We’ve included this article here because it still offers some good points on agency automation.
Are You Manual, Computerized or Automated?
By Bradley Chesnut, October 1994
Hardware vs. Software
First, before we get started, let me make an important point … it’s not how powerful of a computer you own, it’s what software you own and how you use it!
Remember, computers are purchased to RUN software. The key is software, not computers. This is why you make your software decisions FIRST and then purchase the hardware to support the software that you use.
It always amazes me when I talk to an agency owner who is so proud of his beefed up computer system who only uses a word processor, maybe a rating program, and maybe an ACORD form program. I’ve seen agencies on much slower computers be more efficient and successful in running their agency.
It’s NOT how powerful of a computer system you use, but what software you use. Hardware compliments software.
However, you do want to make sure you have the right computer to run your software and enough RAM to get the job done with today’s memory intensive software. Just explain to the person you’re buying the computer from the hardware requirements for your primary software programs including your management system and they should be able to recommend the right setup for you.
Our topic —
In this day and age, it’s not very common to run across an agency operated predominately by hand. Generally, an agency has some sort of software they use to help them in running their agency.
The largest share of agencies today are computerized. However, a large percentage of them are disillusioned into thinking they are automated.
What do I mean by computerized?
Simple. Having numerous software programs, each used for a different function that don’t integrate together .
For example, having a program to do quoting and then having to re-enter that same information into an ACORD form program to create an application, then having to retype basic information again into a word processor to send out a letter, and then needing to retype the same information into an accounting program to keep track of commissions, and then… It’s an ongoing loop with the agency personnel constantly re-entering the same information in multiple programs.
Then we look at other tasks like, what about notes? Follow ups?
Or what happens when there’s an endorsement to the policy? A CSR/Agent is constantly jumping from one program to another or is constantly pulling the file, and they are re-entering information that is already on their computer somewhere. Servicing a client becomes tedious and time consuming.
This is NOT automated! Yet, this is exactly what many agencies are doing today and are proud to say, “Yup, we’re automated!” No … you’re computerized!
And, as such, you’re doing a ton of duplicate entry and wasting a lot of time in servicing your clients, which is costing your agency thousands of dollars a year!!
What if you have the ability to link with your companies? For the computerized agency, this creates another process of doing a lot of unnecessary duplicate entry.
Being a “computerized” agency is very time consuming and reducing the number of clients/policies each CSR is able to manage, which then forces the agency to hire more CSR’s to manage their book of business. With salaries being one of biggest expenses, if not THE biggest expense an agency has, by being more productive that means you need less CSR’s. The savings in salaries just adds to your bottom line profits.
Being automated is three things combined together …
1. Owning a software program that allows you to avoid all of the double entry of the “computerized” agency environment and puts all of your client information at your fingertips so it’s easily accessible without having to bounce between multiple programs. Plus, information in your system needs to flow to the other parts of the system to avoid any re-entering of information already in your system.
This is your agency management system! No other program will provide your agency with all of the tools this program does. However, agency management systems are not created equal … a topic for another article.
2. No one management system does it all still requiring you to use other programs like a rating program, or being required to input data at the carriers site. Therefore, you want to make sure your management system will integrate with 3rd party programs and interface with your carriers. The less times you have to “re-enter” information somewhere else the more time you save. And,
3. Developing effective workflow procedures.
All three steps are equally important.
Being automated means data already in the system flows to other parts of the system as well as to 3rd party programs eliminating the high majority of the time consuming duplicate entries made by the computerized agency.
In addition, it also means processing your work in an efficient way. For example, when processing an endorsement there’s a way to do it efficiently and there’s a way to do it which is time consuming and has unnecessary steps.
Or take sending a client a letter from your system and your agency’s method of operation is to keep a copy of all letters sent to your clients. Why would you print a copy and put it in their file?
There’s no reason too when it’s already attached to the clients record in the management system. But, there are still agencies that do this. Think about other area’s where you might “make a copy” and needlessly put it in their file.
Advanced automation procedures include T-Filing and Imaging.
