"Eddie Says" Blog
Yeah, the rest of the country is going to be celebrating a Mexican-inspired holiday next month. But insurance professionals have more important things to do–like get together to learn about progress and celebrate successes in Real Time, Download and other great stuff. Now that’s a party I could get into!
Here’s what’s happening: On the afternoon of Cinco de Mayo, the Agents Council for Technology (ACT) holds its spring half-day meeting as part of the May 4-6 ACORD LOMA Forum at Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Florida. The agenda is jam-packed with updates and interaction.
First on the docket—updates on work group activity on agency technology agreements, customer experience, ACT communications and policy delivery. Each of these is really important to agents and brokers and how they interact with customers. Can’t wait to hear what’s been happening!
Then, a couple of my favorite carrier pals, Teresa Addy from EMC and Jim (I call him “Jimbo”) Rogers from The Hartford, will update the gang on ID Federation. ID Federation is working to provide common legal and technical standards that will do away with the need for IDs and passwords. Talk about a reason to celebrate! Woo hoo!!
After that, attendees put their strategic thinking caps on. This group is really good at that, by the way. Panelists and audience will brainstorm ways to boost the use of Real Time transactions. I don’t know about you, but that gets me really, REALLY jazzed.
The afternoon ends with breakout sessions on how to get ACT’s messages out more broadly, diversity and involving young agents, and driving technology use. I suspect when these groups are done coming up with ideas, I’m gonna have a whole lot more work to do… and a whole lot more stuff to say and blog about. And I love it!
On the next day, AUGIE gets into high gear. The morning starts with breakfast (yum) and roundtables—featuring a Real Time/Download Campaign discussion. Then, later in the day, there will be AUGIE-hosted sessions as part of the ACORD LOMA Forum.
At 10:30, Teresa Addy and Applied’s Doug Johnston will lead “Success Stories from the Data,” which will look into successes, trends and opportunities around ACORD messages and agency communication strategies.
At 1:00 pm, ACORD President and CEO Greg Maciag hosts a panel of AUGIE Ambassadors and ACORD Board members in a discussion about AUGIE’s role as the voice of the Independent Agent and its impact on the industry today.
Then, at 2:00 pm we’ll hear from a few of our agency management system providers and, get this, an agent from the agency that IVANS has recognized as The #1 Download Agency in the country!
If you’re in Orlando—or if you can be—you should really attend. All agents and brokers are welcome to take part in the ACT meeting, as well as the AUGIE sessions. Be sure to register. I’ll guarantee it’s something you won’t want to miss!
Not sure if you heard, but one of my Real Time/Download Campaign pals just won a great award for her industry leadership. I guess that hint, “her,” narrowed it down a bit. But rather than make you read on and on to find out who I’m talking about, it’s Joyce Sigler, CISR, CPIW, CPIA, NcAM.
Joyce is co-chair of our campaign and an absolutely tireless champion of better automation and smarter workflows for independent agencies and brokerages across the country. She’s also really creative—coming up with lots of cool ideas to help the campaign.
The award she won is really cool—and aptly named. She was recognized earlier this month by our friends at NetVU—the Network of Vertafore Users—with its “Leadership Award,” which was created in memory of long-time users group leader Louie E. Woodbury. In announcing the award, NetVU folks described her as “a tireless NetVU advocate, always looking out for her fellow user.”
They added, “Anyone can call on her for advice or a how-to.” I have to agree with that. I may have asked her a question or two (or more,) and she was always quick with an on-target answer. I totally agree with NetVU when they say Joyce’s, “energy and enthusiasm are contagious.” I’ve caught them!!
She needs a lot of energy, considering all of the things she’s involved in. For instance, she participates in several local and virtual NetVU chapters. She regularly advocates with carriers for better interface. She’s on the AMS360 Education Committee, which helped develop the system curriculum for the most recent NetVU conference. Oh, and she’s the lead instructor and curriculum developer for NetVU’s AMS360 Certification programs.
But wait, there’s more! (Did I sound like a late-night infomercial announcer when I wrote that?) Anyway, you know she’s co-chair of the campaign. But did you know she’s also on the board of the American Insurance Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Society? And that she’s really active in her local community, as well? Oh, and all of this industry work is in addition to her day job as vice president of training and automation administrator for the Jones-Wenner Insurance Agency in lovely Fairlawn, Ohio.
