How many times have you started something without reading the directions first? Whether it’s a “some assembly required” Christmas gift or that “but it looked so good in the store” table from Ikea, chances are it ends in frustration. Like it or not, you’ll end up using those directions—like you should have done in the first place. Why do we resist taking advantage of the help that’s right in front of us?
Many agencies do the same with agency management system training. System training is part of what you’re paying for—why not take advantage? All the old reasons come up: “It’s so busy right now. We just don’t have the time,” or “Everything’s working fine. We don’t need any training.”
And we all know if something is important enough, we find the time. For your agency, management system training is that important.
Why Take the Time to Train?
There are many reasons why training is vital to agency growth. For one, it gets your staff on the same page. Everyone learns the same methods at the same time. This uniformity is helpful as you work to document and streamline your operations.
Training also empowers agencies members to understand and utilize time-saving enhancements in your system. Good providers update their systems regularly, adding new features and enhancing others to quicken workflows. But, if your staff isn’t trained on these enhancements, chances are they’ll continue using a new system in an old way. Slowing down for a short time to train staff may seem inconvenient, but you’ll really save time in the long run.
In that same vein, training helps your agency do more without spending more. When used to its full capability, your agency management system allows your staff to get more done with less time. You gain all the benefits of hiring new talent or upgrading systems without any of the cost.
Finally, investing in training simply means you’re getting your money’s worth. Training should be part of your provider’s services. If you’re not taking advantage, you’re essentially wasting money. It’s time to start putting that investment to work.
How to Get Training Started
If you haven’t had agency management system training before, you may not know where to start. Follow these steps to get training up and running at your agency:
Determine where you need to improve: focus first on areas where you feel you’re moving too slow or aren’t seeing a lot of progress. Tackle these points in your training first.
Decide who needs to be trained: does your whole staff need a reboot or should you focus on one department first? Figure out groupings and target trainings for each.
Get in touch with your provider: find out what types of training (in-person, online, self-directed) they offer and decide what combination works best for your agency. Get their advice on how to structure training to best fit your culture.
Delegate a point person: depending on your staff size, this may be one person overall or one for each training group. This person will be the “go-to” once training is over to help people put what they’ve learned into practice.
Take advantage of continuing education: find out what your provider has to offer to keep you up-to-date with best practices and other training materials.
There’s more to an agency management experience than a top-notch system—you need to be able to use it. With regular trainings, you can be sure your agency is utilizing your system to its fullest, maximizing your agency’s efficiency and getting the biggest bang for your buck.
At SIS, we’ve seen the value of training in action. That’s why we provide targeted in-person and online trainings for our agency partners, and offer anytime access to great training resources on our PartnerNet user portal. Through a comprehensive KnowledgeBase, QuickGuides, and webinar recordings, as well as regular Regional Learnings, we keep our Partner XE community connected, informed, and educated.
Keeping up with customer requests can seem like a never-ending task. But, there are tools out there to help the independent insurance agency minimize time spent and maximize customer service. We asked the experts at SIS to share some of the best tools for boosting agency efficiency. One of the top tools to come to mind: comparative raters.
You may have heard the term tossed around, but what exactly is a comparative rater? These online-based tools quickly compare carrier rates. Think of Hotels.com or even Amazon and their price comparison tools. Comparative raters do the same for your customers’ potential policies. After entering some basic data, you instantly receive accurate policy quotes from your carriers in an easy-to-digest format.
The information you enter is housed in your agency management system, and many offer the option to integrate with a rater directly. With an integrated rater, you can either source data from your management system into the rater or start with the rater and flow policy information into your system if you win business.
The instant nature of comparative raters saves you hours of rate hunting. The time saving alone is huge. Another benefit is the accuracy of each quote. Carriers update their rates regularly, so you know you’re always giving your customers the most up-to-date info. [bctt tweet=”And #comparative #raters help you meet your customer and prospect needs faster.” username=””]
How do I get started?
Fortunately for you, comparative raters make it easy to get started. They’re accessible online and allow monthly pricing options. Or, if it’s offered, you can opt for integration with your management systems. SIS’s Partner XE is compatible with many different raters. We work with users to integrate their rater of choice into our customizable management system.
Find out more!
