Increase Agency Efficiency

Increase Agency Efficiency with Real Time

Many independent insurance agents are challenged with the inefficiency that comes from dealing with different carrier interfaces. Duplicate entry, multiple passwords and too much time spent on training waste both time and money. One way to simplify processes is to adopt new workflows and /or systems that leverage Real Time tools.

To help get the word about the benefits of Real Time, there  is a widespread initiative afoot known as the Real Time/ Download Campaign (www.getrealtime.org). The Real Time campaign is dedicated to improving the competitiveness of the independent agency distribution channel through a streamlined and efficient workflow approach.

Increased efficiency = more time for selling

As the following figures put out in a recent Real Time Campaign Statement indicate, a large number of agency management system users (63%) are already employing Real Time to access multiple carriers at once for a significant increase in productivity. Consider:

  • The use of Real Time rating tools for personal lines saves agencies an estimated 68 minutes per employee per day.
  • About three fifths (62 percent) of those using Real Time rating also use Real Time inquiry and service transactions through agency management systems.
  • Real Time inquiry and servicing are saving 50 minutes daily for those employees using the functionality.

Room for improvement

Turn those figures around though and a full 37% of those surveyed are NOT taking advantage of the benefits of Real Time. Whether this is because they are working with agency management systems that do not employ the technology or whether they are just hesitant to use it is not clear. Regardless, for an agency looking to curb inefficiency, the use of Real Time should be part of day-to-day business operations.

Employ best practices

For those who have Real Time capability, but just aren’t sure how to use it most efficiently, we’d like to share Agency Real-Time “Best Practice” Workflows & Implementation Strategies, recently published by the Get Real Time campaign and touted as “ a road map for implementing ‘best practice’ real-time workflows.”

The time is now

For those not using Real Time, there is no better time than the present. As Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends, wrote in The High Risk of Wait and See, “One thing that’s certain regardless of industry or profession is that we have massive business process transformation taking place. Which processes? Virtually all of them: purchasing, logistics, accounting, sales, marketing, communications, collaboration, innovating, educating, training, managing, releasing new products, engaging our employees…the list is endless. We’re transforming all of these things plus more, and if you don’t initiate the transformation, someone else will.”

Find the right agency management system

If you are using an agency management system that does not support Real Time, consider switching to Partner XE from SIS, a feature rich, affordable, easy to use, scalable agency management system designed to streamline workflow and increase productivity. With Partner XE and Real Time you’ll be closer than ever to straight through processing.

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.

Benefits of Real Time

The following article was published by Jeff Yates, Executive Director of ACT.
It is reprinted here with his permission.

Independent Agencies Prefer Real Time Over Carrier Portals

Recent Survey of Over 3,100 Independent Agents Confirms a Strategic Vision

Click to download the Real Time article

Download a .pdf of this article

The Real Time/Download Campaign was founded to champion the adoption of Real Time and Download for independent insurance agencies and companies. Real Time provides agencies with a consistent workflow through agency management systems or comparative raters when doing business with multiple carriers, rather than having to learn the workflow of each carrier portal and enter data multiple times into these portals.

Some 7,500 independent agents answered a survey on carrier communications in 2006, leading to the campaign’s launch that fall. They said their primary challenge was dealing with “different proprietary company interfaces.” That challenge was followed closely by “duplicate entry,” “multiple IDs and passwords,” and “training agency staff” on different carrier workflows.

Real Time workflows were designed to ameliorate the challenges created by carrier portals. Today, carrier portals continue to play a role in enhancing some Real Time transactions and in providing additional information to agencies that is not otherwise available. But portals should not be seen by carriers as a substitute for implementing Real Time transactions for the many agencies which prefer to work through their agency management systems and comparative raters.

Vision Confirmed

Over the past five years, the adoption of Real Time has continued to expand and deliver outstanding benefits to agencies. This confirms our vision that Real Time offers these firms a more efficient and responsive workflow than navigating through various carrier portals. Consider what 3,110 agencies and brokerages told us in the campaign’s latest agency survey, conducted a couple of months ago:

  • Fully 63 percent of agency management system users employ real-time rating on comparative raters and management systems to access multiple carriers at once. This represents an increase of six percentage points over a similar 2010 survey.
  • The use of real-time rating tools for personal lines saves agencies an estimated 68 minutes per employee per day.
  • About three fifths (62 percent) of those using real-time rating also use real-time inquiry and service transactions through management systems, most often for billing, policy and claims inquiries, but also for endorsement processing (55 percent for personal lines, 29 percent for commercial).
  • Real-time inquiry and servicing are saving 50 minutes daily for those employees using the functionality, because the real-time tool can enter IDs and passwords automatically. And it can either return the information directly to the management system or navigate precisely to the information on the carrier website.

Moving Forward

Our industry has an excellent opportunity in 2012 to increase implementation and enhance the benefits being delivered by Real Time to our distribution channel. To encourage more agencies to implement Real Time, the campaign is planning a National Real Time Day on Feb. 29, 2012, during which the campaign, individual vendors, user groups and carriers will hold events to help agency owners and employees fully understand what real-time functionality can do for them. Details for the day will be announced soon.