There was one line in NetVU’s award announcement that I especially liked. They wrote, “Helping users understand and gain freedom within the AMS360 system and the insurance industry is a passion.” Gaining freedom is a pretty noble passion, now, isn’t it?
If you want to know a little more about Joyce and her agency, check out this article, Zen and the Art of Customer Maintenance. And next time you see her, give her a high-five and tell her you appreciate everything she’s doing for our industry. I know I will!
It’s World Compliment Day—the most positive day of the year! What a cool idea, huh?
I’m all about sharing compliments, especially around Real Time and Download. There are so many people doing absolutely fantastic things to make life for independent agents and brokers and their customers better. But I’m not the only one with compliments to share.
Our pal, long-time and soon-to-be-retired Agents Council for Technology (ACT) Executive Director Jeff Yates had some very kind words for folks who are doing great things in interface. At the ACT meeting on February 13, Jeff shared his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:
“Real Time has come of age over the last ten years and has so much more potential to grow in the future. I get frustrated when I talk with agencies that have not made Real Time the standard workflow in their agencies, because I have seen the positive benefits other agencies have realized from using this technology. Agencies have wanted to be able to work with their multiple carriers in a consistent manner through their management system or comparative rater for decades. Real Time is the vehicle that will get us there.
“There has been enormous progress in download in the last several years. Personal lines download is almost universal and commercial lines download has been much improved. It is time for agencies which have not implemented commercial lines download to take another look at it and to use it at least for small commercial business with those of their carriers that are able to send clean downloads. IVANS reports that 14,000 agencies are currently receiving 639,000 commercial lines download messages a month from 95 carriers. In other words, commercial lines download is working today for many agencies and brokers!
“Direct bill commission statement download and claims download are two additional innovations over the last decade that are saving incredible time for agencies today. The download of Activity Notes by carriers directly into agency systems is the latest technology that will profoundly impact agencies in the coming years. Using Activity Notes, carriers can send agencies electronic policies and documents, important client billing notices and other needed information. This technology saves the agent having to go to multiple carrier websites to pull these documents and information – a huge pain point.
“Using Real Time, Download and electronic filing, agencies have been able to become largely ‘paperless,’ particularly for personal lines and small commercial business. This trend has enhanced agency efficiency greatly and enables employees to work from anywhere that they have an Internet and phone connection. As a result, agencies are breaking down traditional geographic boundaries as they look to expand.”
You guys should be proud of what you’ve done, and you should be excited about the future.
By the way, at that very same ACT meeting, a number of folks shared some compliments for Jeff on the occasion of his last meeting as executive director. My buddy, Pete with the hard-to-type but easy-to-say last name, captured the essence of those remarks in a blog post. Check it out. And feel free to share your own compliments in the comment section below, on Pete’s blog post or on my Facebook page.
And while you’re at it, why not compliment someone—or ones—else, both in your business and in your personal life? Make it the most positive day of the year for them!
For the past few years, you guys have been showing me lots and lots of love. In person, of course, you’re all about high fives and smiles and shout outs and, most recently, fist bumps. Online, hundreds of you have clicked the “like” button on my Facebook page. Of course, if you have friends that would like to “like” me, I’d like you to encourage them.
But it’s time I started showing the love a little more. And the folks at the Real Time/Download Campaign are working on a way for me to do just that. I was sneaking around after the office closed and found some correspondence that I’m not sure I should be talking about. But, hey, they gave me the password to this blog, so here goes.
What they’re working on—and they’re apparently looking to get ideas from campaign supporters on exactly how this will play out—is an “Eddie Thumbs Up” icon that we can share with folks. They said yours truly could offer a “thumbs up” to agents, carriers, vendors and others that are doing a great job adopting of implementing Real Time and Download priorities.
Of course, they need to define exactly what “great job” means, and I know they’ll do that. But since I’m spilling the beans here, I thought I’d ask you, my blog pals, what you think? What should I give an agent or agency employee a “thumbs up” for? What about carriers? Vendors? And users groups and other associations?
How would you use an “Eddie Thumbs Up” if you got one? Would you use it in your email signature? On your website? Oo, oo, I’ve got a great idea: How about on a gihugeic billboard with a larger-than-life image of moi?
Anyway, I’d love to hear your ideas. And I’ll be sure to share them with the team.
