Looking to Improve Your Business in 2014? Then Increase Accountability

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Several years ago, I was searching for a way to improve my business—to take it to the proverbial “next level” you could say.

Our agency’s mission statement is “Tomorrow’s Service Today.” I thought we did a pretty good job at it…but something was missing.

We’re all familiar with the businesses we operate every day. (In my case, it’s selling insurance.) But we aren’t always familiar with how to improve them and how to give our customers the service they deserve.

In my experience, you really can work to improve the interactions your staff members have among each other and with your hard-earned customers. Here’s how we did just that.

Accountability and measurements are key

Our process started with increasing accountability. I’ve found that tackling this issue is like fixing a leaky faucet: You start fixing the obvious problem, and by the time you’re done, you touched every inch of plumbing in your entire house.

It’s been said that “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Based on industry benchmarks, my agency was good at what we did. But I now realize that the benchmarks are set by others who are just “good” as well.

Once I realized this, I made a concerted effort to bring total accountability to our office, our customers and our vendors. As you can imagine, this was not highly popular with my staff. Some changes included:

  • Requiring employees to stash their cell phones and other electronics in a bin until break times.
  • Recording phone conversations and randomly playing them back at team meetings to learn how a team member handled a call.*
  • Teaching customers how to handle easy requests online.
  • Letting go of accounts that produced little profit but a lot of headaches.

The numbers speak for themselves

I’m pleased to say this experiment worked. Over a two-year period, we saw:

  • A 13.7 percent increase in income
  • A payroll reduction of more than 16 percent
  • A 25 percent increase in compensation for the 12 of the 15 employees who remained with us

The income produced per employee grew more than 50 percent, which placed us 25 percent over the industry benchmark for income per employee. I believe that’s because the staff members who remained are true team members who benefit from a new bonus system that rewards them for being pleasant to our customers, upholding our mission statement and being truly accountable.

Now it’s your turn

Have you taken a good, hard look at your business lately? If so, does the image of the business you hold in your mind really exist–or do you need to improve your business? If you see some leaks in your plumbing, it may be time for a repair before your competitors fix their leaks first.


David Ballard is president of Franklin Insurance Agency in Franklin, Pa. He is just one of the ERIE Agents and small business owners operating more than 2,175 independent insurance agencies in 11 states and the District of Columbia.

* Before starting a phone conversation monitoring or recording program, be sure to review applicable legal requirements in your state and the states where your customers reside. Federal law and all states require the consent of at least one party to a conversation in order to record the conversation. Some states require consent from all parties. Remember to obtain consent from those of your employees who will make or receive the calls.

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