What is the best agency management system? This is a common question asked by all agencies – large and small.
But there’s no one size fits all. Instead of asking what is the best agency management system, agencies should be asking, “What is the best system for our agency?”
Selecting an agency management system is a daunting task, and it is one of the most important decisions your agency will make. Choosing the wrong platform can be an expensive mistake.
It is important to spend the time and effort to find the right solution for your operation.
Determining if you need a new agency management system
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it might be time to conduct a review of your agency management system. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your current system is wrong for you. But it might mean that you need to consider an upgrade, either with your current vendor or new vendor.
To help you determine if it is time to consider that replacement you can use this self-assessment.
Assembling your agency management system search team
Choosing a new agency management system should not be left up to a single person – no matter the size of the agency. For smaller agencies, the owner should enlist the help of one or two people who regularly use the system to manage their workflows. For larger agencies, the search team should include one or two people from each department.
When selecting the team members, don’t just pick your best people, but include a range of skillsets. Also include a mix of ages; although longer-term agents may be your best producers, you also want to include newer agents.
The five-step selection process
When choosing the agency management system for your business, you should go through these five steps:
We will review each of these steps in more detail below. While it might be tempting to jump right into vendor demonstrations, the initial steps are the most important. Skipping these steps can cause you to select a system that does not meet your needs.
Step 1: Define your strategy
There are many reasons why you might decide to get a new agency management system. These include wanting:
Before you even think about what system to purchase, consider why you need a new system and how it will impact your business. Questions to consider are:
Step 2: Establish system requirements
What do you need out of the new system? Make sure the key processes that are vital to your operations can be replicated. If they can’t be replicated, make sure they can be replaced. Have an open mind when thinking about what you require from a system. By nature, a new system will require you to change your processes and adjust your workflows. It will be different. Identify what you absolutely cannot change and what you are open to adjusting. Key items to consider are:
To determine what requirements your new system should have:
Step 3: Select your options
How many agency management system vendors should you look at? The answer – though it may seem daunting – is all of them. Yes, there are 46 products from 27 different vendors – but looking at all of them doesn’t mean you have to do in-depth analysis of each. On initial review, you might be able to rule out some immediately. To decide which vendors to explore further:
In your initial conversations with vendors make sure you are clear about what you are looking for, what issues you are currently facing and want to resolve, and how you want to move forward.
Make a list of the vendors you want to learn more about. It doesn’t have to be short. There might be 10 to 15 that you want to move into the next phase of vendor demonstrations.
Step 4: Conduct vendor demonstrations
Before you even start reviewing demonstrations from vendors, remember it is okay to take as long as you need. Do not let them rush you into making a decision. Demos typically run 60 to 90 minutes. But if that time is not enough to get a feel for the system, don’t be afraid to ask for a second or third demonstration especially as you are trying to narrow down your options to a more manageable list.
There are two types of demonstrations: general information and overview and specific workflow scenarios. General overviews will help you narrow down a list of 10 to 15 vendors to the two or three finalists. You can then move forward with these finalists and do a deep dive into the platforms to see how they will work with your agency.
To get the most out of the demonstration follow these tips:
Step 5: Make the decision
At the end of the day, the main question to consider is, “What agency management system will work best with your agency?” Use the notes you took from the demos and the scores you assigned each system and rank them. What do you like? What don’t you like? There is not a perfect agency management system. They all have good and bad qualities.
When reviewing vendors also consider:
Once you have done your due diligence you are ready to make your decision. Remember, it is okay if there is not a clear winner. There might be two or three options that all look like a good fit. Review all of the information gathered. Talk with your selection team. Once you select the vendor you can move forward with contract negotiations and implementation planning.
Filing a claim can be the defining moment in the insured relationship. For the insured facing a loss from an auto accident, property damage, or business issue, compassionate, knowledgeable support from the carrier and the agent/broker is critical. But for agents and carriers that rely on email, fax or even regular mail to share information about the claims, there can be gaps and delays that can damage the client relationship.
Claims Download is a simple technology that enables carriers and agents to share detailed, up-to-date information on claims. Using Claims Download, critical information is integrated directly into the agency management system. The entire process is automated from initial reporting until the claim is closed.
It’s an easy-to-use, easy-to-get-started tool that can greatly change the way agents and carriers serve the insured. But according to the recent Insurance Digital Transformation Survey, 60% of agents are still not using it.
Let’s take a look at how agents can work with carriers to make Claims Download a more widely used technology throughout the industry.
Understand and share the benefits:
Just get started:
If one of your carriers doesn’t offer Claims Download, you should:
For additional information
Caring Claim Handling: Why agents should be actively involved in their insured’s claim.
IVANS Exchange Login Page: Access to your agency’s Connection Report showing which of your carriers offer Claims Download.
The agent/carrier partnership is a strong foundation of the insurance industry. Carriers provide the different products for the customer, while agents work the client relationship helping them to find products that fit their particular situation. Even as the market evolves, this relationship will still be at the core of the business. A large number of consumers still prefer to conduct insurance transactions through agents. But this agent/carrier partnership can sometimes face battles.
According to a study from JD Power and IIABA, agents’ overall satisfaction with insurers is just at 696 based on a 1,000 point scale. Agents’ issues with carriers include coordinating claims services, defining ownership of a particular customer, and wanting to work with insurers with a broader risk set. But the key overarching issue affecting the value of the partnership is carrier effort in helping agents gain access to the right technologies to improve customer service.
With the rise of competition from insurtechs, agents need access to digital tools to provide the on-demand service that consumers’ desire. They need to implement client facing tools such as interactive websites, mobile apps, client portals, 24/7 service, online chat and social media. They also need to speed up the insurance process, reducing the time it takes to quote, rate and bind policies. This involves access to e-signature, claims download, eDocs & Messages, instant raters and other tools which can quicken the workflow and improve efficiency. Carriers have the ability to help agents with these technological advancements.
