Independent agents deal with hundreds of different carrier and general agent systems every day; remembering all of the URLs, logins and passwords is enough to drive an agent to drink—just kidding. But there is some important functionality that carriers can provide to assist their agents in selling and servicing accounts.
Many carriers send field reps to visit agency offices in person, which is a perfect opportunity to enhance relationships and further educate agents on changes. AUGIE has updated a very useful guide, titled “Productive Agency visits by Insurance Carriers Field Representatives: A Guide to Effective Communications on Technology-Based Workflow Between Carriers and Agencies," that carriers can use to improve their agency visits.
The emphasis of the conversation during an agency visit would focus on success-to-date (i.e. volume, policy count, claims and targets) and ways to make it easier to do business together (i.e. workflows, technology opportunities, etc). The field managers should be well-versed in the current lingo used by agency personnel (i.e. Realtime, Download, Alerts), and they should also be prepared to encourage agents to use the available carrier technology and listen for other workflow improvement needs the agent may raise, so they can take that information back to carrier management and their agent advisory councils.
The field visits are also a good opportunity to share with the agency how to grow with the carrier and to demonstrate the carrier’s commitment to become a “Carrier of Choice,” because we all know, if a carrier makes themselves easier to do business with, agents will send more business their way.
The best carriers we deal with are highly automated, but have people to talk to for special exceptions. They also lay out guidelines and are consistent in their implementation. There is nothing worse than a carrier who nit-picks agents and second-guesses after a policy is written. If a carrier is not comfortable with the type of business an agent is writing, then the carrier should get a new agent.
Realtime (upload) and Download capability is also a tremendous benefit to agents performing daily activities. Every agent strives to understand everything there is to know about carrier offerings and underwriting changes and deadlines, but sometimes, the hundreds of daily emails, faxes or snail mail updates received can overwhelm.
There are many agents who know the Golden Rule—"write it right or don’t write it." The more difficult a carrier is to deal with and get policies issued through, the less business an agent will send them. Choose wisely and profitably.
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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