Spend Time with Customers, Not with Paperwork

By Bill Bunker | April 18, 2011

I have the opportunity to spend a lot of time talking with insurance agencies of all sizes. During these conversations, I hear a recurring theme: Agents are overwhelmed with administrative processes, and agency managers are concerned because they know this translates into missed sales opportunities. More time spent on paperwork equals less time spent on high-value client activities.

The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (The Big “I”) guidelines in 2010 recommended that agents should spend 50 to 60 percent of their time in direct client engagements, but industry research has found that the amount of time agents are really spending with clients is closer to 40 percent — a significant difference.In many agencies, the main culprit is convoluted business processes that take agents away from servicing clients and selling new business.

Some agencies have tried implementing the simple workflow applications into their management systems. But these systems typically lack the flexibility to adapt to agencies’ specific requirements and are difficult to use. Traditional workflow applications only provide users with a checklist of tasks to accomplish, but have little to no real impact on reducing the overall burden. In contrast, intelligent workflow solutions automate the entire process, organizing and prioritizing the workload so agents can focus on their next task.

Intelligent workflows streamline business processes by engaging the right person and task at the right time, along with all the documents needed to complete a piece of work. An agent completes a task and then releases it; the system manages the entire process. Users no longer need to manage or understand the overall process; they only focus on their component — and managers can more easily manage them. Intelligent workflows ensure work keeps moving and doesn’t get buried on an agent’s desk.

Most agencies manage their internal processes using e-mail. sending document fom person to person until it’s finished. But this can create a number of issues: A process can become “stalled” when it sits in an agent’s inbox, and the work cannot be accessed across the agency when it’s inside an inbox.

For example: Massachusetts-based agency Renaissance Group, used to require roughly 51 e-mails to complete a submission. Using the intelligent workflow capabilities of Vertafore’s WorkSmart solution, the agency eliminated e-mail creation for submissions and reduced the time spent on submissions by 80 percent. This translates into more time for client engagement. In a single year, Renaissance grew its business by 25 percent without adding any staff to its billing and account placement teams. Another agency, Bowen Miclette & Britt in Texas, realized similar results when it reduced its average time for completing a submission from four days to a half-day using intelligent workflows.

In addition to decreasing the time needed to complete work, intelligent workflows ensure the right person is working on the right task. By routing tasks to a processing team, producers and account managers can spend more time on direct customer engagements and other revenue-generating activities. Colorado-based Flood and Peterson Insurance created a centralized processing pool for its account managers and producers — a workload efficiency improvement that intelligent workflow made possible. As a result, three assistants were able to manage the workload for 12 agents with a significant decrease in processing time.

Finally, intelligent workflow solutions offer managers unprecedented insight into business processes via reporting tools and metrics that show what work is happening in the agency at any moment, as well as what happened in the past and what’s upcoming. This helps managers identify bottlenecks, spot work that is falling behind and ensure service levels are maintained. In addition, business process reports can show managers how long it takes to complete the various components of a submission, and create opportunities for further refining efficiency.

The amount of time and effort involved in processing insurance business manually is making intelligent workflows a necessity for today’s insurance agencies. Once managers automate this cumbersome process, they often see their business grow dramatically because their agents have been able to increase their revenue per employee. Agencies that take the leap and adopt intelligent workflow technologies will increase efficiency, enabling their agents to focus on high-value client activities and realize an overall competitive advantage.

About Bill Bunker

Bunker is the president of Agency Markets at Vertafore, a provider of software and information to the insurance industry.

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Insurance Journal West April 18, 2011
April 18, 2011
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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