I recently had the opportunity to present to a delegation of agents from Japan while attending the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America’s (IIABA) National Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. We had a spirited discussion, through an interpreter, about technology in agencies.
I was proud to share with the Japanese delegation how critical the relationship between American carriers and agents is, and how hard carriers here work with agents to ensure that our technology is helping to result in more sales.
The message I shared was that carriers need to view the agent as their customer, and the agent’s customer as the end consumer. We must have efficient workflows in both the carrier and agent offices to sell our products most profitably. Our sales and servicing workflow is still too inefficient between agents and carriers, which is keeping costs too high, profit too low and causing us to lose sales.
Agents appreciate significant investment in technological improvements, and much progress has been made. As agents, we are committed to providing more business to those carriers who help us become more efficient and allow us more time to sell policies, instead of having to re-enter data into different carrier systems. Ultimately, carriers and agents both want the same thing, and that is to provide a high-quality consumer experience so we can sell more policies.
Carriers must implement what is required to allow our agency systems and carrier systems to communicate effectively. This requires that we all use ACORD standards; every industry has standards, and we must have standardized ways to allow our systems to talk to each other. Once the standards are being used, then we can easily upload data from the agent to the carrier.
Agents need real-time interfaces for quoting, inquiries, making payments, obtaining loss runs and making endorsements. Then we must be able to obtain downloaded data from the carriers for both personal and commercial lines, so that our systems will be synchronized and we can work together to effectively service our clients. Agents and carriers have much work to do to improve the handling of passwords to allow easy yet secure access to many carrier systems, and we must all use secure e-mail technology for the protection of our client data. These are the basic needs that should already be in place between carriers and agents. The technology is built, we just need carrier and agent adoption.
Next month, I will delve into additional technology improvements that are needed in the next couple of years. I invite your questions and comments.
Angelyn Treutel is President of Southgroup Insurance and the chair of the IIABA Agents Council for Technology and ASCnet's Industry Solutions Committee.
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