Distribution and Agent Portals

Agents and Carriers Must Collaborate on Download

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Quality customer service throughout the buying chain is key to customer retention and loyalty. Policyholders expect it from their agents, and if they don’t get it, they’ll find a different agency to work with. Worse yet, they’ll go with a direct online provider, (which is a whole other blog). The same goes for agents and their carriers. If a carrier does not offer the tools agents need to keep their agency management system (AMS) up to date with their policyholders’ information, agents will place business with an insurer that does.

Louisa RogersAgents and Carriers Must Collaborate on Download
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Novarica’s recent research findings is music to our ears

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We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops since we opened our doors for business:

Carriers that make it easy for agents to do business with them see more and better business from those agents.

Our technology is rooted in the belief. In 2009, we traveled over 1,500 miles in 30 days to visit 66 agencies to learn exactly what carriers (and the vendors that support them) can do to further the cause. And it didn’t stop there. Our in-house Agent Insight Team continues today to bring the latest agent findings to light on our dedicated website http://www.powertotheagents.com/.

Julie HoweNovarica’s recent research findings is music to our ears
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On Demand: 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers

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Stressful and frustrated Asian manager talking on telephone in oWhat better way to learn what drives Agents nuts than straight from the horse’s mouth? And that’s just what happened when Foy Insurance president, Mike Foy, and the head of our Agent Insight Team, Caleen Alexanderson, got together with ACORD  for the webcast “The Top 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers.” And it’s now available on demand!

Louisa RogersOn Demand: 10 Things that Drive Agents Nuts Working with Carriers
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A Look Back at 2015

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Spreading holiday cheer to the kids at DCF Roxbury

Spreading holiday cheer to the kids at DCF Roxbury

As we count down the final weeks of 2015, there is a lot to be thankful for at Agencyport:

  • Seven new customers
  • Surpassing of our financial goals for the 2nd year running
  • The addition of Fil Firmani, SVP of Product and Strategy, to the team
  • Articulation of our digital and omni-channel strategy
  • The most robust three-year, fully-funded product roadmap in Agencyport history
  • Two new AgencyPortal releases adding UX functionality based on Agent Insight to satiate the needs of our 125,000+ agent users
  • 18 Agent Insight visits
  • Our 200,000th Turnstile form in production—with over 130,000,000 keystrokes saved
  • Five ACORD awards
  • The addition of enough ACORD Certified Experts (ACEs) for us to claim more ACEs than any other vendor
  • A milestone 10th Agencyport Annual Conference—according many, the best yet
  • An official partnership with policy administration leader Accenture Duck Creek
  • The launch of our Customer Insight program, with four customers already signed on
  • Two successful hackathons, resulting in dozens of new ideas and more than ten solutions added to our Shared Solutions Repository

Not bad for twelve months. I’m extremely fortunate and proud to be a part of this team, and fired up about what is around the corner in 2016.

 

Curt StevensonA Look Back at 2015
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Eastern Alliance Reduces Manual Underwriting Steps by 70%

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Underwriting process inefficiency is a common concern for carriers, even those with a web-based agent portal. Because many agents still prefer to email new business submissions, underwriting technicians are often required to rekey submitted data into their portal—putting extra pressure on the underwriting staff and slowing the process. Eastern Alliance Insurance Group, a leading workers’ compensation insurer, was one such carrier.

Earlier this year, Eastern partnered with us to implement Turnstile®, our ACORD PDF form-to-XML SaaS conversion solution. Adding Turnstile to its underwriting process achieved two goals for the carrier:

  • To streamline underwriting workflow, and
  • To continue to allow agents to submit new business in their preferred manner—via AgencyPortal® or email.

The initiative has resulted in significant improvements and benefits in several areas:

  • A decrease in the manual new business process from 20 steps to 6 steps—a 70% reduction
  • Freed up time for underwriters to take on new projects and responsibilities
  • The ability to capture important location and geographical data, reducing work for underwriters later in the process
  • Simplified training of underwriting technicians

Learn more about Eastern’s new efficiencies and abilities in this case study.

Louisa RogersEastern Alliance Reduces Manual Underwriting Steps by 70%
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Learn how State Auto simplified online new business processes for its agent partners

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SMA Research, Insurance Ecosystem 2015

SMA Research, Insurance Ecosystem 2015

It’s no secret that many insurance carriers are lagging when it comes to a modern, digital new business process. Agent and consumer expectations around online experiences have soared ahead of many insurers’ capabilities. The good news is that insurers know it.

The number one strategic initiative and investment for 85% of North American insurers in 2015 was customer engagement and experience (SMA Research, Insurance Ecosystem 2015). Tier 1 P&C carrier State Auto acknowledged the demand and set two goals to promote new business: 1) increase overall agent satisfaction and 2) simplify and modernize its agents’ web-based experience.

With the implementation of AgencyPortal® and E-SignLive from Silanis, State Auto Insurance Companies has reduced its cost of managing paper by 90%, increased its quote volume by 50-70%, and seen a 72% increase in new business.

Join us, State Auto, Silanis Technology, and PropertyCasualty360 for a free on demand webinar where you will learn:

  • Digital workflow best practices for ease-of-use
  • Top portal and e-signature requirements to consider
  • Change management best practices to achieve high adoption (State Auto reached 50% in just 10 days!)

Enjoy!

Louisa RogersLearn how State Auto simplified online new business processes for its agent partners
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4 Questions P&C Carriers Should Ask Portal Vendors

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Once reserved exclusively for complex Tier One carriers, frontend agent and consumer portals have become and industry norm—a competitive requirement.  But how does a carrier know which solution is best for their situation?  They ask lots of questions; and they don’t settle for vague answers.