One of my favorite things about being Real Time Eddie is that I get to meet so many really cool people. When I go out to user group meetings and other events, for instance, everyone is really, really great. They give me shout-outs and wave to me. They ask to have their pictures taken with me. And they’re high-fiving me all the time.
I also get to meet some really cool people working on the Real Time/Download Campaign itself—great volunteers and great support staff. One of the people I met a while ago but am getting to know better is Liz Kittell, our new Real Time/Download Campaign Director. Liz grew up in an insurance agency. Well kind of. Her dad’s an agency owner and she’s spent a decent among of time there. She also has experience working for a state association and an insurance company. So I bet a lot of you know her already.
You may know Liz as a highly respected social media expert; she actually carries the title social media strategist at Aartrijk, our communication partner firm. If you ask me, that’s a pretty impressive title. Even more impressive is the stuff she’s teaching me and the things she’s working on to help the campaign.
Liz is showing me how to use some new tools—tools that will help make our GetRealTime.org website more engaging, make data simpler to understand, and make information easier to consume and share. Over the next weeks and months, you’ll start to see a new look on the site—not a makeover, mind you, but a shift to more visuals and diagrams and infographics. I’m pretty jazzed about that.
We’re doing all of these new and fresh things to keep agency-carrier interface moving forward. Liz is looking to help move the industry to a “whole ‘nother level” when it comes to Real Time and Download. Okay, those are my words inside the quote, but that’s what she’s looking to do.
One of the things she’s focusing on up front is commercial lines download. That’s something the campaign leaders have identified as a real need, and we’re doing some cool stuff around it. We know that some agents have tried commercial download before and encountered problems. Guess what—it’s a whole bunch better than it used to be. We’ll be using video and audio and presentations to make sure people understand that and to encourage them to give it another shot.
We’re also going to be taking some of the word-intensive, I guess you’d call it, content on the website and applying some social and visual communication magic to it. Again, Liz is working her magic to make stuff on the site easier and quicker to understand and easier to share. So be on the lookout for changes and additions to various parts of the site.
I’m really looking forward to seeing these changes. But I think the thing I’m most excited about is something else Liz is work on: more interaction. Liz is really eager to boost industry conversation around Real Time and Download. She said that more interaction between agency people who are using the technology and the vendor and carrier folks who are building it will make for an overall much richer experience for everyone. I couldn’t agree more! So be looking for new thing that feed that.
Liz said we could start this “more interaction” right now, right here. Is there something you want to share? A good experience? A way to improve? Some other creative gem? I’ve got a comment section below; you know how to use it!
Monday, January 13, is the day—Clean Off Your Desk Day, I mean. Yes, it’s a (kind of) national holiday, held every year on the second Monday of January, and it’s a great opportunity to make a clean (pun intended) start to the coming year.
So how can I help? By sharing ways Real Time and Download can help you have a clean desk. I will tell you, I enlisted the help of one of my favorite agents—someone who is all over this better interface stuff—for her ideas. She, Joyce Sigler, offered a bunch of ways Real Time and Download make Clean Off Your Desk Day a great holiday for insurance pros like you:
- You don’t need to have sticky notes all over the place to remind you to do things, because using the Real Time for inquiry is a “once and done” process that’s documented right in your management system.
- Using your Real Time rating capabilities there are no applications and quoting notes on your desktop. Again, they’re entered in the rating system and then integrated into your management system.
- There aren’t paper policies that need to be mailed. Using the policy data Real Time view, you can pick-up a policy and electronically deliver it to your customers.
- Using carrier Real Time capabilities, you can have commission statements delivered electronically to your desktop, then balance your books and have everything stored within your management system. Bonus item: You also can have producer statements electronically calculated from your management system.
- Come renewal time, you can process the marketing of renewals electronically using the quote capabilities within the management system and carrier partner systems.
- Payments are another area. Make customer payment via the Real Time “Make a Payment” functionality and then electronically depositing them to your bank via remote deposit lets you post receipts and close deposits within a matter of minutes.
- No need for notes of endorsements that need to be processed. Simply process the endorsements into your management system and, using the Real Time endorsement, post changes directly to your carrier, and then produce confirmation letters and ID cards you can send electronically (or have mailed directly to the customer), all in a matter of minutes.
- Using the Carrier Real Time connection, you can review company processed items and company memos electronically, right on your screen in, of course, Real Time.
- Using Activities/Notes, you have your customer and agency data directly in your agency, without printing notices and returning later.
