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Data Security Tips

Protect Digital Files & Improve Data Security

Steps an independent insurance agency can take to protect critical client data


Moving deeper into the 21st Century, the power and speed of technology continues to be more and more awe inspiring. Things that weren’t even so much as dreamed of 30 years ago (internet, email, instant messaging and smart phones to name a few) are so ingrained in day to day life, most of us couldn’t live without them. Rows of filing cabinets have been replaced by digital document storage solutions. Data is scanned in, put on flash drives, stored on laptops and sent across the miles with a click of a button. In short, data security is getting more and more important.

As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility” – in this case the responsibility for increasing data security and protecting the digital files that contain your clients’ personal information.

Not only are there legal implications and potential fines if a data breach takes place, the negative publicity could potentially destroy your agency’s credibility.

Here are a few steps you can take to responsibly improve data security:
  •  If you don’t have a written data security plan and program in place, make it happen – soon. For advice on how to do so, read the Applied Council for Technology (ACT) Prototype Agency Information Security Plan that was released several years ago.
  • Use Real Time to connect with carriers instead of sending sensitive information via email.
  • Secure your email with TLS (Transport Layer Security) email encryption (See Jim Rogers’ Protect Your Clients with Secure Email Using TLS for more information).
  • Take advantage of a fully hosted agency management system like Partner XE to get the information off of your easily accessible office server and into a cloud based environment with around the clock physical security, internet and server firewall protection, encrypted communications and secure logons, malware protection and automatic weekly security patch updates.
  • Talk to an SIS representative to find out more about the other security benefits of Partner XE.

When you choose Partner XE, SIS’ fully hosted insurance agency management system, you not only enjoy lower more predictable costs, you also get peace of mind knowing you have taken a big step towards responsibly protecting your clients’ confidential information.

Find out why so many agencies have been switching to Partner XE insurance agency management system from SIS. Call 800-747-9273 or click here to get in touch with a representative.

 

Insurance Marketing Trends

Insurance Marketing Trends

Survey results show agencies need to better coordinate and measure marketing efforts


Last fall, Jason Hoeppner, an independent agency consultant with B.H. Burke & Co., conducted a survey of agencies, carriers and vendors on insurance marketing trends to get a picture of their social media usage, their overall marketing efforts and how they measure ROI. The results of this survey were given to us by Jeff Yates of ACT.

The following are the three points Hoeppner says he found the most eye opening.

  • More than 60% of those who responded are not measuring the return on investment of current marketing efforts.
  • Close to half of respondents who are not using social media will start to do so within a year.
  • Of those who responded, a bit more than 60% do not have a coordinated marketing plan of any kind.

The social media finding corresponded with exactly what we’ve been hearing here at SIS. It is a tool a lot of agencies would like to be using.

Those of you interested in ideas of how to expand your reach with Social Media might be interested in reading one of the following two posts: Creating Brand Awareness Through Facebook and Insurers Put Social Media to Work.

Another finding that matched our research exactly is that a website is the most commonly used marketing tool across both traditional and non-traditional platforms.

While we would agree that the lack of coordinated marketing plans among the independent insurance agencies who responded to the survey is distressing, it is somewhat understandable given the pace of the business. For an agency to grow, however, implementing defined and measured processes (around all areas of the business) should be a priority. For more information, read our recent post Improving Business Processes.

The one thing we did find surprising, however, is how few agencies surveyed are using their agency management system to track and measure results of their marketing efforts. Our Partner XE agency management system has many features that will help you measure and track your marketing efforts. Give us a call at 800-747-9273 to find out how.

Partner XE is an easy to use agency management system designed to streamline workflow and increase productivity for independent insurance agencies of all sizes. Call 800-747-9273 or contact us to schedule a free agency management system assessment and consultation

 

Marketing with Partner XE

Agency to Agency…

An interview with NASPA Board Member Steve Kramer,

Kramer Insurance Agency, Langhorne, PA.

Length of time on Partner XE: 1 year


Question: How do you use Partner XE to market your business?

