Agency profit can
seep out via inefficiencies. From systems to workflow to personnel, there are
substantial opportunities for improvements. Alisa Sutman, an insurance agency
operations and training consultant who is also an active member of ACT and
other industry organizations, reveals some insights gleaned over her experience
in agencies and work groups. Here, Alisa shares with the ACT News Team how to maximize the use of agency
management systems and what she finds to be the best workflow enhancements.
ACT News: It seems like agents and CSRs are not using all their agency management systems' tools and tricks. How can agencies maximize the benefits of these system capabilities? What are a few you'd spotlight?
Alisa Sutman: Train a point-person. Lots of agencies I've consulted with and worked for had release/update notifications going to the wrong person in the agency. If no one researches and gets trained on new features, they never get adopted. New features may be something like Vertafore mobile, messenger, policy distribution features, etc. They can create a turning point for the agency's workflows and client experience, but if the agency doesn't do research and get people trained in order to adopt and implement, nothing changes.
I would say a weak area for agencies is anything to do with Excel and maybe even Word as it integrates with management systems. Being weak at Word means weak proposals or extra manual work. Being weak at Excel means no one will take advantage of any integration with the system (like importing vehicle schedules, driver schedules, equipment schedules, certificate holders, etc.). That means more work and more errors.
ACT News: What are the two or three best workflow enhancements you have developed or seen developed in your time in the IA channel?
Alisa: Picking just two or three is difficult. I would say data import; document management with options for front-end, on-demand, and back-end scanning into the system; and download improvements.
ACT News: Why have those been so valuable?
Alisa: For data import, agency management systems that allow data schedules to be imported and/or exported saves time, creates efficiency and improves accuracy. Agency management systems that provide document management or integrate with document management have allowed our industry to be paperless, which makes us more efficient and our documents more secure and compliant. And download improvements over the past 25 years are vast and much needed, particularly download for commercial lines and accounting (commission statements). Increased efficiency because of less duplicate entry results in improved accuracy of data and applications.
ACT News: And a laundry list of the other great workflow enhancements that come to mind?
Alisa: Outlook integration for emails to automatically launch and attach to Activities; a virtual renewal tool that replaces reports and is real-time; alerts for increased premiums in personal lines so agents can be proactive instead of reactive; DB commission statement download; increased commercial lines download; and real-time opportunities.
ACT News: We hear a lot about sales tracking software, but what about in-house management efficienciesproducer payments, reports for management/the executive team, key data trends, etc.? Would you say automation is standard for these, and if not, what is the benefit of getting automated?
Alisa: Sales tracking software is probably our industry's biggest weakness or delay as far as something integrated with the system or contained in the system. Nothing I know of compares to stand-alone products like Salesforce. And any add-on for data needed for executive teams is too pricy for the majority of agencies. In many agencies, you've got no one auditing or policing data entry, so garbage in, garbage out.
ACT News: You have deep experience in agency staff training. With all the time and resource challenges, what do you see as the most critical training challenge?
Alisa: It's crucial that agencies prioritize time and money to hire a consultant or dedicate an internal person to get trained up-to-speed - and continue training and networking to be the go-to person. Employees are usually hungry and appreciative of trainingwhether it's a new feature or just tips and tricks. I find most of the time, management just doesn't budget appropriately or see the value in the investment.