Now Joyce, whiz that she is, rattled these off in about five minutes. If I had given her a little more time, imagine how much longer the list could be! That’s where I need your help.
Now that you’ve seen what Joyce said, I’d like you to weigh in. Comment below and let us know how Real Time and Download help you clean your desk. Or share it on our Facebook page. And I think it would be really cool if you’d upload pictures of your desk—before and after, if you wish—to Facebook.
So as I close, let me be the first to wish you… “HAPPY CLEAN OFF YOUR DESK DAY!”
Now go wish it to someone else.
Way, way, waaaayyyy back in the early 1980s, The Waitresses wowed (some of) us with their new-wave hit, “I Know What Boys Like.” Two decades later, in 2003, Amanda Bines graced the silver screen in “What a Girl Wants,” an American adaptation of the 1955 British play, “The Reluctant Debutante.”
Here we are in 2013, and I’m here to tell you what boys and girls—well, men and women, many of whom were boys and girls in the 80s—want in terms of agency interface. Fortunately for you, I won’t sing it. And you won’t have to watch a movie to find out.
How do I know what they want? They told me in the Agency & Brokerage Technology Survey that the Real Time/Download Campaign conducted this year.
Topping the list was “getting additional carriers to offer real-time capabilities.” About half of survey respondents ranked that highest. I know that’s really important, but I’ve got great news. You can still save lots of time using Real Time with carriers that already offer it. Oh, and using it more will encourage more carriers to offer it.
Next on the list was expanded “commercial lines real-time comparative rating” functionality. About 40% said that should be a top priority. I know the agents and brokers who have used commercial lines real-time rating like it. Are you one of them?
One-third of survey participants said “consistency in the real-time workflows offered across carriers” and “easier password management” should be top priorities. Makes sense to me, because these make Real Time easier to use, and when things are easier to use, well, we use them more!
Rounding out the list, in order of priority, were:
- Improved real-time quoting functionality that eliminates or reduces the number of quote requests that error out;
- Faster response time;
- Consistent lines of business offered across carriers;
- Improved personal lines endorsement processing;
- Improved commercial lines endorsement processing;
- Greater availability of real-time quote submission functionality for mid-commercial business;
- Extension of real-time service capability to clients through agency website portal;
- Greater availability of real-time quoting for Excess & Surplus business; and
- Greater availability of real-time inquiry and service for Excess & Surplus business.
You might know that industry volunteers put together a really cool guide, titled, “Agency Real-Time ‘Best Practice’ Workflows and Implementation Strategies: Guidance for Carriers and Vendors. It was designed to help drive better, more consistent carrier and vendor real-time implementations. If you work for a carrier or vendor, check it out. If you’re an agent or broker or other insurance professional, encourage your carrier and vendor pals to take a look. And when you do, make sure they know “what you want” and “what you like!”
I had to take my shoes off this morning. That’s because I got counting all of the folks I was thankful for and I ran out of fingers! I jotted them down so I didn’t lose track. Here’s what I wrote:
I’m thankful for all of the really great carriers—and the even greater people who work for them—that offer Real Time and Download functionalities that help my agent and broker buds operate more efficiently.
I’m thankful for the MGAs and Wholesalers that have come on board to help fill in some gaps in the system. People who work for these intermediaries really are helping to make Real Time and Download work all the way through our distribution channel.
I’m thankful for the vendors and their people—including the programmers who work tireless to develop code that powers better Real Time interface. Thanks for what you do to better connect everyone through Real Time and Download.
I’m thankful for the really cool user groups and associations, and the volunteers and staff that power them! What a great bunch of advocates for better interface, and what a great source of peer-to-peer education for management systems users and others.
I’m thankful for the companies and organizations that support the Real Time/Download Campaign. Your contributions let us keep spreading the word and getting more and more people on board and really making our industry more competitive!
I’m thankful for groups like AUGIE and ACT, who bring together super-great and passionate people who work together. You make improved interface between agents and brokers and their carrier partners a priority and are making it work better than ever.
I’m thankful for all of my Facebook fans. I like when more people like me, and I just love it when you comment on stuff I write and when you share my words of wisdom with others. By the way, I’ll be especially thankful if you can help find me more fans!
I’m most certainly thankful for our campaign co-chairs, Joyce and Stu, and the folks who preceded them. I don’t think anybody realizes how much great stuff they do for the campaign and for our entire industry. You guys rock!
