Five Ways To Improve Agency Workflow How can weindependent agents increase revenues in todays hard market withcompanies cutting commissions, non-renewing accounts andtransferring work to the agent via Web sites that are supposed tomake our jobs easier?

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Here are five ways you can leverage technology today to maximizeefficiency in your office. When you improve workflow you save time,and that results in saving money.

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When you start analyzing your current processes, keep a time logof how long each transaction is taking. When you finish themodification of your workflow, time the transaction again. If youare successful, the time spent on the process will decrease. Theresult over timeincreased revenue per employee.

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1. Let Go of the Paper. Sure, I know its hard.But technology today is enabling us to finally be literallypaper-free. So embrace it; free yourself. Yes, we can file bytransaction (or “T-file”). But what is the bulk of T-file?

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Some agents trying to rid themselves and their agency of excesspaper are scanning policy declarations. Whether you put it in thefile cabinet or on the file server, paper is eating up yourvaluable space. Todays technology allows us to turn off theplethora of paper being spit out at the insurance carrier to bemailed to agents.

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Many companies have made policy inquiry functions available attheir Web sites. A few outstanding companies actually have made theWeb site function of policy inquiry pull information in a PDF filedirectly into an agency management system.

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How does this impact your workflow? Imagine if you could pointand click and see the actual policy declarations on your screen.All the endorsements and policy attachments are at your fingertips.You can see them and print them or fax or e-mail them. This is notthe future; it is here today. Could we someday actually be apaperless business?

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2. Super-size Your Agency Management System. Intodays world of convenient fast food and super-sized portions, useyour agency management technology to maximize your client serviceand super-size your commission.

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Use the built-in diary system to remind you of renewals andgenerate letters to give your clients an annual insurance check up.Make sure there have been no changes in their operation and advisethem of new coverage endorsements available to add to theirorder.

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This added service positions you as the added value they arelooking for in a risk management advisor. Your clients are gettingbarraged with letters from competitors. Wouldnt it be nice to hearfrom their own insurance agent with a couple of words ofadvice?

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3. Analyze This. Have your staff write downstep-by-step how they get the job done. How do you get from point Ato point B? Often doing the same work for company X has oneworkflow and Company Y, another workflow. This is one of thefrustrations of the independent insurance agent. We want to beindependent but that means we have independent companies, whichmeans each one often does things its own way.

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Once the workflows are written, compare them. You may besurprised by the duplication of efforts. One simple task mayinvolve three or four employees, and when they get together theymay find that one or two steps are being repeated among them. Timeyour current steps and see how long the whole thing takes. Youll besurprised at the number of steps it can take and the amount of timespent on simple tasks.

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4. Pass the Buck. In the past, companies havebeen transferring work to the agent. Transfer some of your agencywork onto the customer. They want control over their owninformation and account. Banks are doing it, so why cant we?

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Give your customers access to their own accounts. Let them issuecertificates of insurance. Let them check their billing. They willlove it. Some agency management systems have components that allowclients to complete certain transactions on their own accounts.

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5. Change is OK. Dont be scared of change. Beopen to new ideas. You can always go back. Try a new idea; you maylike it.

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After you have gathered the data in your current workflows, geteveryone together for a meeting. Sit down and discuss who isresponsible for what. Decide among the staff who would be bettersuited to do what pieces of the process. Remember that no one iswrong. Dont be critical of each otherlisten and learn. Try newworkflows out. Give them a chance. It may not be smooth the firsttime, but with some tweaking it may be great.

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Technology today is allowing independent agents to create newworkflows and offer exceptional customer service. Embrace newideas. We have come a long way from typing policies, filling uppaper files and mailing applications. Today we e-mail, fax, uploadand download, click on Web sites, and transact business in realtime. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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Independent agent Jo Ann Litwin ([email protected])is with Orchard Park, N.Y.-based Litwin Castle and Christ Inc. Sheserves as regional director and liaison to the U.S. and Canadianinterface committees with the Applied Systems Client Network(ASCnet), the user group of Applied Systems agency managementtechnology.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 10, 2003.Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.


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