This summer I was awarded with the opportunity to work with Community Insurance Group in my hometown of Minster, Ohio. I stepped into the role of a Client Account Processor primarily helping with our clients’ policy changes as necessary. I also helped with creating and implementing new techniques with Excel sheets to increase efficiency across the company.
While in this role I worked together with our Account Managers so I would be able to provide excellent customer service for our customers. Given that all these managers were women who were anywhere from 15-35 years older than me, it gave me a unique insight to their professional viewpoints. Most of these women had been with Community Insurance Group for their entire careers so they had a deep understanding of not only the insurance industry but the company as well. They all stressed to me the importance of developing a personal bond with the clients, so we do not just have a client and company relationship but so that the clients are our friends. This was a new concept to me as most business is often cold and driven only by the bottom line. It quickly became clear to me that CIG has not been in business for so long in a competitive field because of their excellent prices or even excellent coverage packages, they have been in business so long because of the quality of people they have hired and the close relationships they have formed with their clients. I feel like these aspects of the financial sector are often over-looked in the modern business world and due to that the overwhelming distrust of financial professionals has resulted.
Not only did I realize the importance of customer service first hand, but CIG also taught me that the fastest way of doing things is not always the best. In my life I always have tried to find ways to become more efficient and to do things faster, so I would be able to do more. My thought process had always been that if I were able to free up more time in my day I could accomplish more and therefore be better off. However, the older generations I worked with taught me that it is okay to slow down for a second and smell the roses. In our technology and innovation driven world where everyone wants the next best thing now and not a second later, this may have been the most profound life lesson I learned over the course of the summer.
The Account Manager that trained me and who was my mentor over the course of the summer is a lady named Mary Prenger who had been with CIG her entire career and had worked their over 32 years. This relationship started off fairly interesting because it was obvious that they was a large gap in our knowledge and experience levels on multiple different fronts. Mary knew a lot more about insurance than I did but I also knew about technology a lot more. Given this difference in knowledge we were learning from each other the entirety of the summer. Since we were working so closely together, she really taught me what it meant to deliver the level of customer service our clients expected. Mary knew every one of her clients by name (easily over 200 clients) and not only that, but she knew their families and situations personally. It also did not matter to her what type of day she may be having, she understood and exemplified that the clients’ needs and wants always come first.
One moment comes to mind that fully shows how deeply Mary cares about her clients. A client came in who recently had a rate increase on their premium and wanted to quote some other companies and would not talk to anyone but Mary. Mary had her disk filled with work that had been piling up due to an abnormal amount of client phone calls the last few days. Instead of blowing off her client and telling them to meet with a difference Account Manager, she walked out of her office with a smile on her face and took care of her client that she had serviced for over 20 years. Not only did she take care of her client’s needs, but they also had a personal conversation about their home life and their families just furthering that personal connection Mary had with them. It was obvious during this meeting that the client would not have left CIG no matter the rate increase because they loved our company so much. That is completely due to Mary’s dedication and care for her clients and it is employees like Mary and interactions like the one described above that has allowed CIG to flourish for so long.
The main coworker who taught me how to slow down and appreciate the little things in life came from a lady named Jan Bidlack. Jan has worked for CIG for over 40 years and is just a few short years from retirement. She taught me this lesson in a nonwork related incident. It was on a busy Monday and I was flying through all the changes to our clients’ accounts I needed to make like usual, but it seemed like no matter how fast I went I just could not keep up with my workload. This went on for a few hours and as my desk was near Jan’s she was able to clearly see that my frustration was growing. Jan was busy that day too because Mondays are always our busiest days and she came over to me and told me to walk outside with her. She began to explain to me our importance to this town and the difference we make in our neighbors’ lives every day we go into work. She went on to tell me that this is what got her out of bed in the morning and why she does not feel overwhelmed or disgruntled when work gets rough. In that moment I realized that she has stayed with CIG so long because she sees the bigger picture and the difference she has made throughout her career. It allowed me to take a step back and see that with every transaction I made for my clients, whether that be adding a new car or even their children to their policies as they got their licenses, I was helping them along through life. It was my job to give them reassurance that when something went wrong in their lives, they would have protection because I helped update their policies to keep them current and thus protected. After that point I realized the importance of my job even though it was monotonous and I never once questioned my duties or my impact on the company or community again.
These lessons I learned while at Community Insurance Group extend well beyond just a business setting. Providing excellent customer service is not just to have a good client relationship, but it is much more to know how to care for others in a way you would want to be cared for. Appreciating the little things is not just to find purpose in my work but to have a constant reminder in my life as to why I work as hard as I do and to keep me grounded while still reaching for my goals. These life lessons that I gained over the course of the summer are of the type that will stick with me for the duration of my life and are applicable in any given situation. If I remember to care for others while constantly deriving meaning out of what I am doing, I will always be able to follow my passions and achieve my goals, and for that I am forever grateful of Community Insurance Group and the opportunity afforded to me by the STEP program.