Insurers have been told over and over, ease-of-doing-business is extremely important when attracting and retaining independent agents. More statistics are available to back that up. A recent survey of senior insurance agents, conducted by FirstBest Systems Inc., shows that many agents have already been using carrier portals, and that it’s all about time. Agents want real-time underwriter collaboration, upload/connectivity and processing and, ideally, a single system, according to the company.

Forty senior-level insurance agents, representing a variety of lines of business, responded to the survey, and 75.7% of them said their commercial lines customer service reps (CSR) use five or more portals/carrier websites regularly. Nearly 50% said that their CSRs save several hours daily by using electronic real-time carrier sites/portals to submit and track the progress of applications. Half of the respondents indicated that without a carrier portal, the average wait for commercial-line (WC, BOP, CMP, specialty, commercial auto) quote response can be up to several weeks.

Few agents have Web-based collaboration with carriers. Fifty-four percent of agents surveyed said fewer than 25% of the carrier portals they use offer visibility and collaboration into the commercial lines submission process at any time, from anywhere.

The survey also asked agents about the features and functionality they want most from carrier agent portals. Highlights on the wish list include:

Top Benefit: Faster turnaround time (processing) was cited by 73% of the agents as the main benefit they expect to realize from a commercial-line carrier’s real-time interface.

Key Functionality: 73% percent of agents said it was “very important/useful” for carriers to provide real-time feedback and quoting; another 24% said such functionality was “somewhat important.”

Agency Connectivity: 84% of agents surveyed said that cost-free instant upload from their desktops to the carrier, regardless of agency management system, would be “incredibly useful.”

Most Valued Feature: Indicating speed is of the essence, 72% ranked “real-time quoting from carriers” as the feature they would most value in an agent portal, followed by straight through processing (submit to quote to bind).

Insurance Exchange: 16% said they currently submit business through an insurance-industry agent-carrier exchange. Another 61% are very interested in/plan to use an exchange.

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