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Agency Workflow

 
The 2016 Agency Universe Study – also known as the ‘AUS’ - was recently released as a collaboration between the Big ‘I’ and leading independent agency companies. This biennial study was completed by 1,972 independent agents giving their detailed insights on all critical areas of running their businesses including; agency revenue and markets, carriers represented, customer service centers, agency staff, future planning, marketing information sources, and technology. As a service to ACT Members, we have summarized the ‘Technology’ section of the 2016 Agency Universe Study.
Modern technology – secure remote connectivity, the Cloud, collaborative software, VoIP phones, and “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) – is disrupting the way we work and providing opportunities for remote out-of-office work. Many managers and employees are already working outside the office using their personal devices, but typically on an ad hoc basis without clearly written remote work best practices. Employers may have implemented security measures to protect their systems and data, but they rarely address the larger trend issue of remote work, also referred to as telecommuting. Remote-work best practices is not just about technology and security; it is also about the needs of people and companies. This guide will discuss the various types of remote-work options and best practices for organizations to implement a successful remote work and work-life fit program.
Future One, a collaboration of the Big “I” and leading independent agency companies, has released key findings from the recently completed 2014 Agency Universe Study. This study is viewed as the most comprehensive of the independent agency system. The study surveys a wealth of issues about independent agencies operating in the U.S. including revenue base and sources, ownership, mix of business, diversification of products, technology uses, non-insurance income sources, and marketing methods. For your insights, ACT has created a high-level summary of the technology-based aspects from this 2014 study.
General Description of Technology Implemented: Systematic adoption of new technologies and business processes
I have spent a lot of time among agents in recent months, and I am heartily encouraged by the increasing numbers of agencies which have embraced a technology, business process culture in their shops.
Clients are increasingly texting their agents and preferring to receive texts from their agents, creating the challenge as to how agencies manage this form of communication. In this article, the author discusses the challenges agencies face with texting, how agents can send texts to their email to document the conversation and how agents can use their email to send texts to their clients who prefer this method of communication. We are hopeful that more efficient ways to attach texts to agency management systems and to send texts from these systems will be developed in the future.
A noted law firm specializing in agencies’ E&O defense work provides several recommendations as to how agencies can use their technology most effectively to protect against E&O exposure.
Many agencies are assessing whether they should continue to maintain policies locally, given their availability on the carrier website. They are also looking at emailing policies to clients. This article provides guidance to agencies considering these questions. The article also outlines opportunities carriers and technology providers have to deliver electronic policies to their agents more effectively. Vendors are also encouraged to make secure client service portals available more cost effectively for the broader agency population to allow clients to access their policies as well as specific carrier sites for servicing through agency websites.
This article provides independent agencies with practical guidance on ten tools that could boost their productivity and marketing effectiveness.
There are significant opportunities to improve agency processes for marketing larger commercial lines account renewals and new business to carriers. This article outlines commonly found problems in these processes and then makes several practical recommendations to help agencies take total control of every piece of the renewal process except the time frame for receiving quotes and receiving the actual policy which are in the carrier’s control. These process improvements reduce staff stress and backlog, establish clear accountability, and free up the staff to perform as professional insurance consultants providing pro-active client service, rather than as paper pushers racing to meet last minute deadlines.
The best agencies today are not only focused on increasing sales, they are implementing best practices in their operations to ensure productivity is maximized. The “Best Practices Guide to Agency Business Processes and Information Management” provides CEOs and managers with critical indicators to assess current operations and offers tools for process improvement. The guide is designed to assist agencies of all sizes—from the main street community agency to the largest most complex commercial or benefits departments.
During most of my agency visits, there appears to be a common theme regarding backlog. When I ask, “Do you have any backlog?”, the staff looks at me as though I have asked a really stupid question. They answer something to the effect, “Of course we have backlog. This is the insurance business, isn’t it? If I were caught up, they’d only give me something else to do.”
The AUGIE survey results are in, and they provide a great resource for agents and the industry regarding the progress we are making with agency technology, as well as the areas of continued inefficiency that the industry needs to address. This month we focus on the positive impact new technologies are having for many agencies. Over 7,500 independent agents, brokers, and wholesalers took part in the survey, and 4,000 completed it, giving us a very comprehensive look at the issues.
Every day I hear about agencies that are gaining real benefits by implementing innovative workflows and technologies, along with policies that protect the continuity of their operations. Each of these steps directly contribute to the agency’s bottom line in different ways.
Each time I complete an Agents Council for Technology (ACT) meeting, I leave really pumped up about the opportunities we have today to finally solve some of the business problems that have plagued independent agencies for years. I am excited by the number of highly knowledgeable volunteers—from the agency, carrier, and vendor ranks—who are dedicating large amounts of time to ACT and other industry initiatives to tackle these problems. I believe the scale of industry involvement is unprecedented.
Many of the technology applications agencies have in place are based upon the purchase of a specific product that was intended to be used for a given activity within the office. Even with all of these products, however, there still remain many every day needs that seem to go unanswered because there does not appear to be a specific product that applies. In reality, sometimes the technology we already have could be used to meet the need, if we fully understood its capabilities.
In recent years, the electronic interactions occurring between agents and carriers have become a much more important part of the relationship, and thus, the technology agreements running between the parties also have become more important. Unfortunately, these agreements today run the gamut in the issues they cover and the approaches they take, and typically have not kept up with the emerging electronic relationships between the parties.
Checklist of Profitable Opportunities to Improve Agency Workflows
Checklist of Commonly Underused Agency Automation Functions
What is Sensitive NPI (Non Public Information)?
More agency owners/managers will see a higher return on investment in technology systems if they help employees approach workflow in a new way. Employees must understand how to fully utilize the management system. And they need training and a defined path of work. In this article agency consultant Patricia Alexander gives practical advice on leveraging technology and workflow. Most agents won’t need to invest in yet more technology to make these changes!
Last month’s ACT article observed that for most consumers, the Internet has become the place we ordinarily look first for information, goods and services. It discussed the importance of optimizing Web sites for search engines and making an agency’s site “sticky”—getting a visitor to stay long enough to make a purchase or inquiry. A recent report by Boston-based research firm Celent found that within five years, the Web will be a major influencer for nearly all sales of personal auto and individual life and health products. Other coverages aren’t far behind.
The best agencies today are not only focused on increasing sales, they are implementing best practices in their operations to ensure productivity is maximized. The “Best Practices Guide to Agency Business Processes and Information Management” provides CEOs and managers with critical indicators to assess current operations and offers tools for process improvement. The guide is designed to assist agencies of all sizes—from the main street community agency to the largest most complex commercial or benefits departments.