I can’t forget our insurance trade press, either. Annie, Andrea, Carrie, Chad, Jackie, Kathy, Katie, Laura, Nancy, Robert, Ron, Walt and the rest of you, thanks from the bottom of my big round heart for helping us spread the word about the future of our business!
Finally, I’m thankful for you—the folks who read my blog. I appreciate you coming back. While you’re here, why not tell me what you’re thankful for? Or better yet, go and thank one of your coworkers or business partners or loved ones for something they do!
Now I need to get my shoes back on and get ready for Turkey!!!
I’m sure you’ve noticed—it’s dark in the morning.
Hey buddy, yes, it is 7:00 in the morning.
Yeah, I know it’s dark, but I’m telling you it’s time to get up.
See? Being a clock in late October is not so fun. And the mood doesn’t lighten up anytime soon. So next time you feel like throwing one of us timepieces against the wall, please remember that’s it’s not nice to shoot—or hurl—the messenger.
But it’s likely that when you’re reading this, the sun is already up. Your day will certainly be a busy one—aren’t they all? So let me take just a moment to deliver another reality. The holidays are coming…as are renewals, end-of-year projects and all those other tasks that drive you to your wit’s end.
This is the time of year when everyone wishes there were more hours in the day.
But here’s the good news. You can get some hours back if you use Real Time. Is that motivating enough to get you started if you haven’t? Don’t wait till the New Year to waste a resolution on being more time-savvy. Do it today. The tools are ready and waiting.
As the 2013 Real Time Survey discovered, slightly more than 20,000 real-time transactions are already being performed industry-wide each day through agency management systems. In addition, the use of real-time rating tools is up by more than 32% in the last 18 months. Pretty good stuff. We’re definitely heading in the right direction. Make sure you’re headed that way, too.
If you’re not sure where to start, check out my handy Real Time Implementation Guide. The 21-Day Challenge offers a nice step-by-step process, as well. Oh, and check with your carriers, management systems vendor and users groups to see what help they might offer.
Now… No more snoozin’. It’s time to get up—and moving!
All of my friends who are part of the Real Time/Download Campaign want one thing: better interface that will allow independent insurance agents and brokers to compete more effectively and serve clients better. Pretty noble goal if you ask me. Two big parts of finding success are getting more functionality and getting more agents to use what’s out there.
When the campaign folks conducted their most recent survey, they asked agents “Why not?” And they asked it over and over. I think every time someone taking the survey could answer that they didn’t use a specific functionality, they were asked, “Why not?” The answers were interesting.
Too many—in my mind, anyway—said they didn’t know why not. If you want my opinion, these people need to start asking the boss “Why not?” Better yet, they should arm themselves with reasons why they should start using the functionality. Make a case for improved efficiency in your insurance agency or brokerage!
Many of the responses point to opportunities insurance carriers, vendors, agents, brokers and other thought leaders have to communicate with agents the how-tos and the whys of Real Time and Download. Many point to the need for more carriers to get on board and with more functionality.
Here’s a quick glimpse into some of the “Why nots” the survey participants offered:
- For real-time commercial lines rating, the top two reasons cited were, “We don’t have a real-time comparative rater for commercial lines” and “Too few carriers offer commercial lines real-time rating tools.”
- Real-time inquiry and service “why nots” included “I don’t know why we don’t” (grrrrrrr), “Too few carriers offer/support the transactions we use’” and “We did not know this was available in our management system.” That last one deserves a grrrr, as well.
- For commercial lines download, respondents said, “It overwrites too much data,” “It lacks details, consistency, or quality,” and “There’s too much inconsistency in workflows from carrier to carrier.”
- Personal lines real-time rating “why not” responses included, “It’s easier to go to the company website,” “We tried it, but found it too slow/inaccurate” and “It’s not worth the extra expense.”
- Only one in 20 survey participants said they didn’t use personal lines download, but those who didn’t said, “It’s not worth the extra expense” and “It overwrites too much data.”
So what do you think? How do we address these “Why nots?” How do we get more carriers offering more functionality and get more agents and brokers to use it?
I know, I know. Carriers won’t offer more until agents use what’s there and agents won’t use it until there’s a critical mass. I’ve heard the arguments before. It’s the old “chicken and egg” thing. But you know what? If each group waits for the other, guess what’s going to happen. The direct-writing competition is going to feast on both—chicken and eggs!
That’s what I think. What about you?