Personal Insurance Call Center

Call center, Insurance

Situation Assessment:

  • Time Frame – May 2014 – December 2015
  • Industry – Property Casualty Insurance Broker
  • Total Associates – approximately 60
    Employee turnover rate – 10%
  • Number of Locations – 1
    Total Revenue – $2M
  • Revenue per service person – $120K
  • New policies sold Monthly – 180
    EBITDA Margin – $1M Loss

The operation in question is a personal lines call center based in Kokomo Indiana. The operation was a start up project, which began in 2010. The Bank was desirous of building a fulfillment center that could meet the needs of their branch and mortgage customers when it came to personal insurance specifically home and auto. The challenge in building the operation was that quality control was a high priority due to federal oversight imposed at the bank level. When the center began it was deemed to be far more important that these quality control measures were met than it was to earn a profit or increase sales. Over a 4-year period the call center grew in a slow steady controlled fashion. Unfortunately that slow growth came at a price of an annual loss of $1M per annum. As the project progressed the appetite of the bank changes and it was now time to reduce the losses and grow and a much quicker rate. In May of 2014, the company replaced the executive oversight of the call center and hired a new VP of personal lines to report to the executive and turn the operation around.
AT that time the operation had 8 managers who for the most part worked well together, but was missing the spark they needed to get to the next level. Employee turnover was relatively low, however absentee issues were growing. When asked, associates were very vocal with concerns that they were at their capacity with respect to sales and service levels.

Key Problems to Solve:

  • Improve EBITDA Margin
  • Improve Organic Growth
  • Maintain Quality Standards
  • Improve the effectiveness of the Management team to take on further expansion of personal lines growth

The Process:

Upon arrival the VP immediately instituted a new sales incentive program in order to entice sales associates to sell more polices. The average sales person was closing 5-7 polices a month. Along with the incentives written goals were established with consequences for lack of production. After 60 days there was little to no change. The VP of person lines then engaged LeadersWay to create solutions to solve the problems noted above. After interviews with management and staff at the center it was pointed out to the VP that employee engagement was low and would continue if changes were not made. LeadersWay had identified that the problems were not just rooted within management but that many of the staff appeared to display their own issues. The initial solution presented was to profile all 55 staff in the call center. What we discovered was nothing short of amazing. Out of 55 people in the center a total of 6 had utilitarian as their top motivator. For over 40 of the associates, utilitarian was one of their lowest motivators. A large majority of the associates had aesthetic and or traditional as their highest motivators. This is great if your building a church, not so good for a business! Next we saw that almost 100% of the staff and a low sense of self (ego) and also had a very negative bias toward their internal belief that they could change it. Finally we discovered that the entire management team of 8 had compliance as their number one communication style and dominance as their lowest. Hence the lack of spark. The management team was micro managing everyone to death, and when it came to decisions after months of over analysis, they were still not capable of reaching a decision. The associates internal dimension graphs indicated that many of them had deep-rooted issues outside of the office environment, hence the absentee issues.

The simple solution would have been to fire everyone and start all over again, however, Kokomo is a very limited market for talent and thus replacing even half of the team was not an option. LeadersWay worked with the VP to develop a company-coaching program for managers and staff. They also conducted debriefs with all associates on their assessments to help them understand where they were and establish baselines. There was an intensive program for the managers for the first six months, teaching them new management skills and removing their micro management mentality. The local leader of the call center was the toughest to change and it was not until he was told he would have to change or be removed that he began to develop. As the local leader bought in so did his team and progress began.
Next we began to address the motivator element of the profiles. With LeadersWay help we interviewed and survey all associates as to what type of incentives would work to increase productivity. To our surprise the first incentive for hitting the team sales and service goals was picnic table for the parking lot in order that they could enjoy a summer day and eat lunch together outside. Next was a quiet room to relax, followed by a Ping-Pong table and a restaurant quality ice machine. In addition to that we began monthly town halls with regular communication of goals, put up a white board announcing results every four hours, and had associates read books suggested by LeadersWay and did book reviews. We created an environment that felt like family to satisfy that high traditional motivator everyone had. Within 8 months we started to see significant results. Associates were asked to revamp and revise workflows to create efficiency. We brought in additional sales training and the Quality Assurance reviews took on a flavor of coaching vs. telling atmosphere. The final change was as we replaced people who left we hired the type of profiles we needed for the job at hand and those people started to bring up the performance of everyone around them. At one point in March of 2016 we lost our top sales person. The team rallied and new leaders emerged, and March was a new record for sales.

Results of the Program:

  • Average policies sold per month – 360
  • Service Revenue per Associate – $200K
  • Organic growth – 13% – 2016 target is 20%
  • Total # of Staff – 54 down from 60
  • EBITDA Margin – $400K loss – decrease of $600K
  • Each associate has a minimum of one coaching call per month
  • All associates have individual career development plans
  • 4 associates have moved the call center to main stream insurance operations in the company
  • The company was able to hire 28 remote sales people throughout the United States and support their sales and service efforts remotely
  • The call centre is ready to absorb and service up to $5M in additional revenue through acquisitions.