Why valuable experience no longer means a 4-year degree.
Regardless of industry, providing timely, effective and quality service is essential to success. Customer service means more than answering phones—it means having high standards for every customer-facing team member in the company.
A client-first mindset starts with a company's hiring standards. Today, unfortunately, there are a couple of legacy expectations that still exist within our industry. The first is a college degree.
I don't have a college degree. I didn't believe it was necessary for me to be successful. I started with ITC as a network administrator in 1996 at the age of 19. In 2001, I left to start my own company, which ITC purchased in 2008. I came back to ITC as vice president of product development and marketing, where my experience and mindset were more valuable than a degree.
ITC has removed degree requirements from job postings. Before a resume is re-viewed, our hiring funnel also removes un-intentional bias through prescreen testing, which evaluates a candidate's ability to solve problems and think critically and spatially. It's significantly more predictive than interviews, previous experience and education level.
I truly believe you will find better candidates if personality, mindset and attitude are your standards, not a diploma. Michael Dell. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Jack Dorsey. Bill Gates. All great examples of college dropouts who used their passion, creativity and intelligence to transform our everyday lives.
Why would insurance be any different? Employees need to have a foundational understanding of the insurance industry. Many people say outsiders do not understand the insurance industry and that makes them dangerous. That is true. They are dangerous to the industry's old, tired ways of doing things.
The old ways of servicing consumers aren't going to cut it anymore. In the age of micro-moments and technology-powered shopping, consumers want fast service. And insurance is highly regulated, which means we must keep in touch with those regulations as we innovate. With proper checks and balances from industry experts, innovators from outside industries can offer new perspectives to drive growth. This applies directly to customer experience and service.
Opening your mind to new hiring practices can help your agency find employees who will implement new processes that move you toward better customer service. If you're hiring a new customer service representative, look for candidates who are passionate about service and helping people. If you really want to improve customer experience, find people who also understand technology. They can help set up your marketing automation platform to automate renewal reminders and cross-sell campaigns. This will improve your closing ratio and retention rate.
Hiring employees without preexisting industry knowledge does mean their onboarding could take longer. So create a plan within your agency that helps new hires learn more about the industry. Those checks and balances help pave the road for innovators and can get them up to speed faster.
It's time that we change the expectation for new hires. We need to shed traditional hiring norms, think outside the box and find new employees who can see the industry with fresh eyes. New perspectives mean we can reimagine the insurance experience and improve customer service.
Laird Rixford is CEO at ITC.