Breaking down agency management systems.
If you're in the business of commercial insurance, you know the challenges of agency management software. You're looking for a single platform that increases efficiency and improves client retention.
Unfortunately, agency management software routinely falls short. Every agency owner asks me, “Which management system do you recommend?...Because mine sucks.” The interfaces are outdated, the outages are frequent, and you often have time to go to lunch and come back before your page loads. There is legacy infrastructure, updates are infrequent, and client engagement is minimal. All too often, a sizable investment winds up underutilized, as your team is unable to fully embrace all the features that come with it.
What should insurance agency management software offer?
Whichever AMS you choose, it should provide a package of services that helps your agency operate more efficiently and generate true ROI. Let's start by breaking down key elements we think agency management software should deliver, and help you decide if yours fails to meet expectations.
Table Stakes—Customer, Contact & Policy Information (Bonus for Document Management)
At its core, an AMS is a place to store customer information, contact information and policy information. A reasonable addition is the ability to store customer or policy related documents (e.g. insurance applications, policy documents, signed authorizations)
On top of this basic functionality you’ll need a few management features like reporting and activity logging.
Reporting is easier said than done, of course. Simple reporting could include things like a list of clients with active policies or a list of clients in a certain location or with a certain type of policy. More advanced reporting would allow you to benchmark your clients using things like industry & revenue. Good luck finding anything like that.
Finally, activity logging is crucial for E&O coverage. You need a record of all of your client communications to protect yourself in the event of a claim.
Value Added Capabilities—Sales & Accounting
A GOOD management system will also help you handle key business functions like sales & accounting.
From a sales perspective, you need an easy way to track opportunities and forecast revenue. But insurance sales are different then traditional sales in that you have both new opportunities and renewal opportunities. Simple automation can help to create the renewal opportunities and set their close dates and values.
A great Customer Relationship Management tool can be a defining component part of your AMS. Yet, too often, they leave users underwhelmed and fail to generate the kind of positive client experience that increases retention.
The CRM tools should also integrate easily with other platforms, whether it's application and renewal software like Broker Budda, your email suite, graphing tools, reporting applications, or your calendar. Your AMS is meant to be an engine for your agency, and not operate as a silo.
And don’t forget your accounting department. Insurance accounting is complicated as hell. Each carrier has their own commission schedule. Each producer has their own commission schedule. Some invoices are sent by and paid to the carrier and you have to invoice them for your commission. Some are sent by and paid to the agency and you have to deduct your commission and send the difference to the carrier. You need some way to track all this and manage your books. It’s hard!
Interaction with Clients and Carriers
A GREAT management system will interface well with organizations outside of yours, in particular your carrier partners and your clients.
One key feature for carrier interfaces is the ability to download policy data directly from the carrier. This keeps your systems in sync with carrier systems so you can be in the best position to support your clients. Bonus if the AMS also supports carrier upload (e.g. submitting data for quotes)
On the client side, a great AMS will have an intuitive interface for clients to access policy data, apply for coverage, request changes and file claims. It should also have a simple way to initiate and log outbound client communications as well as their responses (see earlier note about E&O).
Data: Reporting, APIs, Partnerships and Third-Party Software
The BEST management systems will have modern APIs allowing you to read and write information and support for integration with 3rd party products like:
- Xero, Quickbooks
- Gmail, Outlook
- Broker Buddha
Sadly, no AMS does this well today.
In a business built around data, insurance agencies need accurate reporting and access to their own data. Trouble is, collecting all that information to create reports can be time-consuming and woefully inefficient.
An AMS needs to do more than simply be a place to input data—it needs to help insurance professionals compile all of it in a way that is useful. Too often, data is collected but organized in a way that makes it difficult to use.
If your AMS is not delivering reports or tools that make your operations more efficient, it is underperforming. And frankly, that's probably most Agency Management Systems.
Secure and Accessible Data
Many legacy Agency Management Systems are woefully dated, and have failed to evolved as the world around them has changed. Not only is the software often painful to use, many of the major players hold your agency data hostage. Data ownership is a huge issue.
And without an open platform, you may not even have access to your own agency information. It's why so many agencies, after investing in an AMS, wind up turning to a solution such as Salesforce as a workaround for their data.
What's more, maintaining the security of data is a constant, evolving effort. The companies that offer your AMS need to provide safeguards that protect it now, and in the future.
Don't simply assume the largest or most established insurance AMS is the best choice for your agency. If it's an outdated, largely back-office platform, you can find yourself regretting your investment.
Finally, every agency needs a workflow management solution of some kind. The more people in your agency, the more important it is to have workflows defined and tracking using collaboration tools. What’s the next step in renewing a policy? Whose is responsible? When does it need to be completed? Having all of these things locked down go a long way to running an effective & efficient agency. Management systems with workflow tools integrated are the true holy grail for an agency.
The promise of technology is always greater efficiency and higher productivity. To achieve both, an AMS should eliminate high-touch, manual entry tasks, and replace them with automation that saves time and eliminates human error.
A powerful AMS should create a set-it-and-forget-it mindset. Or more accurately, set-it-so-you-never-forget-it. Automated email reminders should be easy to establish, so messages are sent directly to agency personnel when important dates are looming.
Too often, an AMS still forces agents and brokers to input data manually. As much as possible, the AMS should capture available information automatically and move it into the appropriate fields.
Which AMS should you choose?
The right technology is a true difference maker in the agency business. Too often, firms find the performance of their AMS underwhelming.
That's unfortunate, since the COVID-19 era has only increased the need for this industry to embrace technology. Remote work forces, fewer in-person meetings, stressed-out clients who want a seamless customer experience—the challenges created by the pandemic have made the need to fully digitize operations even more pressing.
If you are considering an Agency Management System, ask plenty of questions about it. If you're already operating with one, can you improve it by integrating it with other software? Remember, the whole reason to have an AMS is to increase the efficiency of your team, enhance the customer experience, and generate more customer loyalty.
Does yours deliver? Or is it a dud?
Tuesday, January 5, 2021