The rise of insurance customer service centers (CSC) is a potentially important trend affecting independent agency operations. Here in Massachusetts there are only a couple of insurance companies with CSCs offering both personal lines and commercial lines capabilities. So, when the announcement came out that The Hanover had significantly increased its Customer Service Center’s capabilities in order “…to enable independent agents to provide greater value to their small business and personal lines customers,” we thought it worth it to take a closer look.
Agency Checklists had the opportunity to speak with James Griesing, Vice President Marketing, Distribution, Operations, and Sales for The Hanover about the various features of the company’s newly enhanced customer service center.
“The customer and agency relationship is important, we are not going out and replacing the core of what they [the agents] do… [Rather] we are an extension of the agency, offering personalized greetings, co-branding all materials. We see this as a joint service.”
For example, the company notes that all calls will be answered by a “live,” licensed professional and will offer extended service hours for greater customer service. It also will offer annual personalized outbound phone calls to every commercial customer serviced by Hanover’s service center. For example, using the Hanover’s CSC, an agency’s customer would have access to a live person until 8p.m. at night, allowing agents to offer a much higher level of customer service that mirrors today’s customers.
Mr. Griesing says this new option for agents is very flexible and can be an effective tool for agents to be competitive with the direct writers. By using a customer service center like The Hanover’s, explains Mr. Griesing, an agent can get a competitive advantage by having the ability to maximize staff and using them in areas where they excel. An agency can increase capacity without having to hire additional staff using a CSC. It could even alter its business model in order to focus on new areas such as making unique phone calls or acquiring new business.
In addition, Mr. Griesing sees two other distinct areas in which Hanover’s service center can really help agents to grow their business: (1) total account selling and (2) quick quoting capabilities. “For example, if Hanover is helping an agency service their customer Julie’s auto insurance, we’ll likely know that she also owns a home. Through the Customer Service Center we can help that agency round out the account by offering their insured a total account.”
“Same with offering insurance quotes,” adds Mr. Griesing. “Customers may call an agency looking for a quote on home or auto which the agency just does not have the time to handle at that particular moment. Using a CSC like Hanover’s, that agency can transfer the call or warm lead to us to handle on their behalf. Generally, in those situations about 40-45% of the time we get the account for the agency.”
“Independent agents have the advantage.” says Mr. Griesing. “They are local, they know the customers. Using a customer-service center gives an agency more time for counseling and being proactive rather than reactive. A CSC also can mirror the service of the direct writers and gives agents some of the advantages of a direct writer without taking away any of the advantages of an agency.” More importantly, adds Mr. Griesing, “it allows an agency to provide a consistent high quality service which is vital in today’s marketplace.”
The Hanover’s Customer Service Center offers agents services like the following:
- Co-branding with agents, such as letters sent to customers on agency letterhead;
- Agency-specific toll-free numbers with personalized agency greetings;
- Custom marketing materials that reflect and reinforce an agency’s brand;
- The ability for each agent to choose the level of service delivered;
- Accounts processed through the service center;
- Constant communication and custom reporting to keep the agencies apprised of customer interactions and changes.
As Kristen Park, Hanover’s Vice President of Personal Lines operations explained in the company’s announcement, “All of our enhanced services were developed in conjunction with our independent agent partners to create a concierge-like experience, which builds on the company’s innovative model and is geared to help enable agents’ succeed. And our unique approach of working closely with agency customer service representatives on structuring our service center support model further demonstrates our commitment to an agency focused approach.”
But, most important of all stresses Mr. Griesing is that agents should know that The Hanover’s enhanced service center is “…an option for an agent, not a mandate. It’s an extension of our offerings to our agency partners… It’s a way for agents to specialize and develop a higher use of their talents.”
Massachusetts Agents interested in learning more about The Hanover Insurance Group’s call center can contact:
Rochelle H. Miller
National Account Manager – Commercial Lines Customers service Center
645 W. Grand River Avenue
Howell, MI 48843
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