Broad segments of the industry have come together and have taken the unprecedented step of forming the Real-Time/Download Campaign to promote agents’ ease of doing business. The participating agents, brokers, carriers, vendors, user groups, and associations have seen how Real Time and Download are benefiting agency workflows, customer service, and bottom lines, and they want to see more agencies gain these advantages.
You can identify Campaign supporters by looking for this logo, which you will increasingly see in coming weeks:
First, let me introduce “Eddie,” the Campaign’s mascot. He stands for Ease of Doing Business, and he will help us bring the Campaign to life. You will note that Eddie is friendly. We do not want agency employees to see the implementation of Real Time and Download as intimidating. Rather, these technology tools are the agency employee’s friend, because they give the employee back time (as symbolized by the clock) and reduce the level of frustration with inefficient processing and duplicate entry.
A lot of care was taken by the industry in determining the appropriate tag line for the Campaign. “Make it Your Business” says two important things. First, it encourages agencies to act – to learn what Real Time can offer them and then to take specific steps to implement it. Second, it connotes how Real Time should become a core part of how agencies do business, enabling employees to respond to customers in real time and to have more time to advise customers and to sell.
The logo then drives the agent to the industry’s dedicated site for the Campaign, www.getrealtime.org, which will go live soon. This site is designed to give agents practical implementation information on both Real Time and Download, as well as to provide direct links to vendor pages for vendor specific implementation and trouble shooting information. The site also will contain links to carrier specific information. Because many industry supporters are developing content specifically to support the Campaign site, look for the number of links to specific vendor and carrier information to continue to grow over the coming months. The pages focused on Real Time will be completed first, and then pages specifically related to the implementation of Download will be developed.
The Campaign’s Goal
The Campaign’s goal is to double the number of Real Time transactions over the next year. To accomplish this goal, we need to convince more agencies and carriers to implement Real Time, and current users need to monitor their employees’ real-time usage, to assure that all are using the new workflow. The best way to convince the industry to invest in more Real Time is for agency leaders to make sure everyone in their agencies is using it!
Right now about 20,000 real-time transactions are taking place each business day through the agency management systems, and this does not count the number of real-time quotes that are starting to be generated through the comparative raters. Even more important than the numbers is the fact that each real-time transaction has enabled some agency employee to save time and be more responsive to his or her customer.
What is Real Time?
When we speak of Real Time, we mean the ability for you to click on a button from a client file in your agency management system or comparative rater for immediate access to carrier information on that client. The transaction may be a quote, billing inquiry, claim inquiry/loss runs, policy view, endorsements or a request for information. This provides a single workflow for servicing or quoting.
What Are the Specific Benefits of Real Time?
- Enables superior customer service, because one click customer inquiry provides immediate response.
- Enhances the professional image and work environment of your agency.
- Provides a single, consistent workflow for multiple carriers and permits training staff on a single workflow, rather than on the separate workflows for each carrier website.
- Enables the processing of policy transactions, such as billing inquiry, quotes, policy view, endorsements, and documentation from the client’s file.
- Permits claims management from the client’s file, using claims inquiry, procuring loss runs, and with some systems, sending First Notices of Loss and receiving the immediate return of the claim number.
- Improves E & O loss control, because the activity record is automatically triggered by the real-time inquiry/transaction in the agency management system. In contrast, if the employee performs the transaction on the carrier website, the employee must remember to take the additional steps to enter an activity record in the agency management system.
- Real Time provides for automated logons, so the employee does not need to find and then manually enter the password for the carrier website. Note, however, that employees need to remember to keep the carrier passwords stored in their real-time tool up-to-date for the automated logons to work.
- Reduces processing time, thereby freeing up time for sales, cross marketing, and pro-active service contacts.
How Does Download Fit?
Download is an essential complement to Real Time, because Download enables the round trip of data back into the agency management system following a real-time transaction, so that it is available for customer servicing, cross marketing, and agency analytics. Having this downloaded information in the agency management system is also essential to performing many real-time transactions most effectively. For example, Download assures that the agency system has the correct carrier policy number available for the next real-time transaction.
Personal Lines Download, of course, has provided enormous benefits to most agencies for years. All carriers need to be providing Personal Lines Download for this business. It is now time for agencies and carriers to implement Commercial Lines Download as well, particularly for small commercial business, because of the considerable progress the industry has made in improving the quality of these downloads. Many agencies are achieving significant benefits from Commercial Lines Download today, including eliminating duplicate data entry and improving the quality of their data for customer servicing, E& O loss control, and real-time transactions.
What Specifically Can Independent Agents & Brokers Do to Help the Campaign Succeed?
- Implement real-time functionality for whatever transactions are offered by your carriers and vendor. Take advantage of vendor, carrier, user group, and association real-time training opportunities. (Tools: See getrealtime.org for Agency Real-Time Implementation Guide, AUGIE Workflow Timer & Cost Savings Calculator, AUGIE Commercial Lines Download Agency Start-Up Guide, and vendor and carrier specific information. See also www.ACTtech.org and run a report on what specific Real Time transactions your carriers offer with your vendor.)
- Monitor individual employee usage and provide additional training where necessary. Provide “fun” employee incentives to encourage individual usage (such as a free lunch for the employee with the most real-time usage in a week.) (Tools: Use vendor and/or carrier provided agency employee real-time usage reports when available.)
- Promote the Real-Time/Download Campaign prominently in your office and with your carriers. (Tools: See getrealtime.org for creative materials you can use.)
- When a particular carrier’s real-time implementation is not as fast or efficient, point out the problem to the carrier and work with the carrier to fix it. (For example, the use of “screen scraping” technology might be a lot slower than using the ACORD XML standards.) The input of you and your employees is extremely important in helping the carriers and vendors continue to improve the agent user’s experience with Real Time.
- Use carrier marketing visits, advisory councils, and every other opportunity, to encourage your carriers to provide you with real-time functionality for more types of transactions and lines of business.
- Encourage your national and state agent associations and user group to adopt Real Time as a prominent part of their advocacy and training agendas.
Jeff Yates is Executive Director of the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) which is part of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Jeff Yates can be reached at email@example.com. ACT’s many reports and business improvement tools can be found at www.independentagent.com/act. This article reflects the views of the author and should not be construed as an official statement by ACT.