In today’s unsteady and fiercely competitive marketplace, life insurance agents need to work harder than ever to retain existing clients while finding the time to cultivate new business.  To that end, they need to be more efficient, more focused and less process-ridden in the quest to free up valuable time needed to run their business. 

For the insurance agents reading this, you are all too familiar with the inevitable burdens of paperwork associated with this industry. I refer to those nagging forms that never seem to end: life applications, replacement forms, addendums, questionnaires, authorization forms, consent forms, claims documents, etc.

By some estimates, agents can spend countless hours a year filling out and processing paperwork.  That is valuable time you could be spending selling policies and strengthening customer relationships.  Scaling your mountain of paperwork can become a daunting burden, especially for top producers.  To help minimize that burden, below are five easy steps you can take to get back valuable time and energy. 

1. Reduce Data Entry

Haste Makes Waste:  Cut down on manual entries and processing time by leveraging data you already have. 

Many of the documents you fill out depend on information kept in CRM databases. This information is sprinkled across various forms and needs to be correct in every instance to avoid application kick-backs.

The first step to get ahead in the paperwork race is to more effectively leverage your CRM systems as a central source of client data. By transferring data directly from your CRM system, you will cut down on manual data reentry and speed processing time.  Some automated forms-filling software even provides “off the shelf” CRM integration capabilities to handle the transfer for you. This is a worthwhile option to pursue if your carriers have made their forms available on this type of technology.

2.   Reduce NIGO

Get “smart”: Improve your not-in-good order (NIGO) rate by verifying that all fields are completed to prevent paperwork from being rejected. 

It is all too easy to accidentally leave important fields blank when completing large volumes of forms, whether electronic or printed.  Not only does the oversight negatively impact the carrier’s NIGO rate, but the slower transaction means you get paid later.  Asking customers to sign new paperwork can also result in loss of the sale.  If you are the agent who can’t get all those boxes filled the first time around, a “smart form” enabled system could be helpful for you. Smart forms alert you to the fact that you’ve missed required form fields.  If a technology solution is not an option for you, you should, at minimum, add a manual field check to your forms management process.

3.   Leverage Existing Technology

Efficiency is king: Be more efficient by using the same software and processes for insurance and securities products.     

Using the same solutions for multiple lines of business allows you to save money.  In the paperwork race, you need to know where you’re going and how to get there. That means you should leverage existing solutions where possible.  Many insurance agents also sell securities.  Using solutions that support both channels will simplify your practice.  This will help to save time on implementation, training and the overall paperwork burden, thus helping to make cross-selling insurance and securities products easier and less time consuming.    

4.   Stay Current

Be dynamic: Reap the benefits of the living, breathing form.

When filling out paperwork make every effort to avoid the use of static PDF forms. When you use a static PDF, you are likely to print and/or save a package of forms to fill-in by hand, either partially or completely. This usually occurs when you’ve hit a roadblock of an unknown data point and can’t continue without that information.

Avoid that urge to print or save. One major risk with them is that carriers are constantly updating forms, making version control nearly impossible if you’ve already saved or printed.

For example, in 2010 alone, 136,756 forms pages changed in the Laser App forms library. Of this group, 88,809 pages were new forms or additional pages to a form. And 47,947 were text changes to existing forms due to disclosure changes from carrier updates. 

These changes can’t be monitored if using a static form. If you’re using a static PDF, you run the risk of working on outdated documents, missing fields and being slowed down by a fully manual process. Dynamic forms can be saved and updated as information is gathered and allow information to be transferred onto new versions.  You, in essence, are working with “living, breathing forms.”

5.   Esign

Get Your E-sig On: Utilize e-signing solutions

Lastly, in an attempt to make straight-through processing a reality, consider finalizing each document with an e-signature.  Why stop just short of the finish line? An e-signature placed on completed applications allows you to electronically submit paperwork without having to rely on paper copies or scanning programs. This means faster account set-up and happier customers.

Paperwork will of course always be a necessary evil, but by following these five easy steps, you can win the paperwork race: You can get back valuable time to reinvest into growing your business, cultivating client relationships and raising your bottom line.

Robert Powell is vice president of sales and marketing for Laser App, Ontario, Calif.