Alexandria, Va.-Agents are taking a more active role in the agent/carrier relationship. Agents want to do more than simply view or access forms on a portal; they want to enter data and communicate with multiple carriers and vendors for quoting, policy issue and inquiry-and they want to enter the data once.
This is evident through the drive of single-entry, multiple-company interface (SEMCI) or the "exchange." The exchange takes the real-time, comparative rating, single-entry, multiple-company interface idea a step further. Along with providing producers of all sizes with the ability to perform "once and done" transactions with any number of carriers simultaneously, it holds a bigger promise: as a content aggregator it can make exchange participants' data available in a variety of forms to subscribers.
More proof of the agents' active roles in the business is the attention the Real-Time/Download Campaign is garnering, according to campaign leaders. The campaign is an initiative to increase implementation of real time and download technology-based workflows and independent agency-company interface applications is garnering attention, campaign leaders report.
Backed by agents and brokers, agency system carriers, technology providers, user groups, and agent and industry associations, the campaign launched in late April. As defined by the campaign, real-time is the ability to click on a button from a client file in an agency management system or comparative rater for immediate access to carrier information on that client. The transaction may be a quote, billing inquiry, claim inquiry/loss run, policy view, endorsement or a request for information.
According to Jeff Yates, executive director of Alexandria, Va.-based Agents' Council for Technology (ACT) and a campaign leader, some of the agency benefits of Real Time include:
- Enables superior customer service, because one-click customer inquiry provides immediate response.
- Enhances the professional image and work environment of an agency.
- Provides a single, consistent workflow for multiple carriers and permits training staff on a single workflow, rather than on the separate workflows for each carrier Web site.
- Enables the processing of policy transactions, such as billing inquiry, quotes, policy view, endorsements, and documentation from the client's file.
- Permits claims management from the client's file, using claims inquiry, procuring loss runs and, with some systems, sending first notices of loss and receiving the immediate return of the claim number.
- Improves E&O loss control, because the activity record is automatically triggered by the real-time inquiry/transaction in the agency management system.
- Provides for automated logons, so the employee does not need to find and then manually enter the password for the carrier Web site.
- Reduces processing time, thereby freeing up time for sales, cross-marketing and pro-active service contacts.
The campaign's Web site--www.getrealtime.org--has been a key resource for industry parties to obtain information and to learn how to apply these workflows, says Yates. Since going live a little more than two months ago, the campaign's online resource center has generated about 17,000 distinct visits and 81,000 total hits.
Aside from the home page, the most-visited pages are the vendor real-time links, carrier real-time links and the real-time resources/tools pages, notes Yates. Far and away the most downloaded document is the Independent Agent's Real Time Implementation Guide, a step-by-step outline for implementing real time, available at http://www.getrealtime.org/active/RealTimeGuide.asp.
Back in May 2006, about 20,000 real-time transactions were taking place each business day, and the campaign's goal was to double the number of Real Time transactions over the next year.
"These Web traffic results demonstrate that our target audiences are gathering the information they need to make informed decisions about implementing these new tools in their agencies and companies," says Yates. "Our goal is to double the number of Real Time transactions in a year's time. I think we're seeing a great start toward this goal."
In addition to an increase in Web traffic, the number of insurance company, automation vendor, association and user group real-time links on the Web site has also grown during the past two months. And, more groups are in the process of developing links for inclusion at www.getrealtime.org, says Yates.
Yates also notes that the campaign will begin tracking aggregate real-time service and sales transactions quarter-by-quarter, beginning with the first two quarters of 2007. The numbers will be provided by participating carriers. The campaign also will track aggregate active agencies for real-time service and sales transactions. These numbers will be contributed by participating agency management system and comparative rating vendors.
Moreover, the number of real-time educational sessions booked by state agent associations has increased rapidly—some 15 associations have held or plan to hold sessions in 2007, Yates says. More may be scheduled as momentum builds for the campaign.
Sources: INN archives and The Real Time/Download Campaign
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