CROSS-SELL

You want multiple policies per client because the higher your ratio is per household the higher your retention rate becomes. The Search features within Partner can be used to identify where you are missing out on client business so you can actively cross-sell to them. For example, you can run a sort of clients with auto, but not home coverage and then actively begin pursing their home policies as well. It works the same with commercial lines too. Do they have a business policy, but not commercial auto? Market accordingly.

WIN BACK LOST ACCOUNTS

The other thing we do is when a client becomes inactive… if they left us for one reason or another we do a “win back” campaign. We can run a search in Partner XE to identify these folks, we already have their basic information in the system, so we will go back and call them and say “hey, how can we win back your business.”

RENEW & RETAIN

We use the Partner XE Scheduling tools to set reminders… to keep what we need to do and on what day. Client renewals for example, if a renewal is coming up on the third of February we are calling him on the third of January so we are ahead of the game, not behind.

We also do quarterly contacts with our clients. We schedule in Partner when to call them or when it’s time to reconnect – the system keeps us on a schedule.

The NOTES feature really helps us with customer service. When a client calls in the first thing we are getting into the habit of doing is opening the notes to the last conversation. It helps you from a marketing standpoint. If you have that history in front of you and know that client better when you are talking to them it gives you a more professional position working with the client.

GET NEW BUSINESS

We do a lot of email marketing. We send out an average of 30,000 targeted emails per month. One specific campaign we do is to used car auto dealer. We have six or seven different solutions for them, from liability insurance to odometer insurance. We design the emails and the advertising on a one year campaign, hitting them hard in the beginning then spreading it out over time so that the client isn’t getting hammered with an email every day and getting annoyed. We find that it takes three to four sometimes even six months until we get a bite. We are chumming the waters and waiting for the fish to bite.

We probably get six auto dealers a month calling and out of those six we will close four of them.

We cannot do bulk emails directly out of the Partner XE system (yet… that’s one thing I’d love to see happen!) but we can export our prospect lists out of XE and then import them into our emailing system. Once they come back as leads it is all tracked in Partner XE.

Improving Business Processes

Love it or hate it, the internet economy and the “need it now” mentality that goes with it is likely here to stay. In this age of constant innovation and increasing technology, independent agencies that will prosper are those that will incorporate new technologies and adapt to new rules, use effective systems and processes to metamorphose around them and harness the power of available productivity tools.

Getting Started

The first step to improving any process is to gain a full understanding of the way it being done now. Many independent insurance agency owners, caught up in the day to day drama of running a business, find it difficult to make time to document procedures to realize the full potential of their agency management system and other tools — and even more difficult to implement and enforce them.

Borrowing from a lean manufacturing philosophy, the primary goals behind implementing documented systems and processes are to identify inefficiencies, reduce time spent on individual transactions, increase productivity (sales), while executing processes that consistently focus on customer value.

If you have not documented your processes and procedures, the first step you’ll need to take is to identify how things are currently being done and map each process from start to finish.

  • Get your team together to review the processes and collectively identify information bottlenecks and areas for improvement that are negatively affecting your bottom line.
  • Get input from the entire team on the areas where improvement could most directly affect their ability to sell more.
  • Prioritize improvements based on ease of implementation and overall impact.

The 6 Stages of Business Process Improvement

Once you have documented your processes you can focus on improving them. As indicated in the Harvard Business Press’ “Pocket Mentor: Improving Business Processes”1 a business process improvement cycle has six stages. Although complex improvements will take more time at each stage than simple process improvements, the stages apply to both.

Plan

  • What is your overall goal driving the need for improvement?

Analyze

  • Do you have documented workflows that leverage your technology?
  • Are these workflows built into your technology?

Redesign

  • Adjust documentation of procedures to reflect new goals/ processes

Acquire Resources

  • Is there technology available to improve this process?
  • Can I outsource activities ( like marketing) and ultimately improve my bottom line?

Implement

Continually Improve

  • Review processes regularly (at least once a year) to insure you are taking advantage of all available resources.

