"Eddie Says" Blog
If you’re an ASCnet member—and even if you’re not—you may have seen a blog post recently on the ASCnet website by one of my newest friends, Casey Hearring. Those of you who were at the ACT meeting in Orlando last month saw and heard Casey, as she took part in a great panel discussion on strategies for real time transactions.
Casey is thesystems administrator for Schultheis Insurance Agency, which has been serving customers in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky for some 70 years from its office in Evansville, Indiana. By the way, a big SHOUT OUT to my pal and fellow mascot, Archibald “Archie” Eagle, head rabble-rouser for Evansville-based University of Southern Indiana. Casey also chairs the ASCnet Industry Solutions Download Subcommittee.
In her post, she mentioned that IVANS Insurance Solutions presented some really cool information at the February 2014 ACT meeting in Scottsdale. For instance, more than 14,000 insurance agencies are using commercial download with one or more carrier. Nearly 100 insurance companies offer commercial download for one or more lines. And, most impressive, more than three-quarters of a million records were downloaded by carriers directly into agency management systems in 2013!
Casey pointed out something I’ve known all along: commercial lines download is working. People are using it. And, based on her agency’s experience and her conversations with fellow members and others in the industry, commercial download is getting better and better.
She shared some other interesting info, including her own agency’s challenges and successes. It’s worth checking out her blog post. But one thing I don’t want you to miss is that you can get a customized report that shows what commercial download opportunities your agency or brokerage is making use of and which you might be missing out on.
IVANS will create the report, which Casey called, “a real eye-opener.” She explains that, in addition to helping employees identify and fill workflow gaps, the report helps managers see ways to boost agency efficiency.
To get your customized report, send a request to email@example.com and include your agency name, contact name, e-mail, phone number, your vendor system and, if you have it available, your Y account.
And let me know what you think. Is it as eye-opening as we think it might be? Comment below. Oh, and if you’re doing something great with Real Time or Download and want me to share it with all of my blog readers, post a comment and I’ll follow up. Promise.
In case you missed the news, my friends at NetVU recognized a couple of really terrific insurance carriers at their annual meeting this year. (Oh, and if you’re one of my ASCnet pals, read on through the end of this post; you’ve got an opportunity to do the same thing!)
The Network of Vertafore Users presented what’s called the “Quantum Award,” which recognizes insurance company achievements in agency-company technology that really boost workflow productivity and profitability for member agencies. Nominees come from NetVU members, Vertafore employees, insurance company employees and others.
The Quantum Award has three primary objectives:
- To encourage insurance carriers to successfully deploy single-entry interface technology (I love that!) that uses best-of-breed technology, ACORD standards, and real-time processing;
- To recognize and reward carriers that successfully deployed such technology in live, working agency environments, and have helped their agencies grow and profit beyond normal means. (Yay!); and
- To enhance the value of the important partnerships between NetVU members and the insurance carriers. (Yep, partnerships are really important, aren’t they?)
This year, Central Insurance Companies snagged the 2014 Regional Quantum Award. NetVU says the carrier has “dedicated itself to continuous improvement to ensure agents have access to the most efficient systems.” Central puts a super-high value on agency feedback, too. In fact, NetVU says the carrier “has several advisory councils in place to generate and encourage agency input.” These include an Inner Circle, CSR Advisory Council, Blue Streak Program, and Premier Agency Program, plus online agency forums.
Liberty Mutual Insurance took home the 2014 National Quantum Award. NetVU cites the firm’s “long-standing commitment to offer agencies high quality, integrated automation tools, including their early adoption of ACORD Activity Notifications and, more recently, claims download. Liberty’s been an active industry advocate for increased adoption of Activity Notes, they’re active in ACT’s Policy Delivery Work Group, and they offer a bunch of other automated capabilities like commercial download and real-time inquiry.
ASCnet, in advance of its annual meeting, now called Applied Net, is looking for member input on which carriers it should recognize. It wants to know which insurance companies have made special efforts to improve the interface capabilities in its members’ management systems.
The group’s Industry Solutions Committee will recognize ”the best of the best” in offering interface solutions, such as Download, Real Time, Activity Notes and more. The users group has a spiffy online nomination form its members can use to suggest possible recipients.
So if you’re an ASCnet member, do me a big favor: take a few minutes and recommend a carrier (or two) that you think really rocks Real Time and/or Download for your firm. And do it quickly. The nomination window closes at the end of this month!
Okay, so if you read my most recent blog post, you know I might have made a mistake on the words of some song. Someone tried to make me feel better about my alleged faux pas, and said, “Hey, Eddie. That’s okay. You’re only human.” Huh? Me? Human? Guess I’m not the only one that makes mistakes.
Anyway, I wanted to follow up what I wrote last time and tell you a little more about Ron Berg, the new ACT Executive Director. If you were at the ACT Meeting earlier this month, you know how excited he is about the group and the difference it’s making for independent agents and brokers and their customers.
Even before he assumed his role, Ron was involved with ACT, as part of its Strategic Future Issues workgroup. If you ask me, that’s a pretty important one, because it studies a bunch of high-level trends that fellow ACT members should understand as they do their work to help independent agents and brokers.
A lot of what he and his fellow workgroup members addressed dealt with changing consumer expectations. That drives most of what ACT does and it’s something Ron is passionate about. He says it’s important that agent and brokers have the knowledge and tools to be able to respond to what customers want, how and when they want that response.
