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Account Service

Customer Service Representative (CSR)/Account Manager

Sharian Brown-Taylor, CIC, CISR, ACSR, AU, AINS, AIS, ASLI, DTM, Senior Service Executive at William Gammon Insurance

"What Account Managers/Executives Do and Why Education is Important"

Job Description

Account service roles, especially in retail insurance agencies, are known by different titles that often describe equivalent work. Common titles include: Customer Service Representative (CSR), Service Representative, Customer Service Agent (CSA), Account Representative, Account Manager, and Account Executive.

Account Managers are responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of client accounts, which may include tasks such as making sure applications are complete, answering client inquiries, providing proofs of insurance to the client, making policy updates, handling some booking/billing issues, claims processing, quoting new lines of insurance, communicating with insurance company personnel, renewing policies, and working as part of a tight-knit sales team.

Account Managers often become the resident experts about policy language, underwriting changes, and the back-office processes and procedures of their business and their business partners.

If the Account Manager is doing his or her job well, the client will receive friendly, proactive and highly responsive service, leading to customer satisfaction, which is a primary factor in customer retention. Making sure customers are delighted and stay with the business is one of the primary ways in which Account Managers add value to the business. It is much more expensive for businesses to acquire a brand new client than to retain an existing one.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (Occupational Outlook Handbook), the CSR/Account Manager job outlook is expected to be good through 2022.

Job Variations

Account Managers tend to specialize in supporting a particular type of client, line of insurance, and/or account size. These separate products and clients require different types and mixes of knowledge and skills.

Personal lines Account Managers serve individuals and families and tend to handle a high volume of smaller and less complex accounts compared with their commercial lines colleagues. They also work with less insurance-savvy customers, and spend more time on the phone fielding client questions.

Personal Lines Account Managers are also more likely to perform a larger percentage of sales activities such as renewing accounts, increasing coverage limits for existing clients or selling clients additional types of coverage (account rounding).

Commercial lines Account Managers have fewer accounts in number, but those accounts are often complex or are very active. For example, a construction company may require proofs of insurance to be sent out to prospective customers for each job bid. If the company bids lots of jobs, this means lots of proofs of insurance have to be quickly sent out.

Working commercial lines accounts requires impeccable communication, a strong understanding of key insurance concepts, mastery of the required paperwork, a detailed understanding of the processes involved, and well-timed work. Missed or inaccurate paperwork can cause delays in the process and potentially result in a lost bid, a lost client, or even legal liability.

Typical CSR/Account Manager Responsibilities

  • Receive new clients from the sales team.

  • Set up client account in the agency management system.

  • Answer client and prospect questions and provide account service via telephone and email.

  • Assist sales team with preparing presentations or in gathering client information.

  • May be responsible for marketing new business to multiple insurance companies (getting quotes).

  • May receive and process premium payments.

  • May contact clients to renew insurance policies, update/expand coverage, and solicit references.

Personality Factors

Individual differences in patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving can either help or hinder one’s effectiveness at work, depending on the requirements of the work performed.

Most successful CSRs/Account Managers tend to be detail-oriented, methodical, and cooperative. They value the stable, social, team-oriented aspects of their work and like to develop and maintain long-term relationships with their clients.

Commercial lines Account Managers are often a little less social and more detail oriented. Personal lines Account Managers tend to be more social and a little less detail-oriented and less risk averse when it comes to asking for a sale or for referrals.

Assessments

Assessments provide a fast and simple way to discover how closely your personality matches those of the best performers in a certain job. Not all assessments are of equal quality, especially those which are free online. The better assessments have been scientifically validated to ensure that they measure what they claim to measure, that the measurement results are repeatable, and that what is being measured actually relates to performance in a particular job.

One of the more researched career-related personality theories was developed by Dr. John L. Holland, who was a psychologist, researcher, and professor from United States. Dr. Holland postulated that there six types of personalities that are distinguished by their relative interests in working with People, Things, Data, or Ideas.

Holland Personality Types

Interested in work that deals with...