While the frontend selection process is typically lengthy, and many aspects of due diligence are deeply technical, some of the most critical information that carriers need to understand about a vendor can be gleaned by asking a few simple, high-level business questions:

1.   Are portals a product focus for your company?

If you required open-heart surgery, would you choose a general surgeon or a cardiac specialist—a doctor who has performed a variety of operations, maybe even successfully, or one who has spent a career honing a particular set of skills for a particular set of circumstances?

When it comes to building web applications for users outside of a carrier’s four walls, a best-of-breed solution has enormous benefits. When a vendor spends years at a single craft, its team has seen myriad agent/carrier portal workflows and dynamics many times before, knows where the pitfalls are, and understands the straightest and safest path through the challenge. The more focused on portal implementations a vendor is, the lower the risk for a carrier.

2.   How is your solution designed and developed?

Understanding the business model and daily needs and habits of a portal’s end users, and designing a UX and workflow that matches those requirements at each touch point in the policy lifecycle is the single biggest influence on user adoption.

In the case of agent portals, many carriers make the mistake of either building or buying a web-based frontend designed from an internal system of record processing perspective, one that the carriers themselves are familiar with and can easily adopt internally.  The result is often a solution that makes little or no sense to the agent and her needs and workflow, making their online experience with carrier partners frustratingly slow and unintuitive.

It’s a fact, unhappy agents will take their business elsewhere.  When talking to prospective agent portal vendors, make sure you ask how much time they spend with end users understanding exactly what they need from an online experience with their carrier partners.

3.   What is your philosophy around dual maintenance between your portal and carriers’ backend systems?

Dual maintenance is a hot button. No team welcomes the prospect of keeping more than one set of data between its frontend and backend systems. To that end, minimizing dual maintenance should be every vendor’s goal. However, if one of your strategic objectives is to give each end user an experience tailored specifically to his or her needs, some degree of dual maintenance is necessary—and, in fact, valuable. Agents, brokers, MGAs, consumers, underwriters and administrators all have different process needs that require different terminology, questions, rules, limits, workflows, etc. The most successful (read: highly-adopted) portals have the flexibility to give different users and roles the online experience that is most intuitive and efficient for them.

What products do you offer; are they out-of-the-box or custom work? Just because a vendor can implement a line of business or type of transaction, does not mean that they’ve done it before.  Understanding the difference is critical for a carrier.  If a vendor indicates that it “can do that,” be sure to ask whether it is an out-of-the-box capability.  If it isn’t, carriers should consider the potential risk. Being a guinea pig is precarious business.  Each P&C line of business and the transactions associated with it is nuanced.  Rolling out any one of them quickly and safely requires extensive experience—the kind that ultimately allows a vendor to offer the element out-of-the-box.

Click here for a handy, shareable one-page version of these questions.

Julie Howe4 Questions P&C Carriers Should Ask Portal Vendors
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Ease of Quoting Expectations: It Depends on The Line

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I’m not sure what it is about New York, but it seems to have Agents who are eager to share their thoughts.  Last week, I traveled to Syracuse for our Agent Insight Initiative to visit two large agencies, adding a somewhat unusual perspective to our Insight gathering.  As large agencies, they both write business in Personal Lines and across many segments of Commercial Lines—Small, Mid, Large and Specialty.

I talked to Agents in each of the various segments and a theme soon became clear: expectations around how long it should take to quote new business, and how easy it should be vary with each line of business.

For example, the Mid/Large Commercial teams and their heavily manual processes are accustomed to the quoting process taking up to a week. In Syracuse, the process is so manual that the work is divided among producers, account reps and techs. The producers and account reps determine which carriers should see the business (eligibility) and the tech takes on the work of quoting with those carriers.  Ease of doing business is not a driver for these Agents.

And Specialty Lines was worse. Many of the agency employees in this segment log directly into carrier underwriting systems. There’s tons of potential for carriers to make improvements here. (Read an insight paper I wrote last year explaining how.)

At the other end of the spectrum was Small Commercial, where Agents make carrier selections based on ease of doing business. CSRs are key for this line as they manage the selection of which carriers they will quote with and then do all the submission work themselves. Carriers often ask us for time anecdotes around what is “good” for speed when quoting for The Small Commercial CSRs in Syracuse said 5-10 minutes for Workers’ Comp and 15-20 minutes for BOP.  A “bad portal” took 45 minutes to quote Workers’ Comp.

Each line had differing expectations for underwriting turnaround time as well. Small Commercial underwriters should get back to an agency within 24 hours. The expectation for Middle Markets is 72 hours and the Large Commercial Lines Agents were comfortable with it taking a week for an underwriter to get back to them.

With different expectations from Agent groups and lines of business, it’s especially important for carriers to know their audiences well and to assume they are not all the same. What is most important to them, if not speed or ease, and how can carriers help?

All in all, it was a very informative visit to New York.  If you want to learn more about Agent expectations, hear from them directly during our Agent Insight panel at this year’s 10th Annual Conference!

Jenn ParkerEase of Quoting Expectations: It Depends on The Line
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Agent Aggravation: Upload That Doesn’t Work

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google-search-agent-uploadDoing a Google search on “Agent Upload” quickly reveals the pain associated with the process. With auto-completes of the phrase like Agent Upload “fail,” “problems,” and “is locked,” it’s no surprise that Agents continually tell us that Upload is “broken.” But, for us technologists and carriers who’ve dedicated a lot of time to improving Upload, what’s broken exactly?

In this month’s edition of our Agent Aggravation Series, Agencyport’s Insight guru, Jenn Parker, explains what she’s hearing from Agents and offers a few solutions to help fix this nagging issue.

Read up and let us know what you think of Upload and our ongoing Agent research using the hashtag #agentsknow on your favorite social media site.

Tara DurheimAgent Aggravation: Upload That Doesn’t Work
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