From the January 23-30, 2012 issue of National Underwriter Property & Casualty • Subscribe!

Survey Reveals Agents Desire More Carriers With Real-Time Capabilities

Independent agents and brokers place the highest priority on getting more insurance carriers to offer real-time interface functionality to ease workflow issues in their agencies, according to a recent Real Time/Download Campaign survey. 

More than 3,100 survey participants from every state were asked to prioritize 11 possible enhancements to real-time programs and tools, using a five-point scale. The survey then asked agents to choose their top-three priority items, drawing from the list they had just identified with a “5” (most important).

Sixty percent of the respondents gave “additional carriers with real-time capabilities” a 5. Nearly half (45 percent) put “broader carrier participation” in their top-three priorities as well. About one-third also placed having “consistent lines of business/real-time functions offered across carriers” in their top-three priorities.

According to the survey, agents want to use real-time even more, but the failure of some carriers to offer the functionality leads to multiple workflows, which makes them less competitive, according to Cal Durland, director of member relations at ACORD, a Real Time/Download Campaign sponsor.

“To take it to the next level, agents say they want more of their preferred carriers to work with them in real time and to offer the full range of real-time transactions across the major lines of business. It’s becoming a differentiator when agents choose where to place business,” says Durland.

The second-highest priority agents and brokers identified in the survey was “faster response time,” cited as a 5 by 52 percent of respondents and placed in the top-three priorities by 44 percent of agents surveyed.

“When carriers and vendors implement ‘best-practice’ real-time workflows, agents can serve their clients faster,” says Jeff Yates, executive director of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s Agents Council for Technology, another campaign sponsor.

To help insurance companies and vendors better understand how to implement real-time and the best-practice real-time workflows that agents seek, the campaign brought together industry volunteers to identify and document current carrier best practices, as well as how agents would like to see real-time evolve in the future.

“Agents and brokers who served on the Agency Real-Time Experience Work Group looked at what is working on the front lines,” said work-group chair Cyndy Smith, vice president at Haylor, Freyer, Coon and past co-chair of the campaign. “Then we worked with carriers and vendors to create a report that shows how these successful practices could be more broadly implemented.”

The recently published guide, titled “Agency Real-Time Best Practice Workflows and Implementation Strategies: Guidance for Carriers & Vendors,” reviews key issues and shares information for carriers that wish to offer the tools agents and brokers require to compete with direct writers. It is available online at http://bit.ly/tjtNBh.

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