Incentive Program Ideas for Insurance CSRs

Ellen Linkenhoker
Ellen Linkenhoker

insurance customer service agent speaking with client

Things in the insurance industry are moving fast. You’re facing changes all over, including:

  • The adoption of increasingly complex (and smart) tech-stacks
  • New processes
  • Increased investments into digitization
  • The shift to treating customers as a recurring relationship (think service sale rather than a transaction)

How carriers gain adoption in their agent networks will be vital to the long-term success of any planned initiatives.

It’s one thing to change internally. It’s something completely different to influence and motivate an entire route to market that has some level of independence and choice in how they operate. Act on these changes by focusing on a specific role inside an agency, such as the customer support representative (CSR).

The Growing Impact of the CSR

No matter the sub-segment of insurance (P&C, Life, Health, Investment), CSRs play a big role in maintaining client relationships and getting policies on the books. According to an informal study conducted by ITA Group, CSRs often write as much as 70% of the ongoing business within an agency.

When you think about how much these roles touch, it’s amazing more incentives aren’t targeted towards these people. Typically, their role might focus on:  

  • Handling policy sales
  • In-bound customer inquiries (billing, service changes, questions, etc.)
  • Upselling (umbrella policies, increased disability, whole-life or term additions, etc.)
  • Smaller or less complex new policy inquiries
  • Handling administrative tasks with carriers and agency software

All these behaviors pose great opportunities for incentives. The best way to build an effective CSR incentive program is to first consider how CSRs are motivated.

Motivating & Incenting Desired Behavior in CSRs

You’ve already got standing commission and SPIFFs going to agency owners and producers. Occasionally, those will trickle down to CSRs. Other times, not so much.

But do CSRs want a cash incentive? Maybe not.

Even though they’re writing a large portion of business, and even handling new clients, CSRs are usually in this role because they don’t want the pressure of quotas, or a paycheck dependent on acquisition and variable in nature. They are motivated by:

  • Doing the best they can for their team
  • Meeting team-related goals
  • Working more efficiently
  • Doing what’s right for the customer
  • Being recognized for their contributions

These motivators give you room to apply non-cash incentives to an audience who has a lot of sway over the carriers they place business with.

How can you reach CSRs with programs meaningful to the work they do, while also adapting to relevant industry changes and your business goals (new processes, managing ongoing customer experiences, consolidating policies with your brand, bundling, etc.)?

CSR Incentive Program Examples

Here are a few ways you can use incentive programs to make an impact with CSR roles.

1. Process Change Incentives

You’re likely moving to more digital processes and cutting some human interactions, but getting independent, captive and career agents to change their ways can be tough. They’re more likely to commit if they can have their CSRs trained on using the new process.

Program Considerations

  • Get buy-in from agency owners
  • Offer incentives or goals for platform/process use
  • Offer small rewards or gifts for taking related training

2. Premium or Policy Targets

Ongoing effort tends to focus on increasing policy premiums, consolidating books and branching into other products inside agencies and their clients. Because CSRs are often handling many of the less complex or smaller efforts, shifting enough of these policies to your brand can quickly become a compelling ROI case for incenting CSRs to do so.

Program Considerations

  • Try team goals where they’ll earn an on-site pizza party or spa day (we can help you execute this at scale and track progress)
  • A mix of rewards like merchandise, experiences and agency-branded custom items can be a bigger incentive than cash (Yes, you want your logo on those items, but your audience may not. Consider letting their hard work show their loyalty. Instead, show them that you’re willing to invest back into their business too without your brand front and center on promo items.)

3. Retaining & Growing Clients

Retaining business and increasing persistency has positive impacts to your profits and their customer relationships (and residual commissions). The first line of defense in many of these cases is the CSR. Help them adopt the best practices in touchpoints, communications and policy consolidation by offering incentives and payouts when they act on ideal behaviors.

Program Considerations

  • Focus on building basic touchpoints
  • Change touchpoints and activities when integrating additional elements
  • Offer desired language or support
  • Promote consolidation deals they could share with clients (remember, they want to do right by the customer)
  • Share persistency or retention goals and offer rewards like premium and policy payouts

4. Education & Skills Development

Adding training and development initiatives is a great opportunity to increase premiums. While CSRs already have so much to learn, certify, renew and keep up with to meet regulations, ongoing product and brand education and skills development can help increase your bottom line.

Over and over again we see people sell what they know. Train your agency network CSRs to know the answers to your FAQs (e.g., Does the carrier have an app? What happens when I make a claim?). Help them understand the brand promises and value you preach through national campaigns. When you provide the skills, competencies and tools CSRs need to better serve customers, you can create experiences customers can expect to receive every single time they interact with your company—and start to move beyond just a price tag.

Creating and sustaining the long-term adjustments that come with change is often challenging. Are you looking for additional ways to become more agile and innovative? Culture change is often a must. Learn more in our post, 6 Ways to Change Your Work Culture.

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen is a life-long learner who finds joy in exploring new ideas and thrives on disruption in all forms. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, incentives, and tech. In her role as an Insights & Strategy Leader at ITA Group she keeps a pulse on the changes in the market to direct the vision, position, and evolution of their incentives portfolio. Her position as a leader on the American Marketing Association board keeps her immersed in the latest trends and advances in the marketing field. When she’s not working or volunteering you can find her competing on the volleyball court or working on home renovation projects with her husband.