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Making Employees Into "Ambassadors" (Part 1 of 3)

 

At American Collectors Insurance, says Jill Bookman, CEO, "our employees mean everything to us." How employees interact with customers, including carriers and brokers, is an important point of differentiation for the firm. "Our carrier partners could work with us or with any of our competitors," she says. "They choose to work with us year after year and I'm absolutely certain that the differentiator is service-it's not price. You could get a quote on our web site and you could go to our competitors' web sites to get quotes and, frankly, you're going to find they're within pennies.

"Our goal is not to be a price leader. We want to be competitive, but we very strongly feel that we are successful because of our employees and the emphasis that we put on service." For many insurance organizations, the people are the product. What they say and do and how they interact with customers defines the organization. Too often, though, organizations take the support and goodwill of their employees for granted.

Research supports the fact that employees drive consumer preference and perception. Edelman's 2013 Trust Barometer indicates that a firm's employees rank higher in public trust than its PR department, CEO or founder.

Personal experience supports these findings. Tom Ealy is the president of Encompass Insurance, based in Chicago. "I spent 20 years as an independent agent and broker before joining Encompass," says Ealy. "I can tell you that how agents feel about the brand of the companies they work with has a huge impact on how much business they're going to place with that particular carrier." It's the people within the organizations that drive those feelings.

"The best brands in insurance create emotional connections," says Ealy. Those emotional connections are dependent on people, which can be either a good or a bad thing.

Next week... read how culture drives engagement.

Lin Grensing-Pophal has written on topics ranging from health and wellness, to careers and HR-related topics, to marketing and social media. Her most recent book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Strategic Planning" (Penguin), was released in spring 2011. Lin is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.