Upgrading an agency management system is a huge undertaking, which is why it is imperative to find the right one. The effort it takes to determine what you need, find appropriate vendors to solicit demos from and choose the right system, means the one you pick needs to work for years to come. It’s a long, involved process and not one you want to repeat often.
When looking to upgrade agency management systems, it’s important to know why you’re doing it. For most companies, the need to upgrade their systems will be tied to growth. They are either looking to expand and their current system is unable to keep up or they have already outgrown their current system and it’s no longer providing the functionality the company requires.
Most companies that upgrade their agency management system will do so to gain the following:
– Improved service
– Better performance
– Increased capacity for information
– Stronger security
– Reduced maintenance cost
– Compatibility with other companies
Before you start the search for a new system, you should appoint a small team to interview people around the office to determine what requirements the new system will need to have. System requirements can be broken down into five basic categories.
- Examples: customers’ vehicle descriptions, rating data, agency income and expense data, hard-copy documents that users scan into electronic form.
- Examples: claim reports, premium quotations, certificates of insurance, agency income statements, hard-copy or electronic insurance policies.
- Examples: accessing claim status information by claim or account number; generating commission reports shorted by producer name, account number, or line of business; producing automobile insurance premium quotations from three companies for one client.
- Examples: uploading new applications to insurance companies in real time, backing up all data in the system at a given time each night, automatically sending an e-mail reminder on a certain day of each month to producers who have not submitted expense reports for the previous month.
- Examples: requiring a second password for access to accounting records, programs that block users from visiting specified web pages, requiring management’s sign-off before writing off bad debts that exceed $250.
Once you have the system requirements, your team can research different systems, send out Requests For Information to vendors and solicit demos from those vendors. After your team has done some vendor-led demos, they can then whittle down the systems to a shortlist of three or four and then perform client-led demos, where they ask the vendors to perform specific actions that your company will need to do on a day-to-day basis. From there, your team should be able to choose the best agency management system from their shortlist.
Obviously every agency will be different, but there are a few key functionalities that most agencies will likely require.
Most agencies are heading toward a paperless work environment, so having a system that can accommodate that is crucial. The system should allow for quick and easy document scanning so even if you have a physical copy, you can turn it into a digital copy with minimal disruption. Quick and easy uploading and downloading capabilities and intuitive drag and drop functionality are also helpful.
Cloud Storage and Security
What was once a key selling feature is now standard for insurance companies and agencies, with most of them having at least a portion of their operations utilizing cloud storage. When considering cloud storage and security, look for redundant backups, around the clock security, compliance with government and industry security standards and virtually unlimited storage.
Data Synchronization and Downloads
The ability to directly connect with carriers for immediate, updated data downloading is a critical time-saving measure. Real time downloads give you access to carrier billing claims, ratings, policy information and other meaningful data.
A good system should give you the ability to manage employee and carrier passwords, connect with ACORD forms, send a policy change for quote or submission and give you access to a claim’s status.
An agency management system needs to be able to handle accounting as part of its features so you can seamlessly connect the accounting to product information, billing, payments and other income and expenses. Specifically, an agency management system should have multi-level split commission capability; branch, division and department segmentation; agency and producer reconciliation and custom reporting options.
Much of an agency’s communications is done via email and your system should be able to capture and save those communications, speeding up operations and improving service. You’ll want seamless integration with document management, ability to easily attach documents from your email system and an intuitive design and layout so it is simple to learn.
It’s a mobile world and it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the information they need while they’re away from the office. You’ll want to make sure your system is accessible through any devices your employees will be using and that accessing it with mobile devices gives them the same capabilities as when they access it through a computer. Bonus points for if it enables you to create a mobile insurance agency app that your customers can use.
No matter how functional an agency management system is, if the workflows cannot be adapted to specific agencies, it could be more burdensome than helpful. Look for a system that allows for personalized workflows, including flexible naming conventions, adaptable data entry and access paths and dashboard views that are adjustable so each person can customize it for themselves.
Comprehensive Support for All Lines of Business
Some agency management systems work well for one line of business, but falter on others. Whether you deal primarily with personal or commercial insurance or a mixture of both, your system should be able to handle it, no matter what the mix is. Mass certificate emailing, real time carrier access, integrated personal and commercial line rating and direct line downloading are functionalities to look for.
A well design system will cut the learning curve from months down to weeks. The quicker everyone can get on board with the new system, the better it is for the health of the agency. Design and functionality should be instinctive and the system provider should provide you with all the support you need.
Part of the process of choosing the right agency management system is also vetting the provider, who should be able to give you an appropriate level of service, be willing to listen to your feedback and constantly be looking for ways to improve their system and offer you targeted training for the system. Lastly, the price of the system should be in line with what you’re getting. You might decide that a more expensive system is better for you, but it should be worth the money you’re paying.