In analyzing your current workflow, you may find that simple, yet effective, adjustments can be made just by getting everyone in the office to uniformly take advantage of tools you already have (like a digital document storage system, Real Time or a uniform to-do list. You may also find that you don’t have the necessary tools or resources to get things done and need to make some adjustments.

Partner XE from SIS – an online hosted, feature rich, affordable, easy to use, scalable agency management system designed to streamline workflow and increase productivity for independent insurance agencies of all sizes gives agencies the tools they need to succeed.

Find out why so many independent insurance agencies are switching to the Partner XE agency management system. Call 800-747-9273 or click here to schedule a free agency management system assessment and consultation.

 

Resources

[1] Harvard Business Press. Pocket Mentor: Improving Business Process. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2010.

Best Practices for Going Paperless

Going Paperless Increases Office Efficiency & Productivity

Accomplish more work with fewer people in less time using an electronic document management system.


As ACT Executive Director, Jeff Yates wrote in AUGIE Survey: Agency Technology Having Big Payback for Many Agencies, “There is a multiplier effect starting to take effect for agencies that implement new technologies consistently and successfully. The biggest benefit seems to be that these efficiencies enable the agency to grow without increasing staff.”

One such opportunity for independent agents, discussed in a previous post, is Real Time. Another is the ability to move to a paperless work environment. When best practices are followed, going paperless using an electronic document management system can help independent insurance agencies tackle their operational processes, achieve increased productivity and improve customer service.

Why going paperless makes sense for an independent insurance agency

Consider the following two scenarios: First, imagine having to print each email you receive from your insured, get up and walk over to the filing cabinet, search for the insured’s folder, find the correct spot in the folder to place the printed email. Second, imagine a system that did it all for you – automatically. That is what you get with Partner XE and its Outlook Plug-in feature. In Partner XE, the Outlook Plug-in will automatically attach that email to the document section of the customer folder – no additional work required. Even if you only got one email per day this would be a nice feature. When you figure multiple emails per day for multiple employees, the time saving factor is huge. (Not to mention the green aspect of going paperless!)

In addition, especially with the advent of SaaS, workplaces are increasingly more mobile. To maximize efficiency, agents and customer service reps should ideally have access files and source documents anywhere, anytime. Going paperless, in conjunction with using an online hosted agency management system, makes it a slam dunk.

Best practices for going paperless

  • Implement an agency management system such as Partner XE from SIS that uses an internal transactional filing system (designed to be compliant with existing E&O standards) to manage storage and store all system files and activities.
  • Work with staff to determine the best method to scan and import documents into the system. This may depend on what type of scanning equipment you have in your office. Some agencies have big expensive multiplex scanners. Other agencies have less expensive workstation scanners. If you have a choice, our suggestion is to go with the latter. Overall, we have found that, when going paperless, the workstation scanners tend to be the most effective, primarily because they alleviate the constraints posed by a one-scanner system when more than one person needs to scan at once.
  • Determine how you will handle old files. The two main choices here are whether to scan all old files into the system so that ALL documents can be accessed digitally, or to pick a starting date and go digital from that point on. It is important to speak with your service staff to collectively determine what makes the most sense for your agency. Making a big decision like this could lead to frustrations if team members aren’t on board and it’s not all planned out ahead of time.
  • Establish a consistent document naming system. This is critical to be able to find files (no matter who created them) where you need them, when you need them – even several years down the road. Example: Emails should be tagged with “EML” and then the description, ACORD forms with “ACORD,” etc. By doing so, you can easily run a “sort” and group all of your emails / forms, etc. together
  • Create and integrate new workflow procedures and ensure all personnel are properly trained. Make sure all involved understand what documents are attached to what within your agency management system, etc.
  • When best practices are followed, an electronic document management system can go a long way towards helping organizations tackle their operational processes and achieve increased productivity and better customer service.

For more articles on the subject see the following links:

About the Partner XE Agency Management System

Partner XE from SIS is an easy to use, online hosted insurance agency management system with logical workflows, exceptional download and comparative rater integration capabilities and best in the business Outlook integration.