Working together to improve customer service and increase sales
Carriers often have access to technologies that are out of range of smaller agencies, such as customer portals or mobile apps. One idea is that carriers can help to aggregate the buying power of their network of agencies, working with technology providers and offer agents key solutions at a discounted rate.
Carriers also are accustomed to implementing digital solutions and can share best practices and offer training sessions to familiarize agents with the new technology and make them comfortable incorporating the digital solution into their workflows. One of the key challenges with adopting new tools is persuading employees to use them. With the right training, carriers can help to make the transition easier.
There are also tools that agents can only access if carriers give them the capability. For example, claims download, allow carriers and agents to share detailed claims information in real time. With eDocs & Messages, agents can receive changes to a policy as soon as it happens. Information is also attached directly to the client’s file in the agency management system. It eliminates the need to print, mail and file documents. These tools can save agents time and speed up key insurance processes such as filing a claim or changing a policy – but not all carriers offer them.
FOR AGENTS: Working with carriers to improve the agent-carrier relationship
So how can you enhance your relationship with your carriers? Communication is key. You have to let your carriers know what digital tools you need and commit to regularly using them. Also let your carriers know the benefits they will receive if they help you increase your use of technology. These include:
Also take advantage of other platforms that allow you to communicate your desire for certain technologies to carriers. IVANS Exchange platform is a good example. It allows you to let insurers know directly what download tools you are missing but want to use. Through your account, you can customize your agency’s Connection Report. By clicking the “A” on the form you can change your option to “Want” to indicate your preference for the tools listed. Your carriers will then receive a report showing all the agents who are interested in a particular tool.
For additional information
The Changing Nature of the Agent-Carrier Relationship in a Customer-Centric World The J.D. Power 2017 Large Commercial Study also found 34 percent of the risk managers who responded to the survey based their buying decisions on their agent’s recommendations, while 38 percent of the small commercial buyers (J.D. Power 2017 Small Commercial Satisfaction Study) looked to their agent to recommend which carrier to go with.
Satisfied Independent Agents Are Growth Engines for P/C Carriers: JD Power: independent insurance agents still control the lion’s share of P/C premiums and represent a significant growth engine for insurers that get the independent agent satisfaction formula right
How Agents Are Using eDocs and Messages: webinar which discusses how eDocs and Messages can help your business increase insurer-agency connectivity
Insurance is a paper-intensive industry. Many documents are exchanged between carriers and independent agents including policies, billing notices and claim notifications. The downsides to all that paper are many:
eDocs and Messages allow carriers and agents to reduce errors and improve workflows. It is a form of download that enables carriers to send documents directly from their systems to the agency management systems. Documents that can be sent include: declaration pages for policy action such as a quote, new policy, renewal, endorsement, cancellation or reinstatement; billing notices and commission statements; claims information; carrier bulletins, such as changes to product availability; and spending cancellations or non-renewal notifications. eDocs and Messages are also more secure than email, fax or postal mail.
Why use eDocs and Messages?
One way to assess how eDocs and Messages will benefit your agency is to ask yourself these simple questions:
eDocs and Messages can help eliminate issues like these. Since carriers can send documents directly to the agency management systems, the information is automatically downloaded in real-time and attached to the appropriate policy or client file. If your agency offers customers client portals or mobile apps, these documents can then immediately become available to your clients through these platforms.
There are benefits beyond making your agency more efficient. It creates an auditable document trail so you will be able to easily identify when documents were received and quickly locate necessary information. It also helps reduce errors. Since information automatically downloads to the agency management system, the risk of re-keying data into the system is eliminated.
Finally, eDocs and Messages can help grow your business. By saving your staff time by eliminating the need to visit carrier websites and upload documents, agents can be in touch with customers leading to new business sales and improved retention.
Improve customer service
eDocs and Messages not only improve agency workflow, but it also enables agents to provide the service customers want. Clients want their insurance agents to know about recent changes to their policies the moment they happen, so if they have a question, they can call the agent and get help. Moreover, in the digital world, customers are accustomed to speed. eDocs and Messages give agents access to information in real-time helping to quicken the quoting and policy inquiry process.
Finally, with eDocs and Messages you can assure your clients that you are not wasting their money. Agents and carriers spend thousands of dollars every year on printing, mailing, and processing documents. eDocs and Messages eliminate this large overhead which can then be given back to the customer through lower premiums.
How does it work?
Both your agency management system and your carrier partners must participate for you to have eDocs and Messages capability. Currently, seven different agency management systems offer the tool. If both you and your carrier support eDocs and Messages, a typical workflow follows this simple path:
Convincing your carrier partners
Unfortunately, agents cannot use this tool if their carriers do not offer it. Talk to your carriers. eDocs and Messages offer them many benefits. Two main points to promote are:
How to get started
First, see if your agency management system provider offers eDocs and Messages. Next, see if your carrier also offers this tool. If your agency system provides eDocs and Messages, and your carriers do too, sign into IVANS Exchange and indicate that you “want” the eDocs and Messages download on your agency’s Connection Report.
If your carrier currently does not offer the tool, ask them to implement it.
For additional information
eDocs and Messages excel – add attached excel
eDocs and Messages – NetVU University (Note: Will need NetVU login credentials to access)
NetVU’s Industry Playbook provides an overview of the priorities that the industry-at-large is impacted by. The Playbook provides insights on how these initiatives are affecting NetVU Members / Vertafore Users, and provides guidance for how to consider options that will lead to efficiency, effectiveness and profitability when these initiatives are adopted.