At the ACT meeting in Orlando this month, there was a lot of talk about this. The Policy Delivery workgroup, for instance, shared its progress in helping agents and brokers deliver information—quickly and securely—so customers are in the know. The Customer Experience workgroup is helping everyone better understand insurance buyer touch points, pain points and decision factors. By the way, that group is looking for volunteers to help guide how to share its findings. Shoot Ron a note or comment below if you’d like to help.
Another thing they discussed—probably the thing Ron is most engaged in right now—is ACT communication. He wants to make sure everything ACT volunteers do is shared broadly in a format that agents and brokers and their business partners can really use. He’s all about providing clear information, tools and support for whatever agents and brokers need, so they can incorporate them into their own business strategies.
According to Ron, we need to think beyond some of the same ol’ same ol’ wordy print communication (no, I don’t take that personally as a blogger extraordinaire) and start using more video, podcasts, animation, graphics—yep, even infographics—and social to reach (and I’ll try to quote Ron here) “past the people who are here at the meetings to the other 90-some percent” of the agency arena.
To say Ron is excited about the opportunities at ACT is probably an understatement. And if you know me, you know that I’m not really good at understatement. He is pleased with the traction and utilization and positive impact of technologies like Real Time and Download more. Oh, and he’s really jazzed about the new SignOn Once tool that was unveiled before the ACT Meeting.
If you know Ron, this little tidbit probably won’t surprise you: After he read my last post, he told me he liked it, but that it was too focused on him. You know, I think that’s something I really like about him. He’s a pretty humble guy who’s all about everyone else—the volunteers and others who make ACT work. Something else that’s cool is mentioned he has a poster of my little Three Stooges cartoon in his garage—somewhere I have never been. I promise. Nobody can prove I was there. Especially if some tool happens to be missing or something.
So, what experiences have you had working with Ron? What can you do to help him and the whole rest of the ACT gang do more for independent agents and brokers? Let me know in the comments section below.
Are you one of those annoying people who, even if you don’t know the words, insist on singing along to the radio? You know the kind I mean: people who sing “Hold me closer Tony Danza” or “Rock the cat box?” Or are you like me—quick to correct the lyrically challenged or, at the very least, prone to snicker at them?
Well imagine my embarrassment when, as I was putting together this blog post, I starting singing that 1960s hit by The Crystals, “I do know Ron, Ron, I do know Ron.” Liz wasted absolutely no time pointing out my mistake. While most people would turn beet red from blushing, my otherwise big blue face turned eggplant purple.
Whether or not I had the lyrics right, I do know Ron. Ron Berg, that is. Executive Director of ACT, the Agents Council for Technology. In case you’ve never met him, I’ll share a little of what I know, and then I’ll tell you how you can meet him yourself.
Ron lives about a half-hour north of St. Paul, Minnesota. In Forest Lake, to be exact. And yes, it’s every bit as charming as you’d think when hearing the name of the town. In fact, Forest Lake’s motto is “As Good As It Sounds.”
It’s a perfect spot for an outdoors enthusiast like Ron. An avid fisherman and camper, Ron enjoys what I’d call the “brutal” Minnesota winter as much as he likes the much-more-sane-and-comfortable summer.
During winter, Ron gets to snowmobile, build snow forts with his grandkids, and spend time ice fishing. I’m not sure what kind of bait you use to catch ice, and, to be honest, I don’t really care. To each his own.
I will say, though, even Ron has his limits on frigid weather—and snow. In mid-April, as yet another storm was bearing down on Minnesota, Ron said, “I love winter more than anyone I know. Love it. LOVE IT. But that said, just stop. STOP!” I’m with ya, pal.
Ron’s also a musician. If you’ve been to ACT and AIMS Society meetings over the past couple of years, you may have seen him perform as part of the cover band JoKeR (named for participants Jerry Fox, Kitty Ambers and Ron.) What you may not know is he also tosses a pretty mean horse shoe and he’s part of an official, year-round curling league in Minnesota. Oh, and he’s quite the Minnesota Twins fan.
On the business side, Ron is all about helping independent agents and brokers. And he’s been that way for a long time. For the better part of the past 20 years, Ron worked with MetLife Auto & Home, doing everything from computer programming and technical support to driving better carrier interface with agencies and brokerages.
As part of his work at MetLife, Ron learned an awful lot about agency workflows and how technology affects agency operations. He used this knowledge to build strategies at MetLife to help agents and brokers work more efficiently. He spent a lot of time advocating to the company on behalf of agents and brokers, and, as MetLife’s ACT liaison, he spent a lot of time sharing his company’s positions and activities with the industry.
One of the things Ron did while at MetLife was lead ACT’s Strategic Future Issues working group. He says the group is a big part of what ACT is all about. SFI, as Ron likes to call it, looks at what’s on the horizon from a technology standpoint—within the industry and outside, including how consumers use tech to communicate and conduct business—and really understand the trends and build strategies that will help the Independent Agency Channel capitalize on them.
I could write a lot more about Ron. And I will, in my next blog post. I’ll share Ron’s perspectives on challenges the industry faces and issues ACT will take action on. But you don’t need to wait for me to learn more about Ron. You can meet him yourself, at the upcoming ACT meeting in Orlando on May 5th. The meeting takes place in conjunction with the ACORD LOMA Forum, and ACT meeting registration is free. So if you’re near Orlando early next week, orif you could be, why not register and join us?
Oh, and despite what Liz had to say about my singing, I do know Ron. And here’s proof.
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.