Fresh off a tour of 66 independent agencies along the Atlantic coast in an effort to determine what technologies are succeeding (and what technologies are not) in moving the industry from paper to online, AgencyPort Insurance Services came to the conclusion: Transacting property/casualty business over the Web remains more of a messy art than a refined science.

Agencies of all sizes, AgencyPort says, continue to struggle with an inefficient morass of paperwork, re-keying, faxes and phone calls, all in the name of trying to get P&C products into consumers’ hands. Carriers, according to the findings, have been slow to streamline inquiry, quoting, issuance, endorsement and renewal transactions over the Web in a coherent manner.

While AgencyPort’s research cites specific shortcomings with carrier technology that cause agents to choose other carriers for quotes, it also finds that unless carriers have a solid product at a competitive price, all the talk of ease-of-doing-business and technology is meaningless.

In carriers’ efforts to differentiate their products, though, predictive models and specific behavior in agent portals is also different. Today, agents are forced to know and work with a many idiosyncratic carrier systems, which range from fairly easy to use to downright impossible.

Still Pushing SEMCI

It’s not breaking news that agents want a single-entry multiple-company interface (SEMCI). They’ve wanted that for years and are still in search of it. Therefore, online processing remains slow.

AgencyPort found during the tour that one in four personal lines agents use comparative raters. The company was surprised to find that agent demand for online endorsement processing exceeded its expectations. Despite the demand, few carriers offer it, but those that do stand out. In fact, agents discussed one carrier with a winning practice—it is able to give agents a premium for each endorsement, even enabling them to perform “what if” scenarios.

Agency Portals

Agents told AgencyPort that portals have become the most important technology in issuance and policy service transaction workflows, and that when they want to bind or issue new business, process a change on a policy or submit a claim, agent portals are where they go.

What Agents Want

All 66 agencies on the tour provided feedback about the specific portals offered by their carrier partners. The dos and don’ts stood out to AgencyPort:

Definitely Do:

• Ask the fewest number of questions possible

• Offer pre-filled, third-party data (e.g. Choicepoint, MVR, vehicle data, driver info, etc.)

• Provide the ability to pre-fill city, state and county based on entering of zip code

• Provide the ability to view the entire Motor Vehicle Report online

• Provide the ability to leverage auto information to get a homeowner’s quote with just one additional question

• Offer access to electronic copies of the policy

• Offer access to a sharp-looking quote proposal/presentation, which saves agents from having to re-key the information into a proposal document

• Provide more transparency in the underwriter referral workflow. Where does an agent’s submission stand in the queue? What will the response time be when something is referred? A long wait time only to be told “no” is frustrating.

Definitely Don’t:

•  Force an agent to try to map ACORD or ISO to carrier-specific codes

•  Prohibit agents from archiving or saving quotes

•  Give cryptic error codes

• E-mail too much.  All agents really need is the commission summary e-mails and any notice of a policy form change

•  Provide lengthy explanations with a quote declination

To learn more, visit AgencyPort’s Web site to read the report free of charge.

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