This week, I am visiting carriers along the East Coast with a delegation of agents. We are discussing the technologies and interface enhancements needed to improve the efficiency of the agent-carrier relationship and ways to provide a better consumer experience for our mutual clients.
Part of our presentation highlighted our efforts to move the industry toward round-trip rating instead of the older method of bridging data from the agency system to the carrier system. The bridging method is beneficial to agents, as a first step, because it assists in reducing the number of keystrokes required to submit a risk for a rate indication. It extracts information already keyed into an agency system and pre-populates the data in the carrier’s rating engine. However, once the data is transferred, the agent is required to move into the carrier’s system to complete the submission, thereby having to learn the navigational tools and idiosyncrasies of the unique carrier system. This takes more time and requires a longer learning curve for new agents and is more cumbersome than a round trip.
The round-trip rating process requires that the carrier ask minimal questions and make more assumptions, and then return the rate to the agency system without requiring the agent to access the carrier's system. The carrier can streamline the quoting process to include only those questions or data elements that are required to obtain a quote, and then when the risk is ready to be issued, the agent can provide the remaining information. For small business, real-time quoting, the carrier can also provide quick indications of whether a risk is eligible or not, prior to requiring the agent to enter additional information that may be needed to underwrite the risk.
There are many benefits of real-time rating in addition to the fact that it fulfills the need to reduce the number of keystrokes required to issue policies. Using real-time allows an agency to have consistent workflows even when using multiple carriers, and cuts the processing time significantly over having to key in the data directly to carrier and/or general agent websites. Real-time is the preferred method for processing business in the independent agency distribution system and relies on the use of ACORD XML standards. With real-time, agents can spend more time being pro-active in gaining more business. The more agents use real-time and automated interfaces, the more time they free up to do the fun part of their job, which is building relationships and selling—a win-win for both carriers and agents.
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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