Why is using technology to improve service to the agent distribution network so important? Our readers tell us that one of their chief concerns is agency attrition. One source quoted in this month's cover story talks about an 80% agent attrition rate within three years - that's a powerful number. Is it a question of insurance companies not understanding what agents need? Or is it a question of producers being unwilling or ill-equipped to adopt the technology necessary to compete in today's marketplace?Jeff Yates, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology at the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, suggests carriers can improve channel management by first seeking to understand the channel's challenges. To succeed, producers-especially those working with multiple carriers-must automate their processes while moving to a paperless environment and taking advantage of real-time rating systems. In the process, they can boost efficiency and productivity.

Industry analysts maintain that responsibility falls to carriers to use standards and technologies that will make doing business easier for producers. The producers that embrace standards and technologies to improve sales performance will succeed.

Insurance carriers may not have a crystal ball to help divine exactly what captive and independent agents need to accomplish those goals. But the distribution network is varied and complex, and some producers and carriers need to devote more time and attention to increasing business through improved collaboration and relationship management.

The carrier's goal of being "easy to do business with" remains key to retaining and maximizing these complex distribution channels, keeping customers, and improving relationships throughout the network. That's where technology truly can be an enabler, because growing the business does not come down to a question of "he with the greatest number of bells and whistles wins, but rather-he with the most efficient tools wins."

And for carriers, the right technology mix is the ultimate enabler of improved customer service. That's important because independent agents and producers consistently rank service levels as the primary driver of carrier choice. Even for companies that work with captive agents, better service levels mean improved recruiting and greater retention of high performers.

The formula is simple and the ROI obvious: High performers achieve their status by being more productive-the carrier that best supports that productivity retains that high performer.

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