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Agency Preferences for Carrier Electronic Communications

ACT Carrier Communications Work Group

The original document on agency preferences for carrier electronic communications was published in January 2006.  This report and the spreadsheet have been updated by the ACT Carrier Communications Work Group to reflect agency preferences for these communications and transactions in light of the continued evolution of technology over the last seven years.  The work group believes moving to these recommendations will benefit both agencies and carriers.
You will note two major themes running through the chart below.   
Activity Notifications
The first major theme is to encourage the industry to move to a much broader use of Activity Notification Messages (“Activity Notifications”) for policy or client specific communications (as an option in place of email), because they can be sent securely and directed directly to the agency person to handle them by many agency management systems.  In addition, Activity Notifications solve the common agency problem where important messages sit in producer email mailboxes, rather than being put in the agency management system where they create the proper audit trail and others in the agency can see them.
Activity Notifications are an ACORD standard that has been implemented as batch communications.  Much like policy download, the messages are gathered at the carrier during the day and transmitted to the agency, via IVANS, overnight.  However, for several of the specific uses of Activity Notifications that the work group recommends, carriers and agencies will need to be able to deliver and access these messages several times during the day, because some of them will require an immediate response.  Specific examples include communications from an underwriter on a new submission or when a major claim has been filed. 
In the spreadsheet, wherever the preferred method for the Activity Notification is “immediate,” rather than just a part of the batch at the end of the day, we have identified it as an Immediate Activity Notification.
The work group believes the industry has a big opportunity to use Activity Notifications much more broadly for agent-carrier communications and delivery of electronic policies to agencies.  In order to realize the full potential of Activity Notifications, the work group recommends that agency management systems develop the capability for the agent to send Activity Notifications to the carrier and for carriers to be able to catch them and flow them into their systems.  The delivery of messages from the agency to the carrier, however, is beyond the scope of this report.
Finally, the work group understands the need for an educational effort to help transition carriers and agencies to incorporate Activity Notifications in their workflows.
RSS Feeds
The second major theme is to encourage carriers to provide agencies with the option to receive general carrier bulletins by RSS feed, enabling agencies to manage them more effectively using the agency’s Intranet, Outlook or the agency management system.  Offering this option will help agencies direct these bulletins to the people who should be reading them, rather than a carrier sending them to everyone in the agency using a “shot gun” approach, where they are not as likely to be read. 
Using RSS feeds also would help the agency catalogue the messages, so they are available when needed.  Carriers benefit because their messages are more effectively communicated within agencies.
The work group understands that it will need to mount an educational effort to help agencies understand the benefits of using RSS feeds and how to use them.  In this conjunction, the work group has developed a second report detailing the agency use cases for incorporating RSS feeds within their workflows.
Determining Priorities
The agents on the work group feel that all of the recommendations below are important, but in determining priorities, urged carriers to focus on the highest volume transactions first, along with those which affect clients and client service on a daily basis.   High priority activity notifications to implement include underwriting memos, status of new business and quotes, overdue payments, pending cancellations and delivery of policy documents.  It is also important for carriers to continue to replace their remaining paper delivery with electronic communications and to work toward consistency in their processes for delivering electronic messages and documents.  The work group recommends that the carriers review the chart with their agency technology councils to determine a more specific order of implementation for their company.
Understanding the Spreadsheet
As in the previous report, when more than one method is provided under “Recommended Method” or “Incremental Solution,” the use of “AND” means that the carrier should provide both methods.  The use of “OR” means the carrier should provide at least one of the methods. 
Individual agencies should have the option to turn off the receipt of certain types of communications using the administrator capability that is recommended for carriers to provide to their agents, so that they do not receive the same messages in multiple formats.
We encourage that the ACORD standards be used wherever possible.  When we refer to “Download,” we mean ACORD AL3 or XML Download.  When we refer to “XML,” we mean ACORD XML.
Finally, we have removed the column in the original spreadsheet labeled “E-Mail Subject Line”.  This recommended naming convention has not been implemented by the industry and the work group is hopeful the industry moves away from the use of email for most agent-carrier communications wherever possible. 
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