A More Organized, Efficient You!

Hopefully, you have taken the “How much is too much: Customer Service” quiz from our last ASNOA Advantage newsletter by now. If you didn’t score highly, or if you just want to increase your productivity, then read on!

Regardless of what role you have within your agency, it’s time to take control of your day. Organizing your office and planning out your day step-by-step sets you up for greater professional development.

Let’s get started!

Tip 1: Know your product!

When you know and understand the products that you work with, you will be able to address clients’ questions calmly and efficiently instead of scrambling for answers to each and every inquiry. How do you get this knowledge? Talking with your sales reps, attending online carrier trainings, and utilizing carrier manuals and appetite guides are all excellent and easy ways to keep yourself informed about the policies you’re writing.

My advice? Keep a carrier guideline spreadsheet within the office for easy access to the carriers that offer more specialized coverage.

Tip 2: Rely on Your Team

Keep in mind that your client needs to feel like they are the most important client you have. This is easy to accomplish when you work as a team! Utilize your management system to stay up to date with important client details. We like to add notes on our clients’ life changes so when they call, anyone assisting them will see they had a baby, graduation, or wedding. This way each team member can ask how things are going, and truly impart a personal flair to their customer service. Clients appreciate it when you take an interest in their lives.

We recommend scheduling weekly meetings with your team, so everyone is informed about new products, trainings, and courses that have been taken or are upcoming. Get your team motivated by setting sales goals or positive review goals.

Tip 3: Manage Your Day

I came across an article by Brian Tracy, who’s been using the ABCDE Method for years. According to Tracy, the ABCDE Method is a powerful priority setting technique that you can use every day. It is a simple and effective method that can turn you into one of the most efficient people in your field. Essentially, this technique is an exceptional to-do list that teaches you how to prioritize down to the tiniest detail.

I have, in fact, implemented this method into my to-do lists and have noticed an immediate difference. Prior to leaving work, I simply go through my list of things to do for the next day. I know there are tasks that always occur during the day, so I try to plan for those as best I can. You should never start other tasks before finishing the more important tasks first.

Here are the five tips Tracy gives:

  • “A” items are the most important tasks on your list, and they have consequences if you do not complete them. If you find yourself with multiple “A” tasks, break them down into A-1, A2, etc.
  • “B” items have minor consequences, for example, someone becoming displeased with you, but are not threatening to your job.
  • “C” items have no consequences. These tasks are things you could be doing to help someone that hasn’t asked for help, and therefore they have no effect on your workday.
  • “D” items are for delegating to someone else. The first rule of thumb is to delegate everything you can. This will free up time to complete your “A” items.
  • “E” items are tasks you should eliminate. Stop working on tasks that are others’ responsibilities.

With this method, you can stay focused and disciplined, so you can complete tasks that will make or break your career. Eventually, you will start getting more done than the people around you. Always strive to complete your “A” list first and make a rule not to do anything that isn’t on your daily to-do list. Your time is valuable, so don’t react and respond to everyone’s demands.

Now that you are managing your day, let’s dive into managing your emails!

Are you allowing your emails to dictate your day? Stop it! We need to curb our urge to respond immediately. You can’t allow other people’s agendas to modify our day. Moving back and forth between emails and your projects will drastically cut down on the time you have to complete your tasks (remember “A” items!). Don’t allow your email to distract you from having a productive day.

Use the “D” System when managing your incoming emails

Read the email once and decide if you should:

  • Delete: if it’s only an informative email, read it and delete it.
  • Do: if it requires some action, respond with as much information as you can as to not prolong the conversation. One and done. If the email is regarding a client, add the corresponding attachments to your management system. Don’t allow these emails to be sitting in your inbox, you should file all completed emails.
  • Delegate: if the email isn’t within your area of expertise, forward it to someone well-versed in the topic.
  • Defer: maybe you don’t have the time or information to respond back. Try to respond back with a date by which you will have the answer.

At the Applied Net 2019 Conference, one of the sessions was on managing Microsoft Outlook. Most of us use Outlook for the simple fact that it integrates with our management system. An unfortunate side effect of this is Outlook can be very distracting when the notifications are turned on.

Follow these few steps to help master Outlook within the office:

  1. Turn off email notifications. We need to act and start to control some of the day-to-day distractions; emails, phone calls, and other in-office interruptions can really take a toll on our productivity.
  2. Use Quick Parts in Outlook to create reusable content in an email. It’s a template email created for quick responses.
  3. Quick Steps is another way to speed up the organization of your emails. Set up actions for quick replies and dictate which folder you would like emails to be stored in.
  4. Utilize Outlook’s shared calendars! We use color codes for categorizing appointments for each team member. Each member has their own color that way each member is aware of the entire team’s schedule.
  5. Out of Office Replies can be set if you are working on a project for a specific amount of time. This way senders will know you will not be responding right away, and the message will let them know when you will be available.

We use our calendar to block off time for important (“A” Items) tasks/activities/projects to be worked on. During those times, our team knows not to interrupt. We also know the busy person will not be working on emails.

But how do you take care of in-office distractions?

Nothing is more frustrating than when you are trying to focus, but you have people coming in and out of your office.

We implemented a few office ideas to deter disruptions:

  • If you have a door, close it. We have a sign on the outside that says, ‘Working on a Deadline’.
  • For those of you that work in a cube, add the same sign on an outside panel.
  • Enable Do Not Disturb on your phone to inhibit notifications.

If someone wants to talk to you, however, we all know they are going to disrupt you regardless of these obstacles. These steps should cut down on the number of visitors at the very least.

Now we’ve covered how to set yourself up for success in the workplace with tips ranging from organizational methods to simple steps to limit distractions. Our goal is to help you prioritize your servicing tasks so that you continue to grow.

Want more tips and tricks? ASNOA Affiliates can sign up for my monthly Live with Laura sessions! Simply email Training at training@asnoa.com!

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