes 45% of the time. The LSC team also presented some communication tools to create more transfer opportunities. “During the course of the meeting there were definitely some ‘aha!’ moments by members of both teams,” says Wells.

One added benefit of these presentations was the desire to understand what the other team members did in their role. “Since the conclusion of the roadshow, there has been more cross-department shadowing than we’ve ever had before,” Wells said. “I’d call it a new level of collaboration and it has improved the quality of call trafficking that occurs. It all translates into a higher percentage of closed sales, which is good for the agents and Safeco.”

“The partnership between Service Operations and the Licensed Sales Team creates quality experiences for agents and customers,” says Josh Stirpe, director, Licensed Sales. “By working together to identify the customer’s needs and provide the best insurance solution to their circumstance, together we drive profitable growth for Safeco.”

Roadshow helps build relationships

Josh Stirpe – Meet the newest members of the Service Operations family: The Licensed Sales team

Meet the newest members of the Service Operations family: The Licensed Sales team 

Generating leads for the Licensed Sales team is an important component of a CSR’s role in Service Operations. And now with the Licensed Sales Center joining the Service Operations organization, that process is now more efficient than ever. By bringing in the licensed territory representatives (LTRs) who CSRs partner with every day, we are improving work group effectiveness, leveraging skills and talent and providing a more seamless experience for agents and customers. Here’s an inside look at the newest members of Service Operations: Safeco’s Licensed Sales Center.

Safeco’s Licensed Sales Centers, based in Liberty Lake, Wash. and Golden, Colo., are home to Safeco’s licensed territory representatives (LTRs), who handle calls from both potential and existing customers. Much like CSRs, the LTRs are in a prime position to improve customer experiences, generate additional sales and bring clarity to a customer’s insurance purchase decision.

When a call is transferred in from the Safeco Service Center, the LTRs review the accounts of existing Safeco customers and identify opportunities to expand coverage. And by using SalesForce, all the information they need is prepopulated into the system, creating a seamless transition for the customer.

Making it easy

Calls transferred from the Service Centers aren’t the only calls the Licensed Sales Center handles. When an agency has too many leads to maximize each one on its own, or is looking to generate more leads, the agency often turns to a partner, like the Safeco Licensed Sales Center, for help.

The Licensed Sales Center contracts with agencies to handle both the overflow of leads and to generate new ones. By outsourcing the lead generation and maximization process to Licensed Sales, agencies can spend their time in other ways and leave following up with leads to the experts in the Licensed Sales Center. By having a dedicated sales resource, the agent has more time, making it easier to sell Safeco and promoting growth for the agency and our company.

Building relationships

We know that building relationships with customers and agents through each interaction is an important part of what we do in Service Operations. But building relationships among the LTRs is essential for success as well. “The goal is to create a culture of success with clear expectations and recognition and an environment where everyone feels valued and appreciates their fellow employees,” says Josh Stirpe, director, Licensed Sales.

Seeing it through

Creating a positive customer experience all the way through their interaction with Safeco is important to the Licensed Sales team. That’s why they launched closed-loop feedback in May 2011. What is closed-loop feedback? It’s a process of listening, focusing on a solution and acting: shortly after an interaction with Safeco, agents and customers receive a brief survey asking about their experience. Based on the survey response, and permission to contact them, frontline managers take action by making follow-up calls.

By listening to current and potential customer feedback, the LSC has gained insight they have not had in the past, allowing them to refine their sales processes. Early findings show improvement in customer satisfaction — after receiving a call from Safeco managers, some survey responders even decided to purchase because they felt their voice was heard.

All about teamwork

“By bringing the Licensed Sales Team into the Service Operations organization, we are better positioned to create quality experiences for agents and customers,” says Stirpe. “Working together, we’ll identify the customer’s needs and provide the best insurance solution to their circumstance, and together, we will drive profitable growth for Safeco.”

Meet the Licensed Sales team

Josh Stirpe – Active listening drives customer experience improvements

Active listening drives customer experience improvements

As an independent agent, your business is about more than just insurance. It’s about providing the kind of service and support that makes you a trusted partner to your customers.

At Safeco Insurance, we also believe in providing that kind of service — for both our agent partners and our mutual customers. And our closed-loop feedback process, used by several departments across all regions, is proving to be a vital tool in that effort.

What is closed-loop feedback?

The closed-loop feedback process allows us to listen to customer feedback, capture the details, take action and report back to the customer or agent. We ask for feedback from policyholders, then our front-line managers make follow-up calls to fully understand their experience with Safeco. After each call, the outcome is documented to help us take specific action need to further help our policyholder, identify trends, best practices, coaching opportunities and potential process improvements.

