Outstanding CSR of the Year Finalist Essay—Ericka Berceau

By Ericka L. Berceau, CISR

Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet,” made famous the phrase “What’s in a name?” That statement, though dated, is a direct reference to the inconsequence of a title, surname, or label. Times have changed quite a bit since Romeo and Juliet’s love affair. So has the English language. Modern vernacular is not nearly as flowery or comprehensive. We often abbreviate words beyond recognition and even condense common phrases to a handful of letters.

The insurance industry has had its fair share of language changes. Years ago, “my secretary” would have been enough to inform a customer that a particular person was designated to help the boss. Little thought was given to how that title might affect a customer’s perspective. If the task was performed well, the customer was satisfied that the “secretary” had done his or her job.

In recent years, a great deal of emphasis has been put on the importance of industry titles. But why does this matter, and to whom? To our own little community of insurance professionals, there is a definite difference between a Producer or Agent and CSR; one sells and one services. The difference is less obvious however, between Customer Service Representative, Client Service Advisor, Account Manager, and Account Executive.

As the business climate changed, traditional administrative roles in the insurance industry became more defined. Government rules and regulations required insurance CSRs to become licensed, giving them additional accountability and influence. This, combined with most Customer Service Representatives’ genuine willingness to assume more responsibility, turned the tide for the traditional insurance processor.

From an agency perspective, titles are often given to define position descriptions. The primary functions of a position are listed in a position description, confirming employee and employer agreement on responsibilities and expectations. Position descriptions also include such items as qualifications, educational requirements, and physical requirements, to assist potential candidates and recruiters.

Let us be honest, a lofty title can also go a long way to pad the human ego. While many individuals consider their title irrelevant, heading and labels give some a feeling of importance. It indicates to them that their agency is acknowledging their experience, expertise, and determination. Titles do not cost the agency money and can be a low-cost, yet effective way to make employees feel essential to the company’s success.

In an August 2014 study, researchers at the Academy of Management Journal determined that employees were less stressed when they were allowed some latitude in creating their own job titles, allowing them to better express themselves. The study found that this creative self-titling broke down barriers within companies and had wide-ranging implications for employees’ personalities. In allowing employees to self-title, their unique value was brought to their position, reducing emotional exhaustion and increasing the employees’ self-verification.

Designations like CIC and CISR further define agency roles and titles. These designations garner respect from our peers and speak volumes about our commitment to the industry. Professional certifications also have a direct link to increased earnings potential, job security, and agency value. Those who possess credentials are more likely to be considered for management and supervisory positions.

From a customer’s perspective titles may be of little importance. Clients want to know that the person designated to support them will do so efficiently, pleasantly, and in their best interest. Most of my customers could not tell you my title, and would have to peek at a business card to learn it. Clients understand that my function in the agency is to help them. They know that I am always happy to answer questions, make coverage recommendations, and guide them to satisfaction. If this is accomplished, there is ultimately little thought given to my professional label.

What matters to customers is not a title, but how they feel after we have had a phone conversation or when I leave their business. Did I respond to all of their issues, and was I helpful in identifying other issues they may have been overlooking?

Shakespeare also said, “All that glitters is not gold.” This well-known statement implies that extravagant names of objects are not always as they appear. Quite simply, slick titles can create a vague promise. In the end, there is no substitute for a job well done.

Ericka L. Berceau, CISR
2015 Outstanding CSR of the Year National Finalist
The Star Group

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