Realistic (R)

Things

Investigative (I)

Ideas and Things

Artistic (A)

Ideas and People

Social (S)

People

Enterprising (E)

People and Data

Conventional (C)

Data and Things

Take a free online Holland-style personality assessment here (offered free from a government-sponsored website): http://www.mynextmove.org/explore/ip.

Note your top three highest-scoring personality types.

How Do Your Holland Scores Compare?

The job analysts at www.mynextmove.org determined that the Holland Codes for CSR/Account Managers are (E, C, S):

  • Enterprising (energetic, ambitious)

  • Conventional (conscientious, organized)

  • Social (friendly, helpful, like to provide information and assistance)

Skills

Physical, mental or emotional abilities that are learned and improved to meet or exceed a certain standard through deliberate practice.

  • Active listening–listening for understanding, emotions, and using questions to check understanding

  • Speaking–clearly explaining insurance concepts to people with different levels of knowledge

  • Instructing–teaching and guiding others through processes

  • Customer service excellence–helping others and forming and maintaining client long-term relationships

  • Reading comprehension–able to read, comprehend, and explain policy language

  • Fast learning skills–understanding new types of businesses, risks, and coverage

  • Organizational skills–arranging, sequencing, and sorting information

  • Time management–being able to estimate task times and strict time schedules

  • Delegation skills–guiding assistants and coordinating other support staff

  • Sales skills–identifying customer needs and offering them appropriate solutions

Values

Values are beliefs about what is desirable or undesirable at work, important or unimportant, needed or not needed, good or bad.

CSR/Account Managers value:

  • Meeting other people’s needs

  • People contact

  • Clear feedback and guidance from managers

  • Order and efficiency in activities

  • Helpful, non-competitive colleagues

  • Recognition for a job well done

To learn more about values (likes) and dislikes for CSR/Account Managers, see The National Alliance Insurance Academy’s CSR Profile study.

Compensation

The CSR/Account Manager is typically a salaried position that may also include bonuses for team performance and commissions for sales activities.

Typical benefits packages include 401Kplans, group life, health, vision, life, and disability insurance.

Commercial Lines Focus

Due to the technical nature and size and complexity of the accounts, commercial lines focused CSRs/Account Managers require a higher level of education and experience.

  • Entry – $30,000

  • Mid – $51,000

  • Experienced – $70,000+

Personal Lines Focus

Compared to Commercial Lines Account Managers/CSRs, Personal Lines CSRs often have more customer interaction and receive a higher percentage of their total compensation from sales commissions.

  • Entry – $25,000

  • Mid – $42,000

  • Experienced – $60,000

Compensation Information from the CSR Profile study.

Travel and Relocation Opportunities

Account managers mostly stay in the office, though some may travel with a producer to take part in sales presentations or to meet a new client in person, especially for large commercial accounts.

Licensure, Education, and Experience

  • Anyone who handles insurance accounts must be licensed to either service or sell the type of insurance with which they work. Maintaining an insurance license requires yearly continuing education.

  • Entry-level positions require a high school diploma and usually two or more years of work experience, preferably in customer service or in an office environment.

  • Many Commercial Lines Account Mangers/CSRs have a college degree (business, accounting, finance, etc.), which may be mandatory for some positions.

    • Recommended Designations

    • Strong insurance coverage and policy knowledge is expected. The CISR (Certified Insurance Service Representative) designation is the industry standard for practical continuing insurance education for service personnel. The designation can be focused on either personal lines or commercial lines coverage. Ambitious Account Manager/CSRs may earn the CSR Elite distinction, which includes study of personal lines, commercial lines, and an introduction to risk management.

    • For more complex commercial accounts, we recommend the CIC (Certified Insurance Counselor) designation, which focuses on both personal lines and commercial lines policy types, or the CPRM (Certified Personal Risk Manager), which is a combination of risk management, technical insurance knowledge, and account development. This designation is for Account Managers who work with high net worth/affluent clients.

External Client/Internal Customer

  • Personal lines account managers work with individuals and families. These customers typically know little about insurance and may need clear explanations of coverage details or claims procedures.

  • Commercial account managers work with businesses of all sizes. Accuracy, speed, and professionalism are very important for commercial clients.

“Internal” customers typically include producers, as well as the regular contacts the account manager has with the insurance carriers.

