Faye Coates was shocked when she found out she had been named the Outstanding Customer Service Representative of the Year for Virginia and Washington.
But she shouldn’t have been surprised. This is the second year in a row the National Alliance for Insurance Education & Research has given a Virginia Farm Bureau employee that honor. Augusta County member service specialist Shelia Pyle won the award in 2008.
“It was very humbling to receive such a nice award,” said Coates, a member service specialist for Prince William-Fairfax County Farm Bureau.
To qualify for the honor, which recognizes outstanding service and professionalism among insurance industry employees, Coates had to write an essay on “Five Ways a CSR Can Add Value to the Insurance-Client Relationship.” She also had to submit letters of recommendation from industry peers and clients.
In her essay, Coates described the SMILE principle, a simple formula to which she has adhered during her 25-year career in the insurance industry. Ten of those years have been with Virginia Farm Bureau.
“Applying the SMILE principle has taken a little practice over time, but it has become a habit that has proven over and over again that sometimes recognizing the value of my clients and appreciating my relationships with them only takes a SMILE!” she wrote.
SMILE is an acronym for stop, make time, imagine, learn, and eliminate obstacles.
Bill Barham, agency manager for Prince William-Fairfax, said Coates embodies the SMILE principle. “Faye is delightful to work with and is always willing to pitch in and help the agents and customers,” Barham said.
Coates readily admits she is goal-oriented and has a thirst for knowledge. “I always need a goal to work toward, and learning helps keep me challenged,” she said.
She has earned five insurance designations: Certified Insurance Service Representative, Certified Professional Service Representative, Accredited Customer Service Representative, Accredited Advisor in Insurance, and Associate Insurance Accounting Management.
In 2007, Coates earned her bachelor’s degree in behavioral science at Bluefield College in Bluefield, where she also won the college’s Adult Student of the Year Award in her major.