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Real-Time Survey: Independent Agents Outline Real-Time Priorities


Posted on 12 Jan 2012

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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 (www.getrealtime.org) 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).
 
Six of 10 respondents gave "additional carriers with real-time capabilities" a "5" on the five-point scale. Nearly half (45%) 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 (51% gave it a "5"), showing the importance to agents of having consistent real-time workflows across their carriers.
 
Broader Implementation


"The insurance industry has made worthy strides over the last few years in standardizing workflows by implementing Real Time through their agency management system and/or comparative rater," said Cal Durland, CPCU, director of member relations at ACORD, a Real Time/Download Campaign sponsor. "This has saved agents and brokers time and money, especially when compared with going from carrier portal to carrier portal.

"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," added Durland, who also is the AUGIE (ACORD-Users Groups Information Exchange) facilitator. "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."

The second-highest priority agents and brokers identified in the survey was "faster response time," cited as a "5" by 52% of respondents and placed in the top-three priorities by 44% of agents surveyed. "Agents see significant time-saving benefits from those carriers that implement "best practice" real-time workflows," said Jeff Yates, executive director of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America's Agents Council for Technology (ACT), another campaign sponsor.

"When carriers and vendors implement 'best-practice' real-time workflows, agents can serve their clients faster," Yates said. "Efficient real-time implementations also increase agent usage of the functionality, helping carriers achieve their goals of enhanced "ease of doing business" and reducing the demand on their own call centers, which represents a significant insurance company expense."

Guide for Carriers & Vendors

To help insurance companies and vendors understand better 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 Syracuse, N.Y.-based 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."

Teresa Addy, business technology analyst at campaign sponsor EMC Insurance Companies, who helped create the report, added: "Our goal was to show carriers that are new to Real Time-and those that are expanding their offerings-the best way to go. By eliminating dependence on proprietary websites and offering a consistent agency workflow, carriers can help build a more efficient agency system, drive increased business, and deliver enhanced service to agents and insureds."

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. Other resources are available at the campaign website, www.getrealtime.org.

Additional Priorities

Other suggested improvements and the percentage of survey participants who rated each one's priority as a "5" include:

Additional Priorities

Other suggested improvements and the percentage of survey participants who rated each one's priority as a "5" include:
    •    Easier password management, 41%.
    •    Commercial lines real-time comparative rating, 41%.
    •    Reduction of real-time quote requests that error out, 44%.
Agents and brokers placed high value on real-time improvements that empowered them to handle their business processes more quickly, such as "ability to receive a quote back into the agency management system rather than just bridging to carrier website to complete quote," rated a "5" by 42% of agents. Forty-three percent gave a "5" to "improved inquiry functionality that allows agent to link back to complete transaction for client (such as from billing inquiry to make a payment, etc.)."

Thirty-nine percent of those responding rated "improved personal lines endorsement processing" a "5" priority and 34% identified "improved commercial lines endorsement processing" as a "5."

Open-ended survey responses showed strong consensus around specific improvements agents wanted on endorsement processing. Many mentioned linking to the specific carrier page where they wanted to make a change, securing an immediate acknowledgment of the change, and the ability to transfer amended data from the agency management system directly to the carrier's system and back. Other suggestions addressed getting to standardized formats for ease of use and training, and getting immediate and accurate pricing.

Agents continue to be primarily focused on continuing to broaden and improve real-time transactions between the agency and the carrier, putting less emphasis at the current time on the "extension of real-time service capability to clients through agency website portal." Only 26% of the agents rated this client oriented real-time functionality a "5" and just 10% placed it in their top-three priorities.

The survey also offered agents and brokers one last opportunity to mention any other priorities they had for improvement to real-time tools. In addition to re-emphasizing other topics like carrier participation, speed and password management, many respondents listed expanded "claims download" as extremely important to their businesses.

One agent summarized the thoughts of many by saying, "Claims upload and download should be a huge priority. For example, we have just been through Hurricane Irene and we are taking hundreds of auto and home claims. We don't have time to waste during a major storm. We need upload from our system directly into the carrier systems, and download of the data back to us."
 
About the Real Time/Download Campaign
 
Launched in 2007, the Real Time/Download Campaign (www.getrealtime.org) is dedicated to improving the competitiveness of the independent agency distribution channel. The campaign isn't advocating a specific technology, but a workflow approach that frees up more time for agencies to sell, process and service business. Most agents can leverage tools already contained in their agency management systems or comparative raters.

Campaign participants include agents, brokers, carriers, technology providers, user groups, and agent and industry associations. The campaign is led by industry groups and sponsored financially by: ACORD and the ACORD-User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE); Allied Property & Casualty Insurance/Nationwide; Applied Systems; Applied Systems Client Network (ASCnet); Artizan Internet Services; CNA; EMC Insurance Companies; Erie Insurance; Grange Insurance; Harleysville; The Hartford; Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) and its Agents Council for Technology (ACT); IVANS; Liberty Mutual Agency Corporation; MetLife Auto & Home; Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU); PIA of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut & New Hampshire; Progressive; Travelers; Vertafore; and Westfield Insurance.


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