As your agency grows, and you try to make more decisions based on data while using automation to drive down costs, software becomes an inevitable answer to all of these business and marketing questions. Additionally, the virtual nature of communications makes it necessary for you to manage your book of business, your staff, and your office from anywhere in the world - again, a problem easily solved with software... and almost impossible to solve in any other way.
Fortunately, there are many excellent options in the market for insurance agency management software, and we have done some research for you.
What is insurance agency management software?
Insurance agency management systems, also called AMS, are cutting edge software developed by software companies to help independent agents manage their book of business and general insurance business operations. The best part is that insurance agency software is built with a specific niche in mind, such as property or life and health-based insurance.
Insurance agency software goes beyond the capacities of the very popular Customer Relations Management software (CRM), because besides helping you manage customer info, lead management, and communications, they also have marketing automation capabilities, and features such as commission processing and integrated financial services that really save insurance agents lots of time and gives them visibility over producers and clients.
An agency management software must be user friendly, and have at least the following features:
- Store and organize customer information above and beyond contact info: policy documents, statements, and notes.
- Create reports at all levels for accounts activity, sales activity, etc organized by insurance carriers, producers, and other criteria.
- Streamline or automate workflows for insurance brokers, such as commission tracking, acord forms, renewals and quotes.
Do I need insurance agency software?
You may be tempted to think that the more readily available and somewhat more economic CRMs are enough to enhance and digitalize your agency, but you would be wrong. A CRM is a tool to manage customer service and relations, and it will definitely make your service and retention efforts more effective and efficient.
However, a CRM won’t help you manage policies, remember upcoming renewals, or automate insurance-specific tasks. A good AMS, on the other hand, is not only built for the insurance industry - it is specifically designed to work with Life and Health policies, or with Casualty and Property insurance.
One popular AMS specialized in Life and Health Insurance polled their clients, and found that an agency saved 6 hours on lead distribution each Annual Election Period, and shaved more than 100 hours off their periodic renewal-notice work. Imagine what that kind of efficiency could mean to your agency, and what you would do with 100 additional staff hours! (Hint: it had better be selling some more insurance.)
Studies have shown that
- 41% of independent insurance agencies are already using insurance agency software to manage their book and operations
- 19% of agencies only use a CRM to manage their customer relations, but not their policies
If you’re not part of these statistics, you must be using paper files, spreadsheets, or some other management solution. It also means that 60% of agencies are ahead of you, working more efficiently and spending less on staffing while serving their customers faster and with a smaller margin of error. Insurance software is designed specifically to solve the daily problems of an insurance agency and to take care of mindless, repetitive tasks so you don’t have to pay a human to do it.
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you of the necessity of automating your operations through insurance software. Now let’s talk about what your expectations should be.
What features should I look for in an AMS?
An Agency Management Software will require an investment from you, so you need to make sure you are going to make up those expenses in the shape of time savings, added efficiencies, and features. Be clear with what you expect from an AMS, so you can get the one that fulfills your agency’s specific needs.
You want your insurance software to offload your team by taking care of as many repetitive tasks as possible and automating everything you can. Your AMS should encourage collaboration, reduce mistakes, and make sales easier and faster.
Consider all of the features an AMS may have, and once you decide which are deal-breakers for you, use them to choose the perfect insurance agency software.
While CRMs are designed for general contact and relations, agency management software is specific for insurance, meaning it will help you manage renewals, open enrollment, annual election periods, and all the time-consuming tasks specific to the insurance industry.
It’s 2020- you should not have to go to the office and look into a file cabinet for a customer’s account details. Cloud-based solutions give you access to your book of business wherever you are - all you need is Internet access.
Organize policies and contacts
You don’t want your book sorted by carrier, by date, or by policy number. You want to be able to get a quick overview of a customer’s policies, history, payments, etc - this will make dealing with customers (and selling to them) a lot easier.
Some jobs that can be performed automatically by insurance software include service-level agreements, reporting, ticket categorization and assignment, newsletter management, and more. This frees your staff from low-level work, so they can focus on delighting customers and finding more sales opportunities.
A system that can’t adapt to your agency will become a burden rather than an asset. Each agency has unique needs and goals. The right Agency Management System will personalize workflows to speed up the onboarding process and support your growth in the future. The right AMS should be able to adapt to your business needs to help you achieve your goals.
I’ve been telling you that information is king, and an up-to-date analytics dashboard is the throne from which you reign. Imagine detecting low sales, high expenses, or other issues the moment they start to happen, and being able to take measures before they become an issue. This can be a reality.
One of the greatest benefits of insurance software is how easy reporting becomes.
You can detect trends easily, and take action much more quickly than ever before. Your team will no longer have to spend days and hours producing reports for you - sales, renewals, account rounding, customer complaints… whatever you wish to know more about can be easily reported with just a few clicks.
The shorter the learning curve, the faster your AMS will work to your advantage. Every system takes some time to learn, but an intuitive AMS will significantly cut down on the onboarding process. It can also help increase productivity and positive employee interaction.
You want your AMS to help you process commissions - automating time-consuming tasks such as these is one of the greatest pluses of using insurance software. Not to mention that this reduces the risk of human error that is ever-present when doing many complex calculations, especially those involving money.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways of adding to your sales funnel, and automation has come a long way here. You can message prospects, customers whose renewals are approaching, new leads, and more, and you can even program a series of communications or automate who receives which message and when.
Policies can be complex, especially with customers who combine several types of coverage (these are ideal customers, by the way, since they pay you more and are bound to be more loyal).