Find more great tools and tips to maximize agency efficiency at sispartnerplatform.com. Check out our comprehensive online guides, covering how to manage agency change, improve operations, and harness the latest industry technology. Or get in touch with us to see if our Partner XE agency management system may be the #1 tool you’re missing.
The savvy small business is owner is always working to improve operations. Whether it’s boosting customer retention, reducing process time, or another small move that makes a big difference, the biggest hitch is coming up with that “new and improved” method. Where can you go to get inspired?
One of the best ways to gain new business perspectives is to talk with other professions. And the best place to connect is online. Insurance agency websites, blogs, and other online resources instantly connect you with countless industry professionals. Below is a list of the reliable, up-to-date, and relevant online agencies resources to help infuse your agency with inspiration.
Top Independent Insurance Agency Websites
Check out these top independent insurance agency websites and bookmark each for future use:
Agent Council for Technology (ACT) This open forum group offers targeted content on industry tech. Through podcasts, webinars, and other online mediums, ACT addresses workflow issues facing independent agencies. Check out their site for info on marketing, cyber security, customer experience, and other relevant technology-focused topics.
Property Casualty 360 From the experts at the National Underwriter Professional Network this news resource targets buyers and sellers in property and casualty insurance markets. P&C 360 relies on market data and industry trends to drive their content. Topics include compliance and legal updates, continuing education opportunities, and industry news.
Get tips on how to make your agency website a top resource for your customers
Insurance Journal Insurance Journal is one site with multiple information streams: blogs, videos, podcasts, and newsletters among other resources. The site covers breaking industry news and provides award-winning commentary on insurance market trends.
Recommended Agency Blogs
Another great resource is agent and agency blogs. Some notable industry blogs include:
SteveAnderson A long-time industry thought leader, Anderson has been a licensed independent agent for 30 years. He provides engaging, insightful information on technology trends to improve operations and boost an agency’s bottom line. Through frequent posts, podcasts and his Steve Anderson’s TechTips newsletter, Anderson speaks directly to agency needs.
BizzGrizz Brent Kelly is a speaker, trainer, and coach with 15 years’ experience in the insurance industry. His blog focuses on topics to engage agencies in leadership, communication, and growth. He is a frequent contributor to Property Casualty 360 and other well-respected industry publications.
The SIS Blog We may be biased, but we work hard to ensure we’re up to date on industry trends and provide engaging content for independent insurance agencies. Our posts, eGuides, and other resources come from conversations with our clients, ensuring we’re hitting what matters to agencies From cyber security to customer engagement, we make an efforts to provide variety, clarity, and relevance.
What did we miss?
This list only scratches the surface on valuable online agency resources. Let us know what we missed! Contact us to share your favorite sites. We’ll update our list as it grows through your suggestions.
“Cyber security” and “cloud storage” may seem like buzzwords, but both are more than just phrases – they are critical to agency operations and insurance data protection.
Data is your agency’s most valuable asset. Customer data, policy data, data on your gains and losses, and other critical pieces are the fuel on which your agency operates. You need to protect this data, and easily access it to keep your agency moving.
Why Cloud Storage?
It may be counter-intuitive that your agency’s data is safer “so far away” with an offsite cloud computing provider. But, in our super-connected world, it is never more than a click away. In reality, housing data offsite heightens its protection. Cloud providers specialize in securing and processing data, meaning your agency’s valuable information is in the safe hands of experts.
Offsite data storage through the cloud is the means for your data’s security. It ensures overall agency cyber security along with speed and ease of access to your agency’s data, among other benefits. If you don’t use cloud storage yet, here are just a few reasons why it’s time to invest in this critical piece of agency technology.
Data threats can come in many forms: hardware theft, hacking, natural disaster, and structural agency damage, to name a few. Geographic redundancy and multi-character password data encryption used in offsite storage ensure agency data is safe from such threats.
With cloud storage, data comes in and out through closely monitored access points. Cloud providers also stay up on industry and government data security standards, so you know your agency’s information is at the height of protection.
2. Your Data is Always Accessible
While securing your data is most important, accessing it is just as critical. Cloud storage allows you to access agency information anywhere you have an internet connection. Such connectivity means you can do business faster and serve customers better.
