March 2, 2021
The Key to Agency Management Systems
by Paul Legutko and Emerson Davis
Insurers must be flexible, to understand what kinds of integrations would be most valuable to agents.
Digital capabilities are more important than ever across all parts of the insurance ecosystem. That includes the world of principals and producers, who rely on agency management systems (AMS) to serve as a workbench for their main activities: selling insurance, managing clients and managing themselves.
While some vendors have slowly expanded the capabilities of their core offering, others have integrated with larger, agency-focused suites of stand-alone software solutions that offer a broader range of capabilities to speed up transactions, automate processes and create a better overall experience for agents. Insurance carriers that consider agents’ ease of doing business one of their differentiators will likely have to integrate with these platforms at a minimum.
Insurers may use AMS solutions for internal MGAs or agencies, but the primary overall users of these platforms are independent insurance agents. Modern AMS platforms are designed with these agencies in mind. Originally, these solutions began as enterprise resource planning platforms, but now they act as day-to-day workbenches. Carriers that want to improve overall agent relationships, which ultimately leads to better policyholder relationships and retention, need to consider how their products, processes and policy information will be part of these AMS ecosystems.
General Functionality of an AMS
While smaller agencies usually turn to an AMS that offers capabilities like advanced lead management and carrier connectivity, larger agencies are more likely to take a component-based approach and select a software suite with a broader range of solutions. These differences are not unlike the differences in core systems approaches taken by larger and smaller insurers.
The difference in AMS purchasing approaches can cause some confusion about what functionality an AMS should offer, but there are three general categories of functionality that any solution, whether stand-alone or suite component, should cover: selling insurance, servicing customers and managing the agency itself.
AMS platforms help with selling insurance policies by tracking prospects, managing leads, understanding appetite, automating communications and generating quotes, among other capabilities. They can help service customers through capabilities like serving as a central record of customer activity (e.g., changes in policy, billing, claims, etc.). AMS solutions can also help improve operational efficiency by facilitating agent workflow, tracking calendars and deadlines, managing alerts or tracking individual and aggregate agent activity.
Sales capabilities in an AMS include functions like managing leads, generating quotes, reporting underwriting appetite, automating emails, creating and storing templates for communications, managing the pipeline, marketing integration and integration capabilities (or APIs) with insurers’ portals.
Quoting and underwriting appetite has become an area of focus for agents because omni-channel approaches are becoming the norm. Agents are also relying on AMS platforms to manage mobile messaging and social media posts, not just email and phone. In some cases, this might require insurers pre-approving templates or implementing software that can monitor compliance through a direct integration with the AMS or through workflow steps. AMS platforms are also commonly offering “next-best action” recommendations built on analysis of touchpoints and customer responses to marketing initiatives.
When it comes to servicing insurance customers, AMS platforms typically offer download from/upload to insurers, execution and recording of endorsements, document management, ACORD forms, policy information updates, contact information maintenance, the storage of billing information, bill pay, monitoring of claims and record of payments. The platforms can also automatically alert agents when there are any service concerns that need their attention.
Agents prefer platforms that make it easy to conduct all of their business through one interface, so allowing integration between agent portals and AMS platforms is a wise option for insurers. Agents and insurers alike are focused on the customer experience, meaning that AMS platforms should keep track of all policyholder interactions across the insurance life cycle.
Ease of upload to insurance carrier systems can also be a differentiator; a recent Novarica study showed that 38% of young agents’ AMS platforms did not include upload ability, but they would like to have that capability. Consistent data across insurers and agents can improve customer service for inquiries as simple as updating contact information to more complex interactions like filing a claim.
See also: How Carrier Tech Drives Agency Change
Agency management is a basic tenet of an AMS, and each platform should include some form of workflow management; monitoring of compliance, credentials and license; commissions tracking; general ledger and accounting; dashboards that show agent performance; data and analytics functionality; and sales and technology training. As AMS platforms have evolved to keep up with platform and industry trends, so have these capabilities.
Regulation is top of mind for most insurers, and AMS solutions can help maintain compliance through monitoring and managing agent credentials and licensure. An AMS can produce reports and send alerts to ensure that agents are staying up to date with their licenses. AMS platforms can also help agents with their workflow management, including laying out process steps, milestones, dependencies and approvals.
These components are becoming increasingly sophisticated; insurers looking to simplify agents’ day-to-day work should be clear about which steps require touchpoints with the carrier so the AMS can be configured properly. Some AMS platforms offer analytics capabilities to help improve sales and retention for agents and their overall agencies, routing particular opportunities to the agent who is best equipped for that specific lead.
The marketplace for AMS platforms is broad, and agencies have plenty of options to choose from. Insurers therefore cannot routinely predict which AMS platforms the majority of their independent agents are using. Instead, insurers have to stand ready to be flexible — with data APIs, integration with connectivity platforms, easy download capabilities, readily available digital assets and, above all, a willingness to listen to their agents and understand what kinds of integrations would be most valuable and helpful to them.