No CRM is built to organize and manage policy information, but insurance software is.
Integration is one of the most efficient uses of your technology. None of your software and technology should stand alone. You can avoid entering the same information and potentially missing important information. If you enter a payment, for example, it should automatically transfer that information to your accounting software.
A good Agency management System will help you organize leads and prospects, keep track of when they were contacted and where they are in their journey, and even help automate communications to keep them moving along towards a sale.
Make cross-selling easier
Insurance software is designed to detect and recommend customers who are ready for a new policy to complement their existing ones, making the job of your sales team easier. Don’t let opportunities like these go to waste - at least 40% of your competitors are already taking advantage of them.
Technology is not to be feared, but embraced, especially when it can reduce your expenses and increase your sales. Shop around for agency management software, or contact us and ask us for our favorites.
How to Choose the Best Software for Your Agency
The number of cloud-based management solutions, the features they offer, and potential weaknesses can start to feel overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be, though. Take the time to understand your companies’ goals and challenges, research your options, and ask the right questions.
Here are some steps we recommend to decide which AMS works best for your insurance agency.
Step 1: Assess Your Challenges and Goals
Every agency has a unique set of challenges, backgrounds, and goals. What process are you using now? If you are still manually inputting information, what processes are you hoping to improve? If you already have an AMS, why are you considering another one?
Take some time to assess your goals and aspirations for your agency. Where do you want to be next year? In five years? In ten? Have specific goals in mind to help guide your decisions. Most agencies use the SMART acronym to come up with goals for your business:
Next, consider whether you are on track to meet these goals or not. If you aren’t, what changes do you need to implement to make them a reality? How can your AMS help you make it a reality?
Also, consider the challenges that you face when it comes to achieving your goals. Are you bogged down in paperwork instead of spending your time in sales? Is your customer experience lacking? Think about your current problems that technology can help solve.
Step 2: Create a Needs versus Wants List
After you have thought through exactly what your goals are, you can start to clarify what is essential to the software you choose and what is a bonus. A wants versus list should help support your goals to help you reach them in their desired timeframe.
A list of your wants versus your needs can help you clarify what you want in an Agency Management System. It can also help you avoid getting sidetracked by an added bonus feature that you choose a software that doesn’t meet your essential needs.
Consider what features you need in your current business. Many agencies, for example, now work remotely. Remote accessibility and elevated security measures will help ensure that your information can be safely accessed from anywhere.
Although your needs should not be sacrificed for your wants, they can still help make your day easier and more efficient. Features such as integrated business analytics and projected commission revenue can help you reach your long-term goals. They would not affect the daily aspects of your business, though.
Step 3: Ask Questions
By clarifying your goals and what you need from your software, you are prepared to find the right software for your needs. The number of vendors can be overwhelming at first, but your list will help you quickly weed through the software to find the right one for you.
Once you have narrowed down the number of vendors based on features, come up with questions to find out more. They should help you clarify costs, processes, and customer service. Questions will help you understand more about the company and software you are investing in because they won’t just be a software company. They will be your partner to reach your business goals.
Some areas your questions should address include:
The cost of the software might include different fees based on the company. Ask questions about any additional charges to get an overall budget for each vendor. This way, you won’t get a surprise bill after everything has been installed, or blindsided when you find a different price while signing a contract.
Additional costs might be related to storage, support, setup, migration, or training. Also, consider your wants versus needs list when looking at the features. Additional features that are indispensable to your agency might come with an additional fee.
Also, keep in mind your budget for the future. If your needs should expand, how will the software price increase? Consider their cost as you continue to grow. Likewise, if you don’t need as much in the future, will you have to continue to pay for features you don’t use? Consider your future business to see if they not only fit in the budget now but can continue to provide flexibility according to the business conditions.
By asking questions related to the budget, you can get a clearer view of what each software company offers. It also allows you to make a better comparison based on your budget.
The AMS you choose now will not only serve your needs in the present but will continue to serve your needs as you grow and change. Ask about their ability to scale to meet your business needs. You need to choose not only the right software for today but one that can continue to meet your needs in the future.
If your business expands, do they have the capabilities to continue to meet your needs? Inefficient and cumbersome software will only become more of a problem the larger your company grows.
You also want to consider an Agency Management Software that can also scale back when you need it to be smaller. Most agencies go through periods of growth as well as times when you need to scale back. You don’t want to be stuck paying for software that you won’t be using if you need less in the future.
Whether your needs go up or down, your software should provide flexibility to continue to meet you where you are. Majesco, for example, offers scalability so you only pay for what you actually use. Ask questions to see what would happen if you want more or less from your vendor.
The Agency Management Software you choose will hold your most sensitive information. Security is one of the most important aspects of selecting the right vendor. It makes sense, then, that almost two-thirds of organizations state that security is their biggest challenge when it comes to cloud adoption.
Ask detailed questions about how your vendor will provide security for your data. For example, find out what level of encryption they use to make sure hackers cannot get at your information. Your data is vulnerable when it’s in transit from one device to another. Do they have the resources to protect it?
Also, emergencies can happen. The right AMS will plan for emergencies to help keep your data from becoming vulnerable. Ask how often data is backed up and how they plan to protect your data in case of a disaster.
Updates are an important part of maintaining and improving your AMS, but make sure that these updates won’t disrupt your business. Ask how often and when these updates occur, plus how long downtime is while these updates occur. The right AMS company will make sure they affect your business minimally.
