Agency Workflow Time Study Uncovers Threats, Opportunities

June 12, 2002

Independent agents and customer service representatives are in a position to dedicate many more hours a week marketing new business, servicing accounts and building relationships. But they’re hampered by multiple entries of data, navigating websites, and training staff on technology, according to a workflow time study by the Applied Systems Client Network, Inc. (ASCnet), the user group for Applied Systems agency technology.

The ASCnet project team observed routine tasks, such as quoting, billing and claims inquiry, in several agencies around the U.S. The study looked at three workflow choices for CSRs: a telephone call to the company; a visit to a proprietary carrier Web site; and single entry, multiple-company interface, or SEMCI, found in IVANS Transformation Station, an Internet data exchange providing real-time communications between applications.

For new BOP business rating and issuance, CSRs took seven minutes from start to finish to get three comparative quotes via Transformation Station; it took them 64 minutes via three carrier Web sites. These figures do not include entry time of seven minutes in each management system.

Newer technology also proved most time-efficient for billing inquiries. Transformation Station took two minutes; a phone call, eight minutes; and a carrier’s Web site, nine minutes.

“Over the course of a day or week in the life of an agency, you’re looking at many hours of wasted time in duplicate entry, navigating Web sites, and training staff,” ASCnet President Peter Anderson, an independent agent from Marshfield, Mass., commented. “Agents and CSRs need more time to market, sell, service and build relationships. “Overall, what the time study found is that current workflows are ineffective; there are too many company security passwords; we have duplicate or triplicate entry; there are many ways to rate, issue and service; and we’re performing the same function several ways to get one result,” Anderson said. “This is an untenable situation.”

The study also highlighted difficult-to-measure costs to agents and their companies, Anderson said. These include explaining to the customer why the quote doesn’t match the rate, why his or her name is spelled wrong on the policy; why it took so long to get the policy to him or her; and why state agencies, lien holders and others are not properly notified.

New technology was not only a time saver; it yielded better results, according to Jo Ann Litwin, chair of ASCnet’s U.S. Interface Committee and an independent agent in Orchard Park, N.Y. For example, users of Transformation Station obtained three firm rates from one transaction, while users of a proprietary site obtained only one firm quote. For users of Transformation Station total transaction time was six minutes, compared with 16 minutes for transaction and transmission time using a proprietary Web site. Entry into the management system was more than seven times faster using Transformation Station.

“Agents who utilize new technology will be empowered to deliver prices rather than quotes; agents will be able to give immediate service, and companies will be able to decrease paper sent to agents,” Litwin said.

Anderson noted that contrary to popular belief, companies that have invested in proprietary Web sites are well on their way to being in a technological position to adopt SEMCI and IVANS Transformation Station. “Independent agents—representing not one but an average of eight carriers—need single entry, multiple-company interface. And SEMCI is a workflow issue, not a technology issue. Furthermore, we believe that Transformation Station is the most obvious way for agents and carriers – yes even those carriers who have invested in proprietary systems – to get a clean, true, real-time SEMCI workflow.

“We’ve been working together with ACORD to set electronic standards, it’s time to implement them,” Anderson added. “There are thousands of independent agencies equipped for real-time SEMCI using ACORD XML. Applied Systems alone estimates that it has 80,000 desktops ready with the new technology, representing an estimated $40 billion in premium. The goal is to make independent agents and their companies—the entire independent agency system—in a better position to compete.”

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