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Looking at Agency Technology A New Way

By Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director
 
With all of the issues facing agents and brokers today, it’s hard to get their attention on technology issues. This is tragic, because the new technology tools available today can help an agency—probably more than anything else—achieve the goals its leaders want for the business. I urge agency principals and managers to look at the technology tools available to them in this new light—as the great “enabler” for the agency’s other goals.
 
I heard an excellent carrier CEO panel recently, where the agents asked two major questions of the executives. The first question was: why is the Trusted Choice® brand important to you and how do we “live” the brand within our agencies? The second was: how do we attract more talented people into our agencies? The CEOs made some good points, but no one discussed how you create the changes in the agency that will free up the CSRs from the current processing and backlog they face so that they can “live” the brand and become trusted advisors. No one discussed how agencies need to create an environment that will entice new employees, by being fully networked with business partners and customers, using technology fully, reducing processing, and having clear standards for pro-active service, account rounding, and new sales.
 
The industry is launching an unprecedented initiative—the Real-Time/Download Campaign—to get the attention of agency and carrier business leaders as to the importance of implementing Real Time now.
 
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Real Time is a key technology “enabler” that will transform how we do business in the future. Real Time gives time back to agency employees and creates the professional environment that can respond to customers immediately. This positive result will not occur, however, if agency principals simply delegate Real Time implementation down to others in the agency and do not make clear to all employees that senior management expects all employees to implement Real Time wherever possible and then monitors that implementation.
 
Real Time directly addresses the major frustrations that agencies have expressed with automation today, most of which revolve around having to deal with carrier websites, and all of the passwords, separate logons, different workflows, double entry, and additional employee training these sites require.
 
Real Time, in contrast, enables agents to perform inquiries and transactions directly from their agency management system or comparative rater. Passwords and logons are handled automatically, data is only entered once, and employees can be trained on a single workflow. Real Time is not only more efficient for employees, it allows employees to respond to customers on the spot.
 
Savvy agents have timed the savings they are getting from Real Time and are putting that saved time to more productive use. Consider the cases of two agencies that have implemented Real Time inquiry functions (billing and claims inquiry, electronic policy view, and automatic logon to carrier websites). The first, an upstate New York agency, is now saving a little over 3 hours per month per CSR over what it took the CSR to perform the transactions on the carrier website. This agency has six CSRs so it is saving 18 hours per month.
 
The second is an Ohio agency, and each of its CSAs is saving just over 5.5 hours of time per month! Consider the impact these kinds of savings can have on eliminating agency backlog and improving staff morale. The Ohio agent has taken the second important step of tasking his employees to use this saved time to make targeted phone calls to the agency’s best customers. At first his customers were surprised by the calls, but now they are very pleased with the extra attention. This agency’s goal is to apply these time savings to begin the transformation of its staff to that of being trusted advisors.
 
In recent years, the Best Practices agencies have jumped on the opportunity presented by Real Time to enhance their productivity. 93% of Best Practices agencies are currently using Real Time for inquiries; 50% are performing this function with five or more carriers; and 91% are achieving time savings from this technology. 82% of Best Practices agencies are using Real Time for personal lines rating; 54% are performing this function with at least 3 carriers; and 79% are achieving time savings.
 
Agencies can save time with Real Time by implementing it today with those carriers that offer it. The best way for agents to get more companies on board with Real Time is to increase their agency’s usage, because several carriers are watching these usage numbers very carefully before deciding to invest in Real Time themselves.
 
Many carriers would be content to stick with carrier websites for the long term. After all, the websites eliminate the work from the carrier’s side. But savvy agencies do not want to face a world of carrier websites five years from now, because they are inefficient, make it difficult to represent multiple carriers effectively, and poorly position the Independent Agency System against competing distribution systems which are single company focused.
 
The goal of the Real-Time/Download Campaign is to help position the independent agents for the future. Over the next year, our goal is to double the use of Real Time in the industry. Go to the Campaign’s website, www.getrealtime.org, to learn more about the Campaign and to find specific tools to help you with implementation, including an agency implementation guide and links to specific vendor and carrier real-time information, so you know what they offer, how to implement what they have, and who to contact if you have questions or problems. Also be sure to review the Stakeholders Commitments information which contains the specific actions the Campaign requests of independent agents, carriers, vendors, national and state associations, user groups, and others to further the industry’s transformation to Real Time. For more information, contact Jeff Yates, ACT Executive Director, here.
 
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​127 South Peyton Street
Alexandria VA 22314
​phone: 800.221.7917
fax: 703.683.7556
email: info@iiaba.net

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