Let’s share our greatest asset

Ahlgrim_J

I’ve been fortunate to work in a variety of roles during my time with American Family.

I started in AmPlan, our company’s billing department at one time. I remember trying to reconcile complex commercial billing accounts. I was just out of college and working with people who had 20, 30, even 40 years of experience. I admired how dedicated these people were and how efficiently they answered questions asked by customers and agents.

I wondered if I would ever do my job as well as they did.

I marveled at what they knew.

A few years later, I joined the Claim Division as a property adjuster. I worked with agents and adjusters who, for years, made it their business to help customers through some of the most trying times of their lives.

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I wondered if I would ever do my job as well as they did.

I marveled at what they knew.

Here I am, more than 20 years later. Many of my expert friends are retired or no longer with the company. I’ll always appreciate the patience and willingness they showed when sharing with me their knowledge and, more important, their experience.

I think the spirit of sharing is alive and well at American Family. We just do it differently now. Technology helps us share information more efficiently, and it gives us more ways to interact with each other. That’s a good thing, but it also takes some of the human element out of the equation — and that human element is invaluable and difficult to replicate.

I sometimes wonder what my expert friends would think about today’s American Family. I know they’d be proud of our agent and employee accomplishments, and of our commitment to our customers.

And if I had to guess, I think they’d offer this advice:

What your co-workers know is your company’s greatest asset. When people don’t personally interact, the transfer of knowledge is compromised. Through your day-to-day work, strike the right balance between technology and each other to keep the art of personal interaction alive and well.

In the process, you’ll all marvel at what you know.

*** Jon is a Strategic Communications Consultant for American Family Insurance

You’re my hero

J.Wilkins
Last month, a customer called me a hero. Tonight, I’ll talk to someone else who considers me a hero.

I’m working a catastrophe event in central Illinois, where an extremely powerful tornado smashed through Washington and nearby communities the morning of Nov. 17. You may have seen stories in the news as it drew national and international attention.

I started out in American Family’s Kansas City property claims office in 2008. In the next few years, I assisted at a number of catastrophe responses, and this sort of work appealed to me for various reasons.

For one thing, I like to see different parts of the country. I also like to meet people. And the team atmosphere is very strong – if I need information or the benefit of someone else’s perspective, I’m comfortable calling anyone on the team.

So, in 2011 I successfully applied for a job with the field catastrophe team. I love my job! You might think it would be depressing to go from one disaster to the next, but it’s quite the opposite. I’m a people person. Being able to meet someone face-to-face, and to offer comfort (or even a hug, if it’s needed) gives me a good feeling.

I arrived in Washington on Monday, Nov. 18, the day after the storm. It’s an incredible scene, when an entire community is challenged like this. You have people walking up and down the street, asking their neighbors or total strangers if they need a hand. Churches and other volunteer groups work long hours providing food, water and other needed supplies. There’s just this positive vibe all around you, as the community joins hands in the healing process.

I met with a customer in East Peoria, Ill., Wednesday, just down the road from Washington. About one-third of her home’s roof was torn off, and the inside was littered with drywall and insulation. Like many of us would be after experiencing such trauma, she was devastated and had trouble communicating with me.

We talked, we laughed, we hugged. As our customer started to open up a bit more, she shared that she had a hard time envisioning how her life would ever be the same again. And with the holidays just around the corner, those feelings of despair and helplessness were only magnified.???????????????

I was able to comfort her and help her to understand and believe that everything will come back together for her again. The roof will be rebuilt and the interior will be restored. Won’t be in time for Thanksgiving, but the contractor’s timeline may allow for Christmas at home.

“You’re my hero!” she exclaimed.

And that’s what I do for a living. That’s how I support my family, that’s what makes me feel like this is the right job for me. It looks like we’ll be here through the Thanksgiving holiday, teaming with the local and field claim units to get our customers back on their feet again.

The tough part is calling home to Kansas City every night. My daughter, Zayla, 7, demands to know, “When are you coming home, Mama?” My son, Zion, is only 3, and he’s just happy to hear my voice.

Someday soon, I will walk through that door, and get the chance to be a face-to-face mom again. That’s when I’ll really be a hero.

*** Jehanna is a Catastrophe Property Claim Field Adjuster for American Family Insurance.

Biking to work gives me the gift of time

Gavney_DaleMost days, I bike to work. By bike, I mean the motorless kind. In addition to saving money on gas, reducing wear and tear on my car, and having a greener footprint (I now drive about 5,000 miles less per year), I’ve discovered my bike is also my personal time machine.

First, my bike saves me time.

Riding to work blends my commuting and workout time. By blending exercise and commuting, I actually get about an hour back in my day! How’s that for quantifiable impact!

Second, my bike gives me time.

Being on a bike twice a day gives me more time outside, feeling the sun (or rain) on my skin, smelling the grass, the trees, or farmers’ fields. I also hear birds and frogs that I can’t hear when I’m in a car. This outside time is precious to me.

If you practice mindfulness or other kinds of meditation, you know being attuned to your senses is important. Riding a bike like I do is a gold mine for the senses.

I also get more time to connect to others. On a bike, it’s easy to pull over and chat with anyone including neighbors, fellow bikers and even the crossing guard I see every day on my way to work.

Third, my bike itself is from another time.

Heavy, solid and with a smooth ride, my Reagan-era mountain bike is “more Harley-Davidson than Trek,” according to the guy who sold it to me.

bike_rackFinally, my bike takes me back in time.

Bike riding is making me younger. Maybe not literally, but riding has changed my appetite to be more in line with a person half my age. On really challenging days, when the wind is strong or snow is on the ground, I get an awesome workout and lots of fresh air. On those days I feel like I’m 20 again.

And on those nights, I’m asleep in no time.

Dale Gavney is a Business Performance and Planning Administrator for American Family.

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