Angelyn Treutel Zeringue, CPA, President, Southgroup Insurance Gulf Coast
In today’s busy world, we are all bombarded with communications through email, snail mail, text, voice calls, social media, and face-to-face visits. We can easily become overwhelmed with all of the information, but even worse, disconnected information that must be rekeyed into other systems creates a huge time waste and loss of profitability.
The chaos in the Insurance Industry is no exception. From a technology viewpoint, if you consider that there are thousands of insurance carriers using different systems and different processes that must be supported by hundreds of thousands of different agents, you would quickly realize that the need to streamline information flows and work processes are essential for survival. Compound that with increased consumer expectations requiring real-time responses from multiple carriers for rate comparisons on very complicated contracts that are not truly comparable, you would recognize the importance of standardizing and automating information flows to allow consumer and agent and carrier systems and other third-party interfaces to talk together and transfer critical information without the need to for duplicate and triplicate data entry.
"Most carriers have reduced the complexity of password authentication, and have extended the duration that a password can exist before requiring a change"
Together as an industry, we now can securely transmit confidential documents between Carriers and Agents through the implementation of Activity-Notes transactions which batch large documents together and are automatically attached to the appropriate client in the Agency system. Claims information download from the Carrier ensures that Agents have critical updates to a Client’s claim status, and the Agent can upload First Notice of Loss, and together the Carrier and Agent are better able to serve our mutual clients. Policy information is able to be securely downloaded from the Carrier to the Agency systems for almost every policy type. We have Real-Time Rating upload capability for Personal Lines and now Commercial Lines. This is very helpful for Agents because the thousands of pieces of information on a risk application do not have to be re-typed into individual Carrier website raters, since through real-time rating, the information already residing in the Agency system is electronically transferred into the Carrier system saving time, energy, and reducing errors. Independent Agents represent many carriers, and it is quite inefficient for them to have to methodically login to multiple websites to collect messages and we have developed interfaces to send messages securely among the various systems. As an industry, we are now using electronic signature capability and enhanced security to protect our client and private data. Great progress has been made.
The insurance industry has greatly improved the seemingly impossible task of having to remember hundreds of different login IDs and passwords for myriad websites agents must access every day to do our jobs. Most carriers have reduced the complexity of password authentication, and have extended the duration that a password can exist before requiring a change. Even better, many carriers never require a password change for transactions that are securely transmitted from an agency management system.
As we move toward the future, the insurance industry is recognizing the importance of focusing on the consumer experience. Consumers today have many choices—a bad experience for them is unacceptable. With today’s technology, agents and carriers have many tools that help them better understand target audiences as society's demographics continue to transform: We can use social networking to reach out to consumers, and metrics and business intelligence to target and personalize interactions as we offer increasingly customized choices and better values. We must learn by listening to consumers—and the data they produce—to identify the products and services they need and want. Consumers use social media to communicate with peers and respected partners; insurers must provide interactive, pertinent information to become relevant and mobile-friendly entities within their online social spheres. If we make the effort to stay in tune with what consumers worry about, we can provide them with peace of mind and choices for their coverages.
In order to do that, as an industry, we must be able to respond quickly, accurately and cost-effectively. Therefore, agents and carriers must work together to streamline systems to ensure that we are able to take insights and immediately turn them around to meet the demands of tomorrow’s consumer. In short, the insurance industry is working to take customer experience to the next level. We must provide an enthralling experience for our clients. Agents and carriers are working together to be accessible where consumers are, whether that is in cyberspace or in their local communities. We need to better communicate that we are an industry that helps people protect what they own and how they live. We need to understand changing demographics and ensure that we are taking steps to meet the upcoming needs for protection. We must make ourselves more valuable to our clients, so that they do not only think about us at the time of a claim. We should be part of their lives and provide them with advice and coverages, as their needs change, throughout their entire lifecycle. We must provide competitively priced products that compel clients’ loyalty, which is very rare in today’s fast-paced internet world. Insurance is a complex contract that is facilitated by an independent agent who takes the time and care to educate and advocate for consumers.