Using input from ACT’s Small Commercial Rating work group, as well as input from identified ‘best practice’ carriers, ACT has compiled this Best Practices Recommendations document for bridging Small Commercial information to carriers for quoting. We intend for this document to assist with increased Bridging adoption among agents in using carrier portals and ultimately help carriers become the ‘carrier of choice’ of their agents.
Why a ‘Best Practices’ recommendation for Carrier
Bridging? We feel it is an important
step to reaching the ultimate goal of Real-Time Comparative Rating. It will also increase Bridging adoption among
agents in using carrier portals and ultimately help carriers become the
‘carrier of choice’ of their agents. And
ultimately, it will increase the return on investment in carrier portals.
To set an even understanding, the term “Bridging” refers
The process of an agency
transmitting existing quote data from their AMS where data is exported (‘bridged’)
from the AMS, then ‘bridged’ into the carrier’s agency portal to complete the
quote in fewer keystrokes. A quote may
or may not be returned to the management system. Carriers may also create interim web screens to assist agency reps to
verify needed data (sometimes referred to as ‘interview screens’).
The scope of these recommendations for
Bridging does not include comparative rating at this time.
primary existing problems identified
are that there is too much variation between carrier Bridging workflows, too
many carrier-specific questions, not enough data pre-fill, and inconsistent
this comprehensive ‘best practices’ document to carriers across the independent
agent distribution channel as a verified strategic template to implement and/or
improve Bridging functionality from Agency Management Systems (AMSs) to provide
accurate, streamlined quoting functionality for Small Commercial Lines.
desired end-state we are working toward is Real Time rating, we also feel that
beginning with consistent quoting functionality using management system Bridging
will provide a great improvement in workflow for agents in their current
Bridging Best Practice Recommendations
Guiding Principles for
Best Practice carriers indicate Bridging development
should focus on the following as guiding principles (listed in order of priority assigned by surveyed carriers):
- Agent ease-of-use (overall intuitive
flow and integration into workflow)
- Minimal field entry
- Data prefill functionality wherever
- Intuitive error messages (guides
correction on edit mismatch, or missing field entry)
- Good training & support (dedicated
team to handle training & support)
- Minimal underwriting questions
- Speed – returning a result quickly
- Interview’ process (screen dedicated
to confirming accuracy on required fields)
- Quote accuracy (returning a bindable quote)
- Use of ACORD XML
Additional: BP carriers indicate that while development is
critical, having a dedicated support team is critical to ensure that any issues
encountered with initial implementation and use are addressed. This leads to increased utilization across
DEVELOPMENT Phase Learnings
- It is critical to understand how specific fields map from the management system to carrier system.
- Be aware
of key differences between the upload process across management systems, and
how they must be handled differently.
This may also be true of differences from various management systems
offered within vendors (ex: Vertafore Sagitta vs AMS360, Applied TAM vs Epic).
- Various pages within carrier policy systems may have
required fields that need to be completed in order to "save" any of
the data on that specific page. In Bridging situations, the carrier needs to
determine how to handle this when the data isn't bridged in the agency
management system – One option may be to require that the agent provide the information during the
"interview" process before submitting, or alternatively to change the
rule within the policy system.
- Understand CSR workflows; ultimately they
are the ones getting the quotes and submitting the business. If your portal doesn’t flow well with their
workflow, they are less likely to consider your company to get a quote – even
if your line being quoted is priced competitively.
TESTING Phase Learnings
- During the
Testing phase, ensure testing personnel have necessary quoting and agency
management system knowledge.
- Ensure quality data is used to fully test
all scenarios. Also test bad data to see
how your system reacts, pops up error messages and assists agents in correcting
- If carrier systems works with 3
third-party systems, ensure scenarios are developed to identify potential
errors and code/adjust to compensate.
all data prefill functionality, and determine how agents will get assistance if something goes wrong.
ROLLOUT Phase Learnings
- Consistently and continually market the benefits of
using Real Time to both agents and internal carrier personnel. Some carriers hold contests and targeted
training for agency and carrier employees.
Some also incent agents with contests, and/or incent carrier employees
(Sales organization) with added bonus money for high usage of their agents.
that agents use their systems differently, and/or have different workflows. Some workflows may need to be modified, but typically working with and
not against these workflows gains agent adoption.
