Going Beyond Best Practices

For over 20 years the independent insurance agents of America (IIABA) and Reagan Consulting have been conducting a best practices study that benchmarks what makes some of the nation’s top independent agents and brokers successful. The Best Practices Study helps agency owners and managers understand how their business operations perform and measure up to the top performing firms included in the study.

best practices

Every three years, insurance companies, state association affiliates, and other industry organizations are asked to nominate organizations for each of the revenue categories they believe to be among the best, most professional agencies in the industry. These nominated agencies are then invited to participate.

By studying the leading insurance agencies and brokers in the country, the IIABA hopes to provide member agents with meaningful performance benchmarks. They also look at business strategies that could be adopted or adapted for use in improving agency performance, thus enhancing overall agency value. The best practices study has been a valuable tool and resource for agencies as they look to improve the overall value of their agencies.

Even as valuable as the best practices study has been, there are some problems with how today’s organization use the information.

As stated above, only agencies nominated by an insurance company or state association are included in the study. That may mean that some organizations that are testing and experimenting new ideas and ways of selling, servicing, and managing their agencies might get overlooked. In 2010, more than 1,200 independent agencies were recommended to take part in the study. However, only 224 agencies qualified to be included. To be chosen, the agency had to be among the top performing agencies in one of the six revenue categories.

Another problem with the best practices study is that it looks at historical information. In the past this has been fine, as the only way to determine success was to look at past practices and performance. However, changes are happening faster today than ever. Perhaps a better measure of success and help to other agencies is what is being done today to impact the organization’s future tomorrow.

Going beyond best practices helps agencies to not only look at the past, but also look toward the future and learn from other agencies as they test, experiment, fail, learn more, and get better at operating their agencies.

Consumers today are changing fast. Their expectations of an excellent customer experience are changing even more quickly. Successful agencies that are looking toward the future will be adapting and changing as fast or faster than the consumers they serve. So what does it mean to “go beyond best practices?”

Look to the past when appropriate

Past performance can be an indicator of success in the future. I am not suggesting that we throw out all historical information. I am suggesting we look at it differently.

Encourage innovation

Going beyond best practices is creating a culture in your agency that encourages experimentation and innovation. It is a culture that embraces fast failure, so you can learn what to do better next time.

Become a technology company

You might assume I would add this into any thoughts I might have. An agency CEO, who brought me into their organization to review their efficiency and effectiveness, said he felt his insurance organization needed to be a technology company that happens to sell insurance not an insurance agency that happens to use technology.

There is a world of difference in those two thoughts. Online access, content marketing, campaign management, marketing automation, mobility, mobile apps, and any other cool tool, gadget or gizmo that you can name are all part of what is expected by consumers today. Is your agency truly adding value to the insurance transaction? Or, are you simply one more agency that does a “me too” type of process?

Not being satisfied with the top 25%

Going beyond best practices means you are not satisfied with being included in the top 25% of agencies in the country. It means you strive to be in the top 1% and are an insurance organization other agencies look toward to the find out what’s working and what’s not.

This is truly an exciting time within the industry. Opportunities abound. So many agencies are complacent that an agency that goes beyond best practices can quickly pick off clients.

Are you willing to remain a traditional agency and read the best practices study to see where you fit?

I hope you are part of an agency that wants to go beyond best practices and create the standard that other organizations follow. I am here to help you innovate so you can serve the public as well tomorrow as you have in the past.

Steve Anderson provides information to insurance agents about how they can use technology to increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. He speaks professionally to hundreds of agents each year on the future of technology, the social web, and how insurance agencies can establish their Internet presence.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “Going Beyond Best Practices

  1. Thanks, Jason. The world is moving too fast to rely on past success for future direction. I’ll have more to say over the next few months as I continue to build out my thoughts.

  2. I could not agree more Steve. Best practices are important as you state, but to me and my agency little of that data matters…

    What we are doing today is not what we were doing last year and odds are will not be what we do next year.

    I have thought this for awhile. Nice to see it in print.