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.