Agent-Company Interface Still High On User Groups Wish Lists
Although agents are dealing with a host of technology issues, one that keeps coming up with user group experts is agent-company interface, or SEMCI as some still call it.
Roy C. Riley, president of AMS Users’ Group and chief operating officer of Peel & Holland Financial Group in Benton, Ky., said agencies face “a whole host of issues.”
One of them, SEMCI, is improving, he said, though “you still have many differences from company to company.”
“Companies that have enabled real time, through Web sites or from our management systems, do make it easier for us to do business,” he said.
Agents are still doing “a lot of logging in and out of company Web sites every day,” he said, which though negative in some respects, is “positive in that the carriers have enabled this ability for the agents, which is a great first step.”
Now, he added, it’s important to take the capability the carriers have built and “spin it out to a more efficient way for the agents beyond that–so that we can gain the information directly from our management systems.”
Currently, AMS is working to solve SEMCI issues with its own product, he said. “It’s going really well. We have eight carriers currently enabled for billing and claims inquiry.”
He explained that with the AMS product, agents can start within their management system, load up a particular policy, “click a couple of buttons,” and the information will be returned within their management system, “as far as the billing or the claims,” in real time.
This cuts out logging into multiple Web sites and multiple workflow. “It allows me to teach my employees one workflow for any of these eight carriers and I think they are hoping to roll out another set of carriers soon.
“The more carriers, the more momentum,” he said.
For Sallie Knighten, president of Applied System’s ASC-Net users’ group and operations manager of ISU Francis-Pinney Insurance Services Inc. in Roseville, Calif., agency-company interface encompasses more than SEMCI.
Ms. Knighten said, “The biggest concern to agents is using our management systems more efficiently.” To be efficient, she said, agents need “to tie as much together as we can within our management systems so that we can utilize that in all our workflows.”
She noted that company Web sites tend to pull agents out of their agency management system. “We get a lot of information at those Web sites, but for an agency to keep workflow consistent, to prevent errors and omissions and all the things that can happen,” the information needs to be pulled into management systems.
The issue differs from SEMCI, she explained, because SEMCI focused on rating and quoting, whereas agent-company integration is needed for all the transactions that occur, including claims, first notice of loss, billing inquiries and loss runs.
Agents get a lot of information at carrier Web sites, “but what we need to try to do with real-time interface is to try to pull as much of that as we can back into our management systems,” she said. “It’s a technology integration issue.”
The technology is there–in many cases built by the companies, she said. “They just haven’t built it out” to allow for integration, she said.
Steve Redel, principal of Redel Insurance Agency in Ballwin, Miss., and board member of Ebix Users Group, agreed that agency-company interface still tops the list of concerns.
The number of systems that users must access depends on the lines of coverage they offer and how the markets are set up, he said.
“In our little office, we have concentrated things to three personal lines companies. But with commercial, I might have to go to as many as five company sites to investigate a prospect or try to put a quote together,” he said.
Where he believes agent-company interface is heading, he said, is a “quote to issue” system where basic information is entered to get a quote. About 90 percent of the time, companies request standard information, he said. If the quote is acceptable, a detailed application is filled out, which is then processed. The quote is instantaneous.
To achieve SEMCI, Mr. Redel said, “I would think that you would have to step back and approach it from a different direction, because we’re not getting the job done year after year after year with having everybody agree to a single site.”