In today’s busy world, agents and carriers alike are bombarded with communications through email, snail mail, text, voice calls, social media and face-to-face visits. It's easy to become overwhelmed with all of the information, but even worse, when you cannot locate the information again when needed, you end up wasting time.
Some recommendations for saving time and energy on industry communications between agents and carriers came out of a recent workgroup that I attended comprised of carriers, agents and vendors.
Activity notifications are now available for more secure communications. As opposed to email, these transactions are sent via batch from the carrier for pickup by the agency, and the information flows securely and directly into the agency management system. The ACORD standard allows for files to be attached to the transaction, and the communication can be routed directly to the appropriate agency person, while creating an audit trail within the agency system for E&O documentation. Priority notification can also be included in the secure communication. Activity notifications are recommended for underwriting memos, past due payments or cancellation notices, quote and new business status, and delivery of policy declarations.
Until the use of activity notes is implemented, agents at the workshop noted a preference emails from carriers with an attachment or supply a direct-link to the referenced document. If additional information is required, an editable format of the supplemental application or document is preferred, otherwise, the carrier may receive a hand-written response, since most agencies no longer have access to typewriters.
RSS feeds are another option, and recommended for general carrier information such as marketing, new product roll-out, personnel notices and non-customer-specific communications. RSS allows for the messages to be catalogued, so they are available when needed, and can easily be distributed throughout the agency.
In every communication, the preference for agents is to not have to log in to a carrier’s proprietary site to get important carrier messages. Agents represent many carriers, and it is quite inefficient for them to have to methodically log in to multiple websites to collect messages. Such messages will probably not reach their intended audience. Advice for reaching as many people as possible would be to stick to short, attentions-grabbing titles with drill-down capability; carriers should also consider adopting a bullet-point approach and avoid a lengthy explanation. Less is more.
Another recommendation is to move the industry toward the use of indexed PDFs to embed hyperlinks for the table of contents and provide tabs for jumping to major sections of the document. This makes the document more reader-friendly, and is a step in the right direction, as agents continue to move their clients toward more electronic communications.
Angelyn Treutel, CPA, is president of Southgroup Insurance Gulf Coast and the chair of ASCnet's Industry Solutions Industry Initiatives Committee and the past-chair of the IIABA Agents Council for Technology.
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