It's always been assumed that an insurance agency can find a way to provide adequate service to its existing customer policyholders while at the same time optimize its new-business opportunities.But most realize that it rarely works that way. Internal operational inefficiencies, marked by a paper-intensive communications process and antiquated data-exchange platforms, often undermines an agency's agility in generating new business.

Travelers Property & Casualty Co. in January launched a Web portal designed for commercial and personal agents that will enable agents to focus on sales while maintaining customer service. Travelers Customer Care Center-a 100% Web-based application that doesn't require software-is staffed by licensed, experienced insurance professionals who assist agents to cost-effectively offload service functions such as providing policy information and processing policy changes.

Agents who use the center can increase the time they spend on sales rather than on policy servicing from 10% to as much as 50%, says Patrick Gee, vice president operations, personal and small commercials lines for the Hartford, Conn.-based carrier.

"Prior to the program being available, an agent would have to take an endorsement for an auto policy, key the changed data into the company platform and then create a manual change form, and mail it out," says Gee. "But with the Customer Care Center, the data is hot transferred in real-time into our system securely and with no redundant tasks to perform."

Some of the dynamic features of the program include the ability to up-selling accounts, active funneling of account-rounding opportunities back to an agency through an "agent alert" notification, and training to help transition agency staff from service functions to sales, Gee says.

When an agent activates Care Center-and thus far 2,000 Travelers commercial agents, or about 45%, have done so, with about 40 to 45 agencies signing up per week-the agent can elect to migrate a certain percentage of accounts to the Customer Care platform, where the Care Center support tools are activated.

Gee says that agents may elect to retain a small, select number of accounts on their own agency management systems and bypass Care Center if they wish.

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