Best Practices Report Outlines Tips for Effective Use of Agency Technology

October 25, 2005

The Agents Council for Technology (ACT) has compiled a series of best practices to help carriers, vendors, user groups and agent associations convince independent agencies and brokers to implement new workflows and technologies, and to assist them with training.

ACT’s new report, Effective Communication & Training of Technology Issues to Independent Agencies and Brokers includes actual success stories that are driving agency implementation of real-time, commercial lines download, as well as “paperless” and other technology initiatives.

“The industry wants to accelerate the agents’ implementations of real-time, because of the immediate benefits real-time can deliver for agencies,” said Linda Dodson, e-business consultant, strategic marketing for Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and chair of ACT’s Agency Communications Working Group. “We have been wrestling with what strategies to use to successfully convince agencies to implement this new technology and how best to train them so that the new workflow is used universally in the agency. This report was developed to help answer these questions.”

The ACT work group solicited from carriers, vendors, user groups, and agents associations the business case arguments and agency success stories that agency principals and employees found compelling enough to use these new technologies. The work group also sought the training and communications methods various industry players were using that proved to be most effective with the agencies. The new ACT report is a compilation of these best practices and success stories and is designed to help carriers and vendors increase their agency adoption rates.

“The industry has done a lot of great work in developing these new technologies to make agencies and brokers more efficient,” said Jeff Yates, ACT executive director. “There is a widespread feeling now is the time for the industry to dedicate more resources to the marketing and training of these breakthrough improvements to agencies, so that we can increase usage substantially and achieve real efficiencies for our distribution system.”

The new ACT report includes arguments and strategies for carriers, vendors, user groups, and agent associations to use to drive agency implementation, such as:

* Focus on the business benefits to the agency to reach agency principals. Explain how the technology will enable agents to make more money, in less time, with less effort, and less hassle—using, for the most part, the investments they have already made in their systems.

* Craft a message that specifically responds to the problems faced by agency CSRs as well. Focus it on how real-time will enable them to respond to clients immediately, eliminate senseless duplication and multiple workflows, and free up time to eliminate backlog and focus on more proactive contacts with customers.

* User groups and agent associations should place real-time and commercial lines download on their advocacy agenda for discussion in agent and carrier meetings, and host sessions at their conferences that highlight the significant progress that is being made and the success stories.

* On-site agency visits to achieve buy-in from principals and CSRs and on-site training continue to be the most effective methods, especially when coupled with post-visit monitoring of individual employee implementation and follow-ups with the agency.

* Carrier marketing representatives should be generally conversant with the carrier’s technology offerings and help sell the benefits of implementation to the agent. The marketing reps should provide the agents with the contacts at the carrier to help them learn more and start the implementation process.

* Virtual, interactive demos and meetings over the Internet are an efficient training tool for carriers and vendors and are being well received by agents.

* It is most effective when carriers and vendors demonstrate their new technologies working within the agencies’ particular agency management systems, so that the agents can visualize the specific workflow benefits to them.

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