Independent agency owners are busy people, to be sure. But as we enter a new year, the campaign calls on even more agency leaders to take a step back and examine—desktop to desktop—how employees write and service business. Real Time provides strategic benefits that enhance agency productivity. But there’s more: If principals insist on Real Time as the required workflow for all employees, it promotes consistent workflows across the firm, which simplifies staff training, allows managers to monitor employees’ performance more effectively, increases the security of processing, and creates better transaction records for E&O protection.

Carrier & Vendor Role

More carriers need to offer Real Time and carriers and vendors should continue to enhance the functionality they provide. Agents clearly told us in our latest survey what further improvements in Real Time they want to see:

  • Have additional carriers introduce Real Time.
  • Have those carriers offering Real Time provide the full array of real-time functions across the major lines of business, so that agency employees can count on Real Time as a consistent workflow across carriers.
  • See vendors and carriers continue to improve the real-time functions they do provide so that the response times are faster.

To give carriers and vendors a road map for implementing “best practice” real-time workflows—whether they are just starting to build out the functionality or seeking to improve and expand the transactions being provided— the campaign has just completed Agency Real-Time “Best Practice” Workflows & Implementation Strategies.

In addition, in 2012 ACORD will be developing specifications and implementation guidance to assist the industry in implementing ACORD standards and forms. The campaign also will encourage greater use of real-time transactions and download within the E&S market and for mid-commercial submissions.

About the Campaign

Launched in 2007, the Real Time/Download Campaign (www.getrealtime.org) is dedicated to improving the competitiveness of the independent agency distribution channel. The campaign isn’t advocating a specific technology, but a workflow approach that frees up more time for agencies to sell, process and service business. Most agents can leverage tools already contained in their agency management systems or comparative raters.

Campaign participants include agents, brokers, carriers, technology providers, user groups, and agent and industry associations. The campaign is led by industry groups and sponsored financially by ACORD and the ACORD-User Groups Information Exchange (AUGIE); Allied Insurance; Applied Systems; Applied Systems Client Network (ASCnet); Artizan Internet Services; CNA; EMC Insurance Companies; Erie Insurance; Grange Insurance; Harleysville; The Hartford; Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) and its Agents Council for Technology (ACT); IVANS; Liberty Mutual Agency Corporation; MetLife Auto & Home; Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU); PIA of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut & New Hampshire; Progressive; Travelers Insurance; Vertafore; and Westfield Insurance.

A More Efficient Workplace

Capitalize on New Technology to Improve Business Processes

“Every time you improve your company’s business processes, you generate crucial benefits for your organization in the form of cost savings, efficiency gains, and greater customer loyalty and profitability.” - Mark McDonald, PhD, Harvard Business Review Press, Improving Business Processes (Pocket Mentor)

While it would be nice to think that we are all perfect, there are very few, if any, organizations that operate at a level of 100% efficiency – and as more and more technology is introduced, the higher that bar becomes. The trick is keeping up, making the most of what is available and knowing when it is time to reevaluate,  find something better and improve business processes.

For the average independent insurance agent, for example, there was a time when the Franklin Planner was the best way to track appointments – then came Outlook, and then the ability to sync Outlook directly to your agency management system. There was a time when using carrier websites to transfer data was the most efficient way of doing things – then came Real Time. There was time when an in-house server was the way to go – then came the cloud. The list goes on.

Change as Opportunity

The trick is knowing when it makes sense to adopt new technology as a way to improve business processes and knowing when to stick with what you have. It is also in investing in technology that will continue to be updated as a matter of course – without a lot of thought or work on your end.

In “The High Risk of Wait and See,” Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research argues for adoption, stating that, “When you start looking at the certainties around you (which point to opportunities), rather than focusing on the uncertainties (which point to risks), you can see how detrimental a “wait and see” approach can be—how you’re actually missing major new opportunities for sales and growth.”

Analyze Business Processes

When uncertain about adopting a new technology or way of doing business, a business process plan/ analysis is a good place to start. At the get go, it will help you identify inefficiencies, define problem points and identify areas for improvement. It will also help you as you move into the adaptation of new business processes should you choose to do so.

As Michael Hammer wrote in his HBR blog, The Process Audit, “In virtually every industry, companies of all sizes have achieved extraordinary improvements in cost, quality, speed, profitability, and other key areas by focusing on, measuring, and redesigning their customer-facing and internal processes.”

Improve Effectiveness

Business Process Improvement is really about changing business processes to improve effectiveness. From a technology standpoint, this could translate to upgrading to new systems or programs. It could also translate into merely learning to properly use the tools you already have.

As an independent insurance agency, questions to consider might be:
  • As an organization are we making the most of the tools we have available to us?
  • Are we benefiting from the flexibility and scalability afforded by the cloud?
  • Am I able to give my employees access to the information they need?
  • Am I able to access critical information I need for my business?
  • Are we using Real Time technology to its fullest?
  • Can I get access to accurate information in one place…for all my carriers?
  • Is my system scalable and easy to train on?

