EDITOR'S NOTE: Technology may feel like a multi-headed Hydra. Whenever we get one part under control, the beast grows another part—and we're spending too much time trying to get it all into a basket. But independent agencies can—and are!—doing a great job making technology work for them in ways tailored to their business. Jim Armitage, of Arroyo Insurance Services, gives us a glimpse at some of the successes they've had at Arroyo.
Author: Jim Armitage, Arroyo Insurance Services
Our agency is successfully doing commercial lines download, claims download, and the bridging of our data from our AMS to as many of the companies that we represent as we can. This saves us time and money by reducing duplicate entry of data.
I have heard from several agents and carriers that commercial download is not where we should be. My answer to that is that anyone not taking advantage of download is wasting a lot of money and time and effort in their offices. We implemented commercial download many years ago, and my people love it. It saves hours of time and has allowed us to build our business without adding people. The biggest problem for agents is that they think they can just turn the switch on for commercial download in their AMS and things will work out perfectly. You do need to flip a switch; that is the easy part. But you also need to take the time to work out any of the bugs with the downloading carrier. You can do test downloads with the carrier, turn off certain fields that might not be getting the information you want, and open fields on your side. Every company is a little different, just like IA's, and you need to take the time to work on the implementation of download. Your AMS vendor usually has a technician who is assigned to download, and the companies are more than willing to help.
We are also engaging and taking advantage of as many social networking opportunities as we can. The use of social networking avenues has become a good prospecting tool for our agency and an opportunity to touch our clients.
What we need to do is improve our customers' experience with our agency by giving them access to our data 24/7. We need to provide clients with access to things they need, like billing, auto ID cards and basic policy information through mobile applications and user-friendly access to our website via smart phones, iPads and computers.
What should be on our radar screens?
- Security of our customers' data from cyber-attacks and cyber hackers.
- Keeping abreast of how to protect our clients for their activities and the use of products and services under the broad label of "the internet of things."
- How to protect our clients' home, auto and toys that they are sharing with others for a fee [such as Airbnb].
- And keeping ahead of the curve on the driverless-car phenomenon.
The industry needs to drive the use of business intelligence to track our sales, improve our sales opportunities, and write new business. This is an emerging industry, and we as agents brokers need to be using this valuable information to be more profitable.