Consumerization is forcing many agencies to redefine their value propositions, and the increasing commoditization of insurance is only adding to the pressure for agents and brokers to do more and sell more, more efficiently. Robert Macoviak, president of Oyer, Macoviak and Associates Insurance, spoke with Insurance Networking News about how his company is using technology to streamline interactions with insurers, enter new markets and how he cost justified the company's recent cloud-based agency management project.

INN: You implemented Vertafore's cloud-based Agency Platform. Why did you choose it?

RM: When we saw it, it immediately made sense for our business. We've always believed in cloud and we wanted everything on a single platform rather than going to multiple vendors. We're in Florida and we've had six hurricanes and two tropical storms in the past nine years. We were on the cloud before it was called 'the cloud.' We need to know everything is properly backed up and that we can work from anywhere. Those were two baseline criteria.

INN: What problem were you trying to solve?

RM: The biggest problem for our industry right now is rekeying information, especially when you have multiple companies and carriers. The second is work flow: which one to use; what can we do to simplify it and how to get everyone on the same boat. It streamlines our interactions with insurers, too. We can link to our insurers without going outside the agency management system. It enables us to do alternate quote requests, which give insurers opportunities to quote business they might not ordinarily see.

INN: How does it help your work flow?

RM: It creates a very simple system to guide everyone through the process. Entering a prospect? There's a system for that. Whether it's a personal or commercial client, it goes to the right system. Then it's either going to the quoting system for personal lines or if it's commercial, it fills out the ACORD application. Before, we had our own form to get the information. Then we were not only putting it into our agency management system, we were also entering it into the quoting system. Then, if some of the insurers didn't qualify for the quoting software, we would enter that information again. Time is our most important asset, and we never have enough of it. We are always thinking about ways to maximize our time.

INN: Tell me about the integrations.

RM: The quoting software pulls from a database of cars; it finds them through ChoicePoint. And there are other integrations. We created one to our e-mail provider so if someone goes to our website, any quotes are sent into our agency management system, so we are not entering information again.

INN: How does it fit your online strategy?

RM: It gives us another opportunity to go after a different marketplace. Before, that wasn't something we went after. With this technology, a customer can go to our website and fill out the quoting software. All we have to do is take them through a few more questions to provide a quote. Every quote form integrates with our agency management system now. So when a consumer goes to our website and fills out a home, automobile or commercial insurance lead, we get that instantaneously. Since it goes into our quoting software, all we have to do is offer the quote to the client. Before, we had online quote forms, but they didn't integrate. We had someone retype them into the quoting software and then the agency management system. We are saving 10 minutes per quote. That allows management to go after more leads and marketplaces. With more time available, we can think about growth. We have more time and a different frame of mind to wonder 'what else can we do?' We're only limited by the number of hours we can work.

INN: How did you justify the cost?

RM: There is no such thing as a perfect system, but something that used to take 15 minutes now takes five minutes. That's what we look for. Everything we do in the office, we want to simplify first and then, secondly, to reduce the time. The more time we have, the more insurance we can sell and the more customers we can serve.

INN: Did you do a formal ROI?

RM: No. It was actually cheaper to go to this platform than to stick with our old one. It would have been stupid not to do it. When I first saw the prices, I talked to my rep and asked if he was sure it was correct. It was a no-brainer. It was one of the easier decisions I've made this year.

INN: How long from purchase to go live?

RM: Maybe three or four weeks. We got the software, implemented it and did the training. Then we had the employees create the system themselves. We asked them 'what is the best way to run this?' I've always believed our employees can show us how to do things better because they actually do the work. In Florida we have stricter guidelines than most of the country and since we are on the coast, we have to be very careful to say the least.

INN: What's next?

RM: I want that five minutes down to two minutes. And, this will allow us to go after business we wouldn't have in the past, for example: monoline auto or homeowners. We hope to do that in 2014.

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