- Some agents may have had a negative
experience with upload in previous years. Dedicate a part of your rollout program to
convince/encourage agents to try again.
is highly tied to accuracy of data on the AMS, and making small adjustments to
work flow. Data is only as good as the source – part of the Rollout program may
need to be training agents how to ensure ‘good’ (accurate) information is
entered into their management system.
- Leverage carrier support staff to aggressively
address Bridging issues as they arrive (as close to ‘Real Time’ as possible). Use weekly, monthly agency quoting reports to
target issues – Carriers may want to prioritize by percentage of business.
Success through an Iterative
Of those carriers surveyed, over 83% indicated they
needed to create/use an iterative process to improve their Bridging
- Agency feedback is critical to ongoing
improvement as well as addressing issues – Use input from agency technology
groups, key advisory agencies, and feedback obtained from support centers.
- Carriers created a genesis within their Bridging
to give the option of a full quote or simply Bridge the data to carrier site to
complete the quote process there.
- Carriers also learned they need to adjust their
error messaging to ensure the agent is absolutely clear on the action they need
- Some carriers employ an iterative process used
in other development and rollout for other products:
Ensure it is working well for a small group (10-20) to catch major errors, flow
Ensure it works in a ‘native’ agency environment (200-300) with a larger
control group across all possible variants.
Full rollout to agency plant. This can
be state-by-state, a group of initial states, or across all agencies.
- Release of updates to the Bridging process may
be as encountered at a scheduled point (monthly, annually).
Getting it right, out of the gate
best practice carriers would make certain they do if they had the chance to
- Ensure that all of the commercial
lines business area understands the benefits of Bridging, both on the agent
side and the carrier side.
- Offer training to all carrier
associates who may want to learn the process of Bridging, not for support
purposes but for general information.
This helps greatly in spreading the accurate word about the carrier’s
- Ensure a strong focus on error handling and
- Determine immediately whether there is
the ability/resources to provide bindable quotes from the bridge, rather than simply
a quote ‘indication’.
- Integration of external third-party
services (i.e.: credit bureau, MVR, MS&B) are critical, leveraging these to
provide faster, more accurate quotes, and reduce field entry/keystrokes. This might be communicated as changing from
‘interrogation’ to ‘validation’.
What agents like best
- Easy to use.
- Speed of transactions.
- Reduces repetitive data entry/keystrokes.
- Having Bridging functionality available for all of
the major lines of business and that it's available for any size commercial
risks regardless whether it is Small, Middle or Large Market business.
- Agents appreciate having a quick indication – even
if not bindable – so the agent knows whether they will pursue with the
- Adoption will take time, set incremental goals and
adjust where necessary to meet them.
Set realistic expectations
sharing best practices indicate that by and large, they did not see the
utilization they expected – At least initially.
Over 65% of respondents stated consistent utilization, but not what was estimated
from their project justification process.
increased dramatically (by 30-40%) when carrier employee and agency incentives
and training were employed.
is that a form of 'Appetite Guide' is a critical part of the overall workflow,
whether it is within Bridging (at the point of entry into carrier agent
portal), or the end-state real time comparative rating flow. Work group representatives discussed several
vendor options including Market Appetite, Reference Connect, CoreLogic, etc.,
as sources that could be integrated.
- A high-level best practice is to ensure
communication lines stay open, and to provide support and training. Many users resist change - It is important to
demonstrate the positive changes upload can have to their business.
within the carrier is a multiple team effort.
The IT support team, Commercial Lines business area, and Sales areas must
all be on the same page. Company-wide support and understanding of the
process is key to success.
- Investment decisions to deliver
connectivity solutions is directly impacted by agent adoption - both for
current items and future plans. Ensuring
agent involvement in design through rollout is key.
ACT wishes to thank the Small Commercial Rating work group members, as
well as key ‘best practice’ carriers, for their input and time to create this
document: Cincinnati Insurance, Columbia Insurance, Hanover, The Hartford, Selective, and Travelers.
Small Commercial Rating work group Co-Chairs: Jim Armitage (Arroyo Insurance) and Susan LaBarre (Liberty Mutual Insurance)
For a PDF version of this document: ACT Sm CL Rating - Carrier BP Advocacy Document - 2016Aug29.pdf