Whether your brokerage is a modest family-run firm, one of the largest enterprises in the nation, or somewhere in between, you are always on the lookout for the broker’s version of “how to build a better mousetrap” — operate more efficiently, achieve economies of scale, find solutions that lead to more sales volume which means more profit.
Recognize Your Brokerage Here?
Brokers who are determined to best their competitors are running a race whose finish line never appears. Even if you had a good year, you could have had a great one. The numbers in a record-setting year become next year’s baselines. Regardless of the growth in sales volume, premiums written, or renewals retained, you frequently refine your efficiency processes to ensure the trajectory of your brokerage has only one way to go: up. Does this mean you’re impossible to satisfy? Not necessarily — you may simply be embracing the concept of continuous improvement.
CI Helps Staff Work Smarter, Not Harder
Some workers may be alarmed to hear their employer advocates continuous improvement, as the concept is often mistaken as an excuse that impossible-to-please bosses seize upon to relentlessly overwork their employees, demand perfection, or show them the door if they can’t measure up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Continuous improvement focuses on refining processes and policies, not your people. Presuming your staff are already good at what they do, they’ll become even more effective when you eliminate pain points and improve the organizational processes they use to do their jobs.
Start with Measurements, Key Performance Indicators
Set benchmarks by measuring everything quantifiable in a given process — e.g., length of time to make a cold call, set an appointment, get a quote, process an application or premium payment, respond to a client inquiry, endorse a policy, correct an error, etc. These metrics can often be retrieved in the report features within the software and tools you currently use. Review them closely to detect trends and cycles present in your operation.
Armed with the insights your metrics have provided, establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — specific, measurable assessments of performance over time to achieve a defined objective or goal. Evaluate your KPIs in a process to figure out whether the juice is worth the squeeze.
Know Your Flow
An immersion in metrics and KPIs opens the door to deeper understanding, but it’s essential that you discern how various underlying, disparate actions and reactions combine to form patterns of procedure and function that create the entire systemic flow of your brokerage. Pinpoint the actions, activities, and events responsible for creating these patterns so you can better recognize issues negatively affecting your overall system and eliminate them at their true root cause.
Ride the Deming Cycle
To dive into a continuous improvement cycle in your brokerage, implement the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) technique known as the Deming Cycle. This four-step iterative process which many companies use to solve problems and improve organizational processes was the brainchild of Dr. Edwards Deming, an engineer and statistician whose methods essentially rebuilt the economy of post-WWII Japan.
PDCA lets you test new processes for quality improvement while limiting risk by first making a plan to implement a process change. Do test the change on a small scale (say just a portion of your CSRs) so the entire department or brokerage isn’t disrupted if the change fails or unwanted consequences occur. You can easily study the results of the tested change by comparing its metrics against the benchmarked data you previously gathered. Finally, act to fully implement a change that produced the desired improvement or confidently revert to the old process that has been proven still viable.