Workplace Culture and Environment

Workplace cultures, formality, service standards, and the sales and service focus can vary widely between different employers, as well as among internal service groups.

CSRs/Account Managers can be found in all types of insurance businesses: insurance companies, wholesale brokers, retail insurance agencies/brokerages, or in various service businesses.

Most of the work takes place in an office environment in teams. In some larger offices, Account Managers may be assigned accounts based on the producer, the region of the country that the customer is from, the size and complexity of the account, etc. In smaller offices, an Account Manager may support a single producer.

Career Path

The Account Manager/CSR job is a great career-launching role. With continuing education, experience, and dedication, one can attain the skills and knowledge that are necessary for handling increasingly complex accounts and making a complete service career, or pursing other industry positions.

Here are some common career paths:

  • CSR to Account Manager

  • Account Manager to Account Executive

  • Account Executive to Account Marketing Specialist (place quotes with agency companies)

  • Account Manager/Executive to Department/service manager or HR Manager

Marketing/Sales

Insurance Agent/Broker (Producer)

Dino C. Gavanes, CIC, National Alliance Board of Governors member and Area Vice President for Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, Inc.

"Insure Risks You’re Passionate About"

Job Description

The primary responsibility of an Insurance Agent/Broker is to contact prospects, qualify them (determine whether doing business would be valuable for all parties), and sell them appropriate products and services. To be a “producer” means to produce new clients through sales.

Producers may work as Agents or Brokers. Agents represent insurance companies, meaning that they have appointments with multiple insurance companies to sell their products to retail customers. Agents or agencies who only sell one insurance company’s products or who work for the insurance company are called “exclusive” agents.

Brokers, on the other hand, are like professional shoppers who represent the client and find a company and product that best fits that client’s needs.

Independent agents may sell products from many insurance companies. Insurance agents may be “exclusive,” which means that they represent a single insurance company (only sell that company’s products), or they may be “independent,” meaning that have contracts to sell insurance products from different insurers.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Identify prospects through networks, referrals, social media, and other marketing efforts.

  • Qualify the prospects to find those who will benefit from the products and services offered.

  • Interview qualified prospects and sell them appropriate products and services.

  • Visit clients and meet new prospects.

  • Schedule and follow up on sales interviews and client visits.

  • Ensure quality service through regular client contact and a strong service team.

Job Variations

Lines of Insurance Sold

Producers typically specialize in selling a particular line of insurance. While all successful producers may share key personality elements and skills, the knowledge demands and sales approaches change with the different lines of insurance sold.

  1. Commercial lines (property and casualty, professional liability, etc.) – complex business insurance features fairly long sales cycle times (often longer than a year), larger premiums, and significant renewal commissions. Commercial lines can be very lucrative, and they require a good deal of insurance knowledge, development time, and business acumen to sell effectively.

  2. Personal lines (auto and homeowners insurance) – selling personal insurance requires a warm touch, strong people skills, and the ability to explain abstract insurance concepts to clients who may not be very insurance savvy. This type of business tends to have a much shorter sales cycle, smaller premium, and a higher number of accounts.

    Much personal lines business today is automated and may be purchased online and over the phone. Many personal lines producers are combining their social interests, hobbies, and computing skills to increase their customer reach through social media. Further, advances in web database design, email management, and other self-service online marketing tools have allowed personal lines producers to expand their customer base.

  3. Life and health (life insurance, health and benefits) – requires the ability to explain insurance concepts clearly and simply to clients. In addition, life and health producers must be able to deal with the highly emotional topics of death and sickness. The best life and health producers are able to empathize with prospects and create an emotional sense of need and urgency so that clients will take action.

  4. Multiple lines (a combination of two or more lines of insurance) – in smaller towns and cities, agents will often be licensed to sell multiple lines of insurance – sort of a one-stop-shop for insurance and risk management needs.

Types of Sales Activities

Proactive Business Development
Actively prospecting, networking, cold calling, and following up on referrals to develop new clients.

Reactive Sales
Selling to in-bound callers who are responding to company or agency marketing efforts.