Automated agencies realize numerous benefits …
1. Faster response time to their customers needs,
2. Faster service time in handling their customers needs,
3. Reduced overall labor hours in the agency (average between a 40% – 70% drop in workload),
4. Should the agency be up for sale, automated agencies with a system already in place receive top dollar (it’s easier for a new owner to take over an agency with a system in place for handling customer issues and that has all of the customer information in a management system than trying to take over an agency that is computerized with information in numerous software programs and files),
5. They have at their finger tips the ability to implement more effective and strategic marketing strategies,
6. They’re able to know in an instant the financial health of their agency; the break-down of their agency by company and/or LOB; what methods of marketing are working and what aren’t; loss ratio’s by company, LOB or producer; which producers are writing the most business; how many policies each CSR is handling; what transactions each CSR/Agent made each day; etc… (Keep this thought in mind .. how can you improve your agency if you don’t what’s going on in your agency? Policy, customer, claim, producer, CSR, marketing and accounting reports are essential in having the ability to improve.)
And the list goes on and on and on. With so many benefits of being an automated agency, why wouldn’t you move forward from being computerized to being automated?
This topic – Manual, Computerized or Automated – is the theme of our discussion today!
Making the Transition to Becoming Automated … It’s Not as Painful As You May Think!
Change is the foundation to growth. Without change, you don’t grow.
When you bought your first computer system and starting using it to do letters (word processing), that was a change in agency procedures. But, look at how much better off you are today because of that change!
The process of moving from being manual or computerized to becoming automated is not a difficult process. It’s simply a matter of choosing the right software programs and getting the correct training on workflow procedures.
But, Agency Management Systems Aren’t Created Equal!
Which agency management system to purchase is a whole new topic. Just keep this thought in mind as you review them … there are a lot of low end systems where the vendor claims their system is an agency management system when in reality the system is just an over glorified database program.
Or, the other group of systems I’m constantly reviewing is “feature driven” systems.
What you want is a system that is workflow driven. It’s not about features … it’s about being able to process your work in the least steps and in the most efficient way possible!
With this type of system you’ll experience a level of productivity, efficiency and profitability that will have you very excited about owning an insurance agency. The point is, foundational to any system you would consider is its ability to increase your productivity!
Oh sure, this type of system will cost more compared to other systems but at the end of the day (or year) when everything is factored in you’ll find that you’re a far more profitable agency because you’ve got your computer system doing the bulk of the work for you.
Even with the right intentions of moving towards becoming an automated agency, if you make the wrong decision on your agency management system you may be doomed to never make that leap to becoming a truly automated agency simply because of the limitations of the management system you purchased. Thus, be diligent as you review systems and do NOT make a decision by price alone!
The other thing you must consider when purchasing an agency management system is how you’re going to learn workflow strategies such as the best way to handle transactions in your agency, or how to intermingle other 3rd party programs into your operation in conjunction with your management system?
This is the third part of becoming truly automated and you need to know how you’re going to accomplish it. Unfortunately, pretty consistently between all of the vendors all they have is “trainers” who simply teach you how to use their system.
What you want is an insurance automation consultant. That’s because these are people who not only know the system intimately (they generally specialize with a system or two), they also know workflows and productivity strategies. It’s your putting in place proper workflows and productivity strategies that will have you gain the greatest return on your automation investment!
In this industry, the reality is, your agency management system is the core and foundation to your automation goals, and plays an important role in the realization of achieving a truly efficient agency.
Plus, your agency management system is the foundation for integration. You download TO your system, upload FROM your system, pull quotes INTO your system from your rater, etc … it’s where all activity begins and ends!
At this website we will be focusing on the “agency management system”. This is just an introduction to it.
Article written by insurance automation consultant Bradley Chesnut. Mr. Chesnut has been helping agencies with their automation since 1989, has worked on many of the systems and has watched a lot of changes take place in this industry over the years. Mr. Chesnut has a strong expertise in workflows and productivity strategies.
1) Increased productivity. This is accomplished numerous ways to include teaching proper workflows when processing work with their agency management system, along with other productivity strategies. Mr. Chesnut is very proficient in workflows and productivity strategies. This is an important area of expertise because increased productivity equals increased profitability.
2) Agency growth strategies. Building your agency through innovative marketing strategies.
Over the past 20+ years Mr. Chesnut has represented two agency management systems playing a significant role in their success. In addition, he's worked with many of the systems on the market, including some that are no longer around as he’s helped agencies increase their productivity. Mr. Chesnut has extensive experience and first hand experience with the agency management system.
Latest posts by Bradley Chesnut (see all)
- You Can Control The Cost Of Running Your Agency - June 5, 2013
- The Evolution of an Agency Management System – Part2 - May 1, 2013
- The Evolution of an Agency Management System – Part1 - April 20, 2013
Filed under: Agency Automation