Despite many advances in agency automation over the last few years, insurance agents are frustrated with many aspects of the technology designed to make their lives easier. This is a conclusion of a survey conducted early this year by the ACORD User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE).Nearly 9,000 agents and customer service representatives participated in the survey. And, according to the results, not only are agencies burdened by keeping their agency management systems updated, agents also are irritated by the chore of duplicate data entry and the costs and training issues associated dealing with carriers' proprietary systems.

"The sense of frustration that agents are feeling came through loud and clear, especially in the written comments we received," says Rick Gilman, vice president for ACORD, Pearl River, N.Y.

Not surprisingly, 45% of respondents say the biggest time waster for agencies is duplicate data entry, and 30% say they waste the most time dealing with carriers' proprietary systems (see chart, page 8).

For example, according to one respondent: "Companies should be directing their investment dollars toward single entry and away from company-specific duplicate entry."

Improved workflow

In addition, agents want carriers and agency management systems vendors to get together to resolve their workflow problems, says Gilman.

"Carriers and vendors alike come in and promise agents that they have 'the solution,'" Gilman says. When, in reality, these multiple "solutions" aren't integrated with one another, and carriers and vendors don't work together to resolve agencies' workflow problems.

According to one respondent: "The cost associated with technology is endless. We (agents) cannot continue to spend the dollars necessary to 'keep up' individually with numerous carriers. Until the carriers and agency management system vendors come together, this is going to be a major 'battle.'"

Despite agents' frustration with technology, however, 81% of respondents reported that they have broadband access. And more than half of agencies with annual revenues greater than $150,000 have Web sites.

In addition, the survey results show that agents consider accurate, fast quote/turnaround and ease of doing business through automation as important factors when they decide to place business with a carrier (see chart, above).

Large agencies on the Web

When asked where carriers should spend their money to develop Web functionality for agents, survey respondents say endorsements, new business, quoting and billing status are the areas most important to them.

But a discrepancy exists between large and small agencies concerning Web solutions.

While 65% of large agencies (those with more than $10 million in annual revenues) indicate they prefer multiple-company, comparative Web-based, real-time rating, smaller agencies (with less than $150,000 in annual revenues) prefer multiple-company comparative rating software on their desktop.

Smaller agencies are more likely to be using dial-up modems, Gilman notes. And 51% of them don't have any plans to build a Web site in the near future, according to the survey.

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