Depending on your answers, you may find that you HAVE the technology you need, you are just not using it. You may also find that the system you have is nowhere near as efficient as it could be.

Partner Effectively

When considering an agency management system, the answer to some of those questions lies in the feature the product offers, the answer to others lies in your agency management system partner’s commitment to understanding the evolving needs of an independent agent and whether or not they embrace an environment of continuous improvement. For more details on how to find a partner that’s right for you, see our post Evaluating Your Provider.

SIS is that insurance agency management system partner – stable, committed, progressive, responsive and independent.


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.

Looking Back at 2011

Thanks for a Terrific Year!

A letter from Alex Deak | President + CEO

Greetings from SIS,

On behalf of the entire SIS team, I would like to take a moment to thank you for helping us make this past year one of tremendous innovation and progress.

2011 saw a 50% increase in the number of individuals using Partner XE. While this is undeniably good for our business, it is also good for yours. These increasing numbers make continuing product investment possible and collectively strengthen the voice of the National Association of SIS Partner Agents (NASPA).

So much has happened over the course of the last year, that I’d like to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve done and where we are going. Here are some of the highlights from 2011:

Ongoing Product Development:

2011 saw two different version releases of Partner XE as well as the release of a new and improved Outlook Plug-in. These releases combined to provide you with:

  • Enhanced marketing campaign functions,
  • New searches and reports,
  • Enhanced certificates workflow,
  • The ability to open documents with a Windows default viewer,
  • Improved ACORD 125 forms printing,
  • New accounting reports,
  • Improved server communication, overall performance and response time
  • And much more.

New streamlined features in the Outlook Plug-in include the ability to sync recurring appointments, add an entire email folder to Partner XE at one time and tag emails with a category.

Increased Service Staff:

In keeping with our commitment to providing excellent customer service, we have increased our service staff by 50% over the last six months. We’ve also added experienced developers to accelerate the pace of product enhancements and adjustments. With these additions, we now have the operational scalability we need to best serve our customers now and well into the future.

A New Online Resource:

In addition to increased service personnel, we’ve also created PartnerNet , a centralized online support website intended to reduce the volume of service requests and allow our service staff to delve deeper into product and workflow issues as needed.

Increased Capacity & Security:

Not only have we improved our product and added staff, we’ve also upgraded and migrated to the latest Cloud technology for increased system performance and capacity and added a redundant offsite backup to insure that your data is safely stored in multiple geographic locations.

What you have in SIS today is a growing organization focused on continuous improvement. We are committed to making Partner XE and our service delivery the premier solution in the industry for our customers.

Having invested in technology, people, and process to scale, we are now well positioned to do that and are looking forward to more improvements and an even broader customer base in 2012. We’re working with NASPA to form workgroups defining priorities and deliverables, because the old adage is true:

Together Everyone Achieves More.

Alex Deak, President


In Independent Agents They Trust

Independent insurance agents get a vote of trustworthiness from small business owners

We’d like to share with you a few excerpts from a letter we recently received from ACT Executive Director, Jeff Yates that speaks to the level of trust small business owners have for independent insurance agents and highlights what factors are most important to them in working with an agent.

The figures Yates references are taken from a recent survey of 501 small business owners (with less than 30 employees) conducted by The Pert Group and sponsored by Hanover Insurance.

On Trust:

A majority of the small business owners surveyed found their insurance agents to be trustworthy – the highest percentage of any of the types of financial services firm identified: 48% more than banks, 97% more than healthcare companies, and 295% more than stock brokers.

Those surveyed trust P&C carriers: 25% more than banks, 66% more than healthcare companies and 150% more than stock brokers.

On Overall Influence Factors:

Small business owners said that trustworthiness was the most important factor they look for from their property insurance agents. The top factors were:

  • Trustworthiness 86%
  • Competitive pricing 82%
  • Responsiveness 81%
  • Value 79%

The above information is good news for independent agents and good news for SIS as well because we work hard empower your agents and customer service reps with technology that can improve their responsiveness, help them track conversations and emails, facilitate personalized mailings and build a foundation of trust with their clients and prospects.

Features like Search Navigation, Contact and Client and Policy Management for example, put the information you and your reps need at your fingertips, enabling you to respond to your customers quickly and efficiently. Outlook integration streamlines your workflow by pulling your Outlook communications into your agency management system. New streamlined features include the ability to sync recurring appointments, add an entire email folder to Partner XE at one time, tag emails with a category when bringing into XE and more.

As one of our clients, Kevin O*Brien, so aptly put it, “Independent insurance agencies are sales and service organizations. When a system takes care of those little tasks it gives us the time we need to interact with current and potential clients. The key is having the right agency management system that lets us interact more with clients – like Partner XE does.”

We are consistently working on enhancements to make sure your Partner XE agency management system enables you to give the highest level of service possible and appreciate our clients’ feedback. If you would like to get involved in one of the National Association of SIS Partner Agents (NASPA) work groups to provide the SIS team with user input and suggestions on on-going product enhancements please contact John Heinszat [email protected] or(636) 946-2266.