We implemented our closed-loop feedback process last year, and we’re happy to report that the process has had an immediate impact, most notably in Claims and our Licensed Sales Center.

“Closed-loop feedback has been a game-changer,” says Glenn Shapiro, Safeco’s executive vice president for Personal Lines Claims. “We get real-time feedback from customers and managers and act on it in real time. It shines a bright light on all levels of service performance. Our goal is to live out Safeco® service principles with every interaction; make it easy, build relationships and see it through.”

Safeco sends customers a survey via email after their interaction, asking them to rate their experience on a scale of 1-10. Our goal is to have 85% or more of customers rate us from 8-10. Any customer who rates us 1-6 receives a direct response from a manager so we can learn more about the issue. Some have been called within 15 minutes of submitting their rating. There’s a similar routine in place to ask for agency feedback for underwriting or your territory manager interactions, so for some of you, this may sound familiar.

Improving claims service using closed-loop feedback

Providing immediate response to the customer’s feedback gives us the information we need to do what’s right — and save the customer money. That’s the kind of response that reinforces loyalty, both to you, their agent and to Safeco.

Angela Hensley, Safeco’s vice president for Midwest Region Claims, hosts a weekly meeting with her team to go over closed-loop feedback survey data and determine action items. “You can reinforce service principles and get specific feedback when improvement is needed,” she says. “Negative feedback gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves, ‘How can we create a better experience for our customers?’ This is absolutely vital to our success.”

Benefits for selling Safeco

Safeco’s Licensed Sales Center — which writes business and then assigns it to agents —has seen benefits as well.

“Seeing exactly what the customer thought after interacting with Safeco really allows us to have impactful coaching conversations with our representatives,” says Josh Stirpe, director of Licensed Sales.

A prime example of useful feedback is when a customer says, “I wish the sales representative had given me more options.” That helps us ensure that we offer several solutions to a customer’s insurance needs — which can result in more business for both Safeco and independent agents.

The benefits aren’t limited to customers, however. In a future story, we’ll detail our closed-loop feedback process for you, designed to help improve our relationships and create opportunities for further dialogue.

How do you systematically listen to your customers and take action on their feedback at your agency? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Josh Stirpe – Licensed Sales Center – driving independent agent growth

Licensed Sales Center – driving independent agent growth

Safeco’s Licensed Sales Centers, based in Liberty Lake, Wash. and Golden, Colo., are home to Safeco’s Licensed Sales Territory Representatives (LTRs), who handle calls from both potential and existing customers. Because they are in contact with agents and customers every day, LTRs are in a prime position to improve customer experiences, generate additional sales and bring clarity to a customer’s insurance purchase decision.

When a call is transferred in to the Licensed Sales Center, the LTRs review the accounts of existing Safeco customers and identify opportunities to expand coverage. And by using Salesforce, all the information they need is prepopulated into the system, creating a seamless transition for the customer.

Making it easy

Calls transferred in from other departments aren’t the only calls the Licensed Sales Center handles. When an agency has too many leads to maximize each one on their own, or are looking to generate more leads, they often turn to a partner, like the Safeco Licensed Sales Center, for help.

The Licensed Sales Center contracts with agencies to handle both the overflow of leads and to generate new ones. By outsourcing the lead generation and maximization process to Licensed Sales, agencies can spend their time in other ways and leave following up with leads to the experts in the Licensed Sales Center. By having a dedicated sales resource, the agent has more time, making it easier to sell Safeco and promoting growth for the agency and our company.

Building relationships

Building relationships with customers and agents through each interaction is important at the Licensed Sales Center. But building relationships among the LTRs is essential for success as well. “The goal is to create a culture of success with clear expectations and recognition and an environment where everyone feels valued and appreciates their fellow employees,” says Josh Stirpe, director, Licensed Sales.

Seeing it through

Creating a positive customer experience all the way through their interaction with Safeco is important to the Licensed Sales team. That’s why they launched closed-loop feedback in May 2011. Shortly after an interaction with Safeco, agents and customers receive a brief survey asking about their experience and how likely they are to recommend Safeco. Based on the survey response, and permission to contact them, frontline managers take action by making follow-up calls.

By listening to current and potential customer feedback, the LSC has gained insight they have not had in the past, allowing them to refine their sales processes. Early findings show improvement in customer satisfaction — after receiving a call from Safeco managers, some survey responders even decided to purchase because they felt their voice was heard.

All about teamwork

“When all of Marketing partners together, we create quality experiences for agents and customers,” says Stirpe. “By working together to identify the customer’s needs and provide the best insurance solution to their circumstance, together we drive profitable growth for Safeco.”