An agency management system is the largest technology expense for virtually any agency regardless of the particular vendor or platform. When these systems are well managed, they help your agency maximize internal productivity and provide a better customer experience.
Unfortunately, all too often these systems are not used to their full capacity.
It’s true that agency management systems are complicated. Learning how to use all of the functionality provided takes time and effort. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many agencies and spend time watching how customer service agents do their work. I seldom meet people who don’t want to improve what they do and how they do it.
The following are some of what I’ve found to be the most commonly underutilized functions in an agency management system.
Proposals and Templates
For those systems that have an integrated proposal and template capability often an agency staff doesn’t fully take advantage of the merge functions. For example, the “mail merge” function allows you to automatically insert common boilerplate language into standard correspondence. You can also generate proposals that include policy information merged from the client’s record.
When merge templates are not well defined your staff has to take the time to edit and change the merged document. A lot of time is wasted by individuals editing single letters or proposals. This is especially problematic when proposals are created from your agency management system. How many times have you had to completely redo a proposal because the merged document was not correct?
Instead of editing each letter after it’s merged, taking the time to make sure template letters, proposals and summaries of insurance are set up correctly saves time and increases staff productivity. Be sure to have a process in place so that agency staff can notify the person who can change the template when standard language needs to be changed.
Many agency management systems have a module that tracks the account submissions made to insurance companies. Tracking carrier-specific information about the submissions you’ve made provides agency management with valuable information that you can use to enhance your relationship with each carrier you represent. The type of information tracked can include: the number of submissions, the number of declines to quote, how many submissions were quoted but not sold by the agency, and the accounts quoted and sold by the agency. This information helps you have an intelligent discussion with each insurance company to make sure the agency is sending the type of business the carrier actually wants. It also helps the carrier understand where its pricing is not in line with market conditions. Insurance companies track this information about agencies. You should too.
Communication also goes by the name of download and real-time. Fully using all of the upload/download/real-time functions available to the agency continues to be a challenge. Improvements are constantly made in the number of insurance companies implementing these functions. You should make sure that your agency is fully using all the various carrier communications capabilities available.
Every keystroke saved is an increase in productivity and profitability.
Any agency that has an IVANS account (a mailbox) can request a customized report specifically generated for that agency. The report lists the insurance companies with whom the agency has an existing download relationship. Included for each insurance company are all of the current capabilities and the amount of transactions being used by agency staff.
This report provides agency management with a real-time picture into the functions currently being used in the agency. One agency manager I spoke with requests this report quarterly so he can make sure the agency is maximizing the productivity benefits available. Complete details on how to request the report is available here.
Ensuring Accurate Data
Agency management systems provide places (fields) to store a tremendous amount of information about clients and prospects. I audit a lot of agency system databases and find that many agencies don’t have quality data. Incomplete or inaccurate data impacts agency productivity. We recommend that agencies audit their system database regularly to make sure the data being entered into the agency’s system is complete and accurate.
If the basic information within the agency database is not accurate and consistent then any reports generated from the bad data will not be useful. Agency owners often complain to me that they’re not able to obtain the information from their system that they need to effectively manage the agency. Often the problem can be traced to bad data.
Many agencies continue to use the standard reports included with their management system. You should explore additional reports that might be available to help you better manage your agency.
One example is the monthly production report. Agencies often use some other means (like an Excel spreadsheet) to track new business and monthly commissions. You should be able to pull this information directly from your management system and eliminate the redundant data entry. Many reports can now be exported from the management system directly into spreadsheets for specific analysis.
Several years ago, if you didn’t like a report you were stuck with it—no customization. Many systems now provide report-writing functionality that allows you to more easily create custom reports. Make sure you understand the report options that are available within your system and how you can use these options to create custom reports for your clients as well as for internal use.
Steps to Maximize Your System
1. Inventory all the processes you currently have in your agency. You may not realize the workarounds created in the past to solve a problem that are no longer needed.
2. Research what’s actually available within your system today. Vendors are constantly adding new functionality so make sure you know what you already have that you could be using but are not.
3. Take advantage of user group information. Connect with other users of your system and ask what their top three new features are and how they use them.
4. Create a reward program to encourage staff to come up with new ideas or better ways to improve productivity and the client experience.
I hope this article has given you some ideas on areas in your particular agency management system that you should explore to make sure your staff is getting the full benefit of your investment.
The Following are additional information and resources about how to most effectively use insurance technology in your organization: