Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Pam Keyes

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Tell us about your company.
Akers & Arney is an independent insurance agency that’s been in business since 1952. We have 19 staff members, and of those, 16 are licensed agents. ... Akers & Arney (provides) a full line of insurance: personal, commercial, life and health. I’ve been with the agency since 1991.

What is your job?
I work with my clients to develop a risk-management plan to meet their needs (for) personal insurance risks. I make recommendations to reduce risks and premiums and keep them down in the future, so I am helping them with things like home, auto, boat, umbrella – all those personal insurance  policy needs.

You received a statewide honor for outstanding customer service. What’s your philosophy on taking care of customers?

For this award, they evaluated your personal résumé and training, recommendation letters from clients and people in the industry, and then, they had you write an essay on how the customer service representative adds value to the insurance client relationship. … What I ended up saying (is) we’re the expert to advise (customers) on the exposures they have and may not realize and the options they have to cover those exposures, both for risk to their property and risk of liability (and) lawsuits. In order to do that, we need to get to know the client, to get the facts and to get to know what their needs are, and give them the options that will work for them.

What about specific customer service practices?
Aside from being a risk-management adviser and an advocate to the carriers for the client, the other part of it is providing exceptional service. That is characterized by consistently prompt and courteous response to every request, whether it’s large or small. Professionalism should always be the standard, whether it’s in person or by e-mail or letter.

Also, in today’s world, in order to give exceptional service, you need to utilize the technology available. Because of being familiar with technology, you can get quicker answers back to people.

How else has the industry changed during your career?
Because of technology, the agency does a lot more of the work that the (carrier) used to do, so we deal constantly with upgrades. … Along with technology, we have the competition of the 1-800 and online insurance carriers, and that didn’t use to be the case. Plus, there are some things that change in our society, and that causes the industry to come out with new things. Identity theft expense coverage is a big one right now … and in-home business coverage and cell phone coverage.

What led you to a career in insurance?
It was similar to what I’d done before in management and had actually worked at a university. I like it because it requires some expertise and training, and it involves working with people and … really providing a vital service. Everybody needs insurance. A lot of people don’t really want to have insurance, or don’t want to have to pay for it, but you … have to have it for an automobile, to get a home loan. It’s something that’s necessary, but we’ve seen where it saves someone from financial ruin.

What is most challenging about your work?
I think (with) any customer-service type of job, what you generally like best is the people, and what’s most challenging is the people. Any time you deal with a claim situation, people are generally upset … that this has caused disruption in their lives, and you just need to be able to (not) take things personally, necessarily. People will be upset (if) their premiums went up. … There’s just so much I can do, but as an independent insurance agency, we do write with a number of carriers so we can shop their insurance for them.
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