Account Renewals
Calling existing clients to review their coverage, renew their coverage, sell additional coverage if needed, and get referral business.

Personality Factors

Individual differences in patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving can either help or hinder one’s effectiveness at work, depending on the requirements of the work performed.

In sales, there are certain personality elements that needed to be truly effective. Nearly all successful insurance producers tend to be competitive (want to win/be the best), are achievement oriented (they are motivated by accomplishment), are tenacious (keep going after rejection), empathetic (understand the client’s goals and needs), and optimistic (believe they will make their sales goals).

Assessments
Assessments provide a fast and simple way to discover how closely your personality matches those of the best performers in a certain job. Not all assessments are of equal quality, especially those which are free online. The better assessments have been scientifically validated to ensure that they measure what they claim to measure, that the measurement results are repeatable, and that what is being measured actually relates to performance in a particular job.

One of the more researched career-related personality theories was developed by Dr. John L. Holland, who was a psychologist, researcher, and professor from United States. Dr. Holland postulated that there six types of personalities that are distinguished by their relative interests in working with People, Things, Data, or Ideas.

Holland Personality Types

Interested in work that deals with...

Realistic (R)

Things

Investigative (I)

Ideas and Things

Artistic (A)

Ideas and People

Social (S)

People

Enterprising (E)

People and Data

Conventional (C)

Data and Things

Take a free online Holland-style personality assessment here (offered free from a government-sponsored website): www.mynextmove.org.

Note your top three highest-scoring personality types.

How Do Your Holland Scores Compare?

The job analysts at www.mynextmove.org determined that the Holland Codes for insurance Producers (E, S):

  • Enterprising: energetic, ambitious, and achievement oriented

  • Social: friendly, helpful, likes to meet new people learn about their personal and business goals

Personality Differences Between Producer Types

  • Commercial Lines Producers work with corporate decision makers and they tend to be more analytical, objective, and oriented toward facts and problem solving with their clients than colleagues who sell other lines of insurance.

  • Personal Lines Producers are often quite active, outgoing, and people oriented. They might be involved in community social networks, fund raisers, and community-based and family fun activities.

  • Life and Health Producers tend to also be quite social as well, but a little less interested in extraverted social activity and more comfortable displaying empathy and helping clients with emotionally challenging subjects such as death and serious health issues.

Skills

Skills are physical, mental or emotional abilities that are learned and improved to meet or exceed a certain standard through deliberate practice.

  • Business acumen: can quickly learn about new businesses and know how to make a business case for products

  • Active listening on different levels: able to listen deeply to understand both the covert language and the emotional meaning of the communication

  • Sales skills: can identify needs, qualify customers, and sell them value-adding products

  • Relationship building: able to introduce one’s self to prospects, interview them, and uncover their wants and needs

  • Questioning: able to ask effective questions, gather information, and build influence

  • Numbers: able to quickly and accurately read financials and perform calculations to accurately assess risks

  • Demonstration and presentation skills: can prepare and deliver clear and compelling oral presentations

Values

Values are beliefs about what is desirable or undesirable at work, important or unimportant, needed or not needed, good or bad.

  • Achievement: like to have a sense of accomplishment at work and keep score

  • Independence/freedom: prefers to work with little supervision and is able to make effective decisions about how to best accomplish the work

  • Relationships: likes to develop relationships and help others

Compensation

Please see The National Alliance Academy publication Producer Profile for a detailed productivity and pay benchmark for both Commercial and Personal Lines Producers.

Producers are commonly compensated in five ways:

  1. Salary: Some insurance businesses employ their producers and initially pay them a salary and have a multi-year, tiered-plan in place to eventually replace the salary with commissions earned from sales.

  2. Commissions from new sales: After the producer turns in the client’s application and collects the initial premium, the agency receives a percentage of the commission, which is used to maintain marketing activities and the administrative structure to help the producer service the business. From the percentage that the agency gets, the producer is paid a percentage of that commission as compensation.

    To encourage the production of new business, new account sales yield the highest commissions. Many life insurance producers make nearly all of the first year’s commission from new accounts.

  3. Commissions from account renewals: One of the most interesting financial aspects of the insurance business is that a producer may also receive a yearly commission on renewal accounts. Renewal commissions provide a huge incentive to service these accounts well.

