With a continuing soft market and very competitive conditions creating profitability pressures, it is more important than ever for carriers to optimize their relationships with independent agents. Carriers are focusing on growth strategies, expense reduction, and improving underwriting results. They are expanding channels and appointing new agents. And they are looking for innovative ways to optimize and motivate their current distribution model to drive more revenue.
Strong relationships with agents are generally correlated with high production from agents. Beyond encouraging a solid personal relationship with an underwriter, which often depends on chemistry, what can a carrier do to systematically build a stronger connection with an agent and thereby obtain additional premium production?
Some of the packaged solutions available in the marketplace also include underwriter workbench elements, providing an environment for underwriters to interact with submitted applications, or rating engines, which generate rates. Other agent portals are designed to front-end existing underwriting and/or rating systems. Many include optional underwriting and rating components, so the insurer has the choice of maintaining its current internal environment. Some also provide customer portal elements, providing quote capabilities to the consumer from the same platform as the agent portal.
Consider a strategy for consumer-to-agent bridging. Channel-preservation strategies include assigning policies that were quoted through the consumer Website to agents at the point of pre-issuance and/or post-issuance. Include this functionality in your agent portal, or design your portal with this type of functionality in mind.
Select technologies and solutions that will allow shared components across your consumer and agent portals. Maximize re-use of screens, product definitions, and integration with web services and core systems. Use common functional components, such as the rating engine, document creation, and document management, to simplify your environment and minimize maintenance and enhancement efforts.
Plan for feedback. Define a process to track and manage agent feedback before implementation. Informal feedback mechanisms can cause inaccurate information to spread, inappropriate escalation, and general organizational swirl. Define a process and designate an accountable person to manage the feedback process. Clearly communicate the feedback process to all agent-facing staff. And remember, you can’t make everyone happy.
Use performance-monitoring tools and services. There are a lot of moving parts in connectivity between agencies and carriers, and there are lots of potential bottlenecks.