Back in the day, a one-person independent agency could get by with a desk, a chair and a telephone.
But what tech tools today are as indispensable as the typewriter, fax machine and desk phone were in the past? What are the must-have, can’t-live-without tools that independent insurance agents are using every day to conduct basic business and market and promote their firms?
We took an informal poll at several LinkedIn agent groups to determine what constitutes essential technology in today’s agencies and have come up with a short list of some of the favorites.
Using smartphones as a basic method of conducting business is a way of life, especially among young agents—although old-school tools like copiers, scanners and even fax machines are still in use back at the office.
“iPhones are our smartphone of choice, mostly because of ease of use. We have also been using Evernote for creating presentation notes and keeping up with activities.”—Joe Cerzosie, owner, Lexington Insurance Agency Inc.
“We couldn’t live without smartphones and our multifunctional copier, which handles our copying/scanning/faxing/printing. We don’t use the fax function much because we use cyber-faxing, but it is more convenient to use an old-fashioned fax sometimes.”—Angelyn S. Treutel, president, SouthGroup Insurance, Bay Saint Louis, Miss.
2. E-signature software
With mobile technology comes the necessity to procure customer signatures on virtual documents. Although there are a number of products on the market, users are primarily concerned about security and ease of use.
“Docusign (an easy e-signature service) is the best thing to come along since sliced bread, the phone, fax and iPhone! Simply amazing: just wrote [a policy] up the other day while [clients] were camping!”—Michael Randles, owner, Insurance Center Associates, Greater Los Angeles area
3. Project-management and document-sharing software
Successful insurance agents understand the importance of a management system that enables them to use the Internet to collaborate with associates and organize and share documents.
”I’m using Basecamp to collaborate with my agents on different initiatives we are working on. It’s a nice, simple little Web tool.”—Aaron Wallrich, vice president, Wallrich Agency, Oshkosh, Wis.
“Dropbox makes moving and sharing documents of any size easy and efficient, between PCs, Macs, iPhones, etc. Free version is more than enough to be useful.”—Charles Joiner, vice president, claims and operations, The Insurance Alliance of Central Pa. Inc.
4. Screen-sharing technology
This is a must for working remotely and collaborating with folks back at the office.
“One of the greatest tools that I love is screen-sharing technology (WebEx, GoToMeeting). From an efficiency and a getting-your-point-across perspective, nothing beats it. With the time savings from using my favorite technologies, I now have more time to figure out this social-media stuff.”—Michael Rabinowitz, risk solutions consultant, RFK Insurance
5. Dictation software
With the need for blogging, tweeting and otherwise churning out content, writing is essential. But who has time? The solution is using dictation software to capture your thoughts and turn them into the written word.
While I was at Aartrijk Brand Camp, Jason Cass, owner and agent of JDC Insurance Group in Centralia, Ill., said he uses Dragon Dictation app on his smartphone to compose blog content and capture thoughts—three times faster than typing, according to Dragon’s Website.
6. Hardware Shout-outs
Some old-school pieces like keyboards and fax/scanners are still essential. In-house staffers find using dual monitors to be especially efficient.
“If you are speaking strictly hardware, my favorite is my keyboard. A great keyboard (mine: Microsoft Arc) is an essential productivity tool.”—Michael Rabinowitz
“My Fujitsu Scansnap S300 double-sided scanner is and has been one of the most productive timesavers I own. I owe a shout-out to Phil Schmitz from Schmitz Insurance for steering me in the right direction with this technology.—Jim Wright, owner, Wright Insurance Agency Inc., Greater Milwaukee Area.