Point/Counterpoint: Sales vs. Service Roles

Should sales and CSR roles be more blended? 

YES.

When handling existing clients, you cannot draw a line in the sand between sales and service.

As agents, we need to protect our customers—and we cannot properly do that unless we are constantly seeking out gaps, discovering risks and recommending coverage. Is that process sales or service? By separating the two functions, you miss opportunities, and your clients may go uncovered.

Consider a customer who wants to add their 16-year-old child to their auto policy. Service staff would take the information to complete the transaction, but this is a great time to offer an umbrella, too. Sales or service? I believe it’s both.

Service transactions are great sales opportunities. When a client reaches out to you, they want to talk about insurance. To seize that opportunity, the person who accepts the service call should also be recommending an additional line.

Transferring someone to a salesperson who will make that same recommendation is not an ideal customer experience. Customers don’t want to be transferred to different agents to complete a task. They want to communicate with your agency and know their transaction is being completed accurately and efficiently.

Agents show their value not in how fast they process a change, but rather in the value they add during that process, such as offering options with deductibles or coverages the customer did not even know about.

Without a distinction between sales and service, everyone is on the lookout for vulnerabilities the customer may not have considered, which means your staff is focused on one thing: doing the best job for your customer.

—Nancy Nicklow, president, Huff Insurance in Pasadena, Maryland

NO.

In most cases, I believe producer and CSR roles should not be blended because the positions are typically better fit for different personality types.

A more personable and outgoing person tends to be a better fit for a producer position, while someone who is more organized tends to thrive in a customer service setting that offers more structure.

Of course, someone may straddle both personality types. But once you place them in a particular role, they are better able to focus their efforts and grow in their assigned position.

Separating sales and CSR roles makes more sense in regard to both agency growth and quality of service. A blended approach may be more appropriate for a smaller book of business, but for those agencies that have organic growth top of mind, separation is the best way to achieve goals.

Why? Producers can leave one meeting and move onto another, and they can take opportunities to expand their network through social events—all with the peace of mind that their clients are still being taken care of at the office.

At the same time, CSRs who aren’t responsible for generating new business can focus solely on getting the service work done, more efficiently and with less interruption.

One of the main problems with this approach is that sometimes, customers prefer to reach out to their producer with service requests. But that hurdle has an easy solution if agencies commit to being more proactive with new clients when it comes to presenting the agency as a team.

—Harley Gambrell, president, Etowah Insurance Group, Inc. in Rome, Georgia