  4. Bonuses: Insurance companies have special performance bonus programs for insurance wholesalers and retailers. Many agencies/businesses that receive these bonuses pass some or all of this bonus money to top-selling producers.
  5. Ownership: It’s possible to work for an insurance agency and receive a percentage of your “book of business” as a form of compensation. At retirement, this book of business is sold to fund retirement or is perpetuated to a family member.

Commercial Insurance Producer Compensation

Commercial accounts are generally larger accounts that demand larger premiums and yield high commissions. However, because of the size and complexity of these accounts, they tend to have slower sales cycles.

  • Entry-Level — $50,000

  • Mid-Level — $125,000

  • Experienced (10 years plus) — $152,000

Personal Insurance Producer Compensation

Personal insurance accounts tend to be small and feature smaller commission amounts, faster sales cycles, a high number of accounts, and a medium percentage of commission from renewals.

  • Entry level — $40, 000

  • Mid-Level — $47,000

  • Experienced (10 years plus) — $76,000

Compensation Information from Producer Profile, 4th Edition

Life Insurance Agent Compensation

The highest initial commissions and a low percentage of commission from renewals.

  • Entry level — $30,000

  • Mid-Level — $47,000

  • Experienced (10 years plus) — $60,000

Travel and Relocation Opportunities

Many Commercial Insurance Producers have the opportunity for frequent travel to meet with prospects and customers. In fact, many top Commercial Producers are seldom in the office – they are out on the road visiting clients, networking, and making presentations to qualified prospects.

The same can be said of Life Insurance Producers who spend as much time as they can presenting to clients who are qualified to buy.

In contrast, many Personal Insurance Producers conduct the majority of their work in the office. They spend their time on the computer and the telephone responding to leads, answering questions, and taking applications for insurance.

Relocation may be offered/required depending on the size of the business.

Licensure, Education, and Experience

  • All sales jobs require a state-issued insurance license to sell or broker insurance and have state continuing education requirements.

  • Most Producer positions prefer a college degree or sales experience; especially helpful is experience selling an intangible product like service. Some commercial sales positions may prefer specific college degrees or a specialized industry background.

  • To be really successful as a Producer, three areas of knowledge are essential:

    • Risk management knowledge–identifying and managing your clients’ personal and/or business risks. This sort of knowledge can be gained through working in a particular type of industry, business, or having an educational background in that field and a risk management designation.

      The Certified Risk Manager (CRM) designation provides in-depth instruction on the process of risk management.

      The Certified Personal Risk Manager (CPRM) designation combines a unique combination of risk management, technical expertise, and account development aimed at serving the high net worth and affluent clients.

    • Insurance coverage knowledge–the types of insurance coverage available and their application.

      The Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation incorporates practical risk management principles and practices into coverage-centered format.

    • Marketing and sales knowledge–the process and particulars of qualifying and converting a prospect into a client through sales.

Clients/Internal Team Members

Commercial Insurance Producer

  • Clients–business owners and managers, insurance company underwriters and brokers

  • Team members–customer service team – Account Managers/CSRs

Personal Insurance Producer

  • Clients–individuals and families

  • Team members–customer service team – Account Managers/CSRs

Life Insurance Producer

  • Clients–Individual customers or groups of workplace individuals

  • Team members–Account Managers/CSRs

Workplace Culture and Environment

The office culture for producers is sales-centered and often competitive. Each wants to be the best! The busiest producers may have small service teams assigned to them.

Many Commercial Lines Producers try to stay out of the office and on the road meeting with clients and selling – what they do best. They may come into the office at the end of the day or week, or scan, email, or fax in paperwork to the service team.

Other producers work mostly from the office, over the phone and the Internet. This kind of sales is higher volume and more time is spent personally connecting with clients.

Producers may work in:

  • Independent retail insurance agencies

  • Exclusive retail insurance agencies/for insurance companies who sell insurance directly to the public

  • National brokers

Career Destinations

  • Agency ownership or book of business ownership are the most common career paths.

  • Upper-level sales/agency management may also be a fulfilling career option for sales