Survey sees increasing numbers of agents and brokers leveraging real-time technology tools to handle policy rating and sales, manage customer inquiries, and deliver service.

According to a poll of 3,200 agency staff members, more than half of agency management system users tap a real-time tool to start an inquiry or service transaction. In addition, the survey found that 43% of agents are rating personal lines in real time through an agency management system or comparative rater.

The survey was developed by the Real Time/Download Campaign and promoted by management system user groups, carriers, software vendors, state agent associations, ACORD-User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE), and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America's Agents Council for Technology (ACT).

While slightly more than 90% of respondents said they use an agency management system in their office, the survey reveals that not all were utilizing the real-time functionality inherent in their systems. The most frequently used real-time inquiry functions among personal lines agents were billing inquiry (87%) and policy inquiry (82%).

"Agents need to understand that real-time functionality already exists in most management systems; it's a matter of turning it on and making sure employees understand its value," says campaign co-chair Cyndy Smith, VP and director of technology at Haylor, Freyer & Coon Inc., Syracuse, N.Y., and Industry Affairs Committee chair of The AMS Users' Group. "Workflows driven by Real Time and Download help agencies deliver better customer service and retain business without adding more staff."

Another area where improvement is necessary is carrier adoption. For personal lines, about 60% of agencies queried say they have real-time tools available with four or more of their carriers. Yet, for commercial lines, just 32% of agents say four or more carriers provide real-time rating.

However, proponents see the number of carriers offering real-time functionality growing steadily in the coming year.

"The number of carriers offering real-time service and inquiry capabilities is up about 17% since the campaign started," says campaign co-chair Lisa Parry Becker, VP of sales and marketing at William B. Parry Agency, Langhorne, Pa. "For real-time rating and quoting, it's up 36%. But it's not enough. More carriers need to implement real-time functionality and promote it to their agents, and agents need to use the transactions that are available from their carriers."

(c) 2009 Insurance Networking News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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