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August 15, 2016

3 Ways to Improve Agent/Insurer Links

Summary:

While digital has created huge efficiencies for agents, three underutilized approaches provide opportunities for even bigger gains.

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As a lover of all things tech, I also love science. Recently, while thinking about the future of the insurance industry, I was taken back to something I learned about in my sixth grade science class: the concept of mutualism, where two species “work together” and each benefits from the relationship. For instance, an oxpecker (a kind of bird) eat ticks off the bodies of large mammals, such as a hippo, zebra or giraffe.

The concept of mutualism is being embraced by some of the world’s most successful companies. In fact, perceptive leaders at P&G, Nestlé and GE Digital have all recognized that mutuality and interdependence with partners fuels growth.

So how does mutualism apply to the independent insurance channel?

While huge efficiencies have been gained by insurers and independent agents who are using digital technology for internal process automation, this alone is simply not enough to grow and thrive. We live in digitally driven, hyper-connected times. Thus, it is critical for agents and insurers to extend their use of technology beyond their own offices and form an insurance ecosystem whereby everyone involved — agents, insurers, MGAs, wholesalers and, ultimately, insureds — wins.

Digitally connected agents and insurers can exchange accurate data for quoting, market identification, underwriting, billing and customer service. Agents can work more efficiently with insurers to provide access to advice, product range, insurer choice and localized personal service. Ultimately, there are better, mutually beneficial relationships between agents and insurers, which increases the value of their service to insureds.

As key business partners in the insurance lifecycle, agents and insurers have an irrefutable interdependence on one another and therefore have a stake in each other’s success. To fully capitalize on this mutualism and fuel growth, agents and insurers must increase their connections by using automated data exchange technologies such as download and real-time and market search tools that will reduce expenses, speed service and strengthen business relationships.

See also: Why the Agent Will NOT Be Disrupted  

The good news for agencies and carriers is that all of these connectivity services are available today:

  1. Download: This data exchange solution enables insurers to automate delivery of information from their systems directly into an agency management system. Download eliminates the need to rekey data into multiple insurer web portals to verify information. Recent research indicates 60% of agents save at least one hour per day using ACORD eDocs and ACORD Messages download services. With more than 1.8 million download connections available and only 41% activated, there is immense opportunity for agencies to take advantage of the time-saving and customer service benefits of receiving all available download services from your insurers.
  2. Real-time rating, service inquiry and claims: An automated data exchange can provide instantaneous lookup of data in an insurer system from within an agency management system or comparative rater, enabling agencies to quote; inquire on a policy, bill or claim; submit a First Notice of Loss; obtain loss runs; and more in real time. By making these requests through the management system, agencies can reduce duplicate keystrokes and respond to clients quickly and easily, without having to log into an insurer web portal or waste an insurer’s time responding to one-off requests. This not only saves time and effort by eliminating manual entry, it also minimizes errors, provides an E&O trail within the agency management system and enables agencies to deliver rapid, more efficient service to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. According to the 2013 Agency & Brokerage Technology Survey, agents recognize 53 minutes of time savings per employee per day when using real-time tools. With more insurers adopting real-time technology for comparative rating and service, they can increase the opportunity to showcase the advice and value of working with an independent agent by providing clients and prospects the best policy options and overall improved customer service.
  3. Market search tools: These can enable you to find more and better markets for an insured’s risk. A long-time industry challenge has been identifying and easily communicating insurer appetite for commercial risks. The process has historically been costly both in time and money, and nearly 60% of commercial submissions are declined by insurers. Automated technology available today matches insurers and agents based on appetite for new risks and renewals using a Google-like search. Market search tools increase insurers’ in-appetite submissions and improve an agency’s productivity by reducing time spent on traditional ways of identifying market appetite, such as referencing outdated insurer risk guides, accessing insurer websites, historical agent experience or directly contacting individual underwriters.

See also: Find Your Voice as an Insurance Agent

As key business partners in the insurance lifecycle, agents and insurers depend on one another and, therefore, have a stake in each other’s success. To fully capitalize on this mutualism and fuel growth, agents and insurers must increase their connections.

To further explore how insurer connectivity can drive greater business success, download Applied’s Insurer Connectivity ebook now.

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About the Author

Thad Bauer, vice president and general manager of IVANS Insurance Solutions, has had 25 years of property and casualty experience and has played a key role in furthering the adoption of ACORD standards to exchange data within the industry to improve efficiencies.

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