Data accessibility is vital should your agency fall victim to a security threat. Cloud providers work hard to ensure their facilities are safe from natural disaster areas, but you can’t guarantee the same for your agency. Should your agency’s hardware be compromised, you’ll be glad it’s not critical to data access. Offsite data storage allows you to seamlessly transition your operations to temporary spaces as you pick up the pieces.
Cloud storage also leads to faster data processing time. This streamlines operations and quickens customer response. Happier customers mean more business, and offsite data storage allows your agency to keep up with that growth. A simple increase in storage space is all your agency needs to add new locations or keep up with ever-emerging market trends.
4. Your Data Costs You Less
Storing agency data offsite can cost dramatically less than investing in the infrastructure to house it within your agency. Cloud storage providers already have the space, servers, and software to house your data, and you’re sharing costs with the dozens of other agencies renting their services. And you don’t need to add servers or other hardware as you grow – all is taken care of through the cloud. Finally, most providers offer pay per use, so you’re only paying for what you need.
The best and most convenient way to get cloud storage and data security is through your agency management system. Your management system houses all your agency data, so it makes sense to have that data hosted in a secure environment. Talk to your management system provider about offsite storage and cloud security in an effort to consolidate your expenses and heighten your insurance data protection.
At SIS, we house all Partner XE data with industry-leading cloud service providers like Expedient Data Centers and Amazon Web Services, in geographically distributed regions. All of our clients automatically gain the security, accessibility, and savings associated with cloud storage through our Partner XE management system.
This slogan became the catch phrase for “As Seen on TV” guru Ron Popeil’s Ronco electric oven. The phrase tapped into the customer’s common need: more time. It provided the ability to multitask, without the burden of actually thinking about two things at one time. It set the stage for our modern-day surge in automation.
Such automated systems and processes are an essential part of your agency management system best practices. If it can be automated, it should. Self-operating systems take fewer resources, saving money and time. And, they free up space for “back burner” projects like tackling prospecting and marketing initiatives, which eventually lead to a larger bottom line.
When it comes to automation, your agency needs to invest in these essential pieces.
Whether its commercial, personal, or both, setting up carrier downloads is a must. Carrier downloads promise up-to-date policy information and client records 24/7. No more calling carriers multiple times a day, tying up lines and sucking productivity. This streamlines system allows staff to focus on more important things, like your customers.
Find out how to get started with carrier downloads here
Integrating your agency management system with your email system allows you to automate prospect and client tracking. With email integration, every email you send is linked to a client or prospect profile automatically. You’ll never forget to tag this important piece of relationship-building information again.
Similar to email integration, integrated accounting within your management system saves you from forgetting essential steps. With integrated accounting, you only need to enter financial information once. And, your system can automatically create reports based on what you’re already recording in your system. The effects on your business are dramatic.
The automation effects of customer portals may not seem obvious, but giving clients access to their policy information is a real time-saver. Synching your policy information with a secure customer portal on your website can help you automate things like policy inquiries, address changes, and claims filing.
To benefit these time-saving elements, all the above pieces must be part of your agency workflows. Once you know the functionality of each automated system, it can only do its job if it’s integrated into your agency’s current systems and processes. Make an effort to define your systems and make automation a part of them.
Learn more about updating and improving agency processes here
As you look into these automation wonders, check in with your management system provider to ensure they can integrate these elements. If your system isn’t able to add these technologies, you’ll be back at square one.
Look for a system like SIS’s Partner XE, which is built to grow with your agency, through semi-annual updates based on client needs. We focus on training, too, ensuring our enhancements are not just “bells and whistles” that no one knows how to use.
Industries worldwide have a lot to learn from the unprecedented global pandemic that first hit the U.S. in early Spring 2020. The virus's impact will be widespread, and the insurance industry has been hit just as hard as any other market. Below are a few findings that...
As an industry, and as a country, we’ve been through a lot in 2020 so far. As we start to take our finger off “pause” and begin to ramp up business again, there’s a lot to think about moving forward. For many, a large part of re-opening is a re-assessment of insurance...
SIS President Michael Doran reflects on the impact of the coronavirus shut-down and how the Partner Platform community responded. From a business perspective, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic will be remembered well beyond “take your child to work every...