Agents Struggle To Make Agency Management Systems Work
Independent agentsmost of whom are not computer expertsare spending thousands of dollars to upgrade their agency management systems each year, only to discover that the software they have purchased is not making life any easier for the 21st century office.
“In our office we try to keep up on the cutting edge of technology. We recognize the value of the tool,” observes Darlene Penfold, principal in Penfold-Leavitt Insurance Agency Inc., in Eureka, Calif. “It is a valuable tool and there is a tendency for [agents] to get caught up in technology as methodology. It is a tool.”
Penfold-Leavitt uses two agency management systems, Applied and AMS, says Penfold, who also serves on the Oakland, Calif.-based Insurance Brokers and Agents of the West media relation team.
One problem with the software is the need for constant upgrades.
“They are good programs and the vendors try to make improvements, however, they could improve more quickly than they are doing and create programs that accomplish tasks in a more efficient manner,” Penfold remarks.
One example she gives is an accounting report done on AMS software that requires the agency to go through a series of steps in order to generate a report. “This is dumb,” she says. “You should not have to go through this many steps to get a report.”
Some tasks, Penfold notes, were easier to accomplish in the DOS version of the software. (DOS was the dominant computer operating system prior to the introduction of Windows.)
While some may empathize with Penfold, the problems agencies face in running their systems may come down to not knowing how to work them inside and out. Having that knowledge is a matter of commitment in both time and money to learn the system, says David Lohnes, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based automation resource consultant for the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Indiana.
“The biggest thing about automation is that it is not an event. You dont get automated,” Lohnes explains. “It is a process, a continuous process that should be a line item on everyones budget.”
There are a great wealth of possibilities in any of the agency management systems available today, he says. While not endorsing any particular programs, he notes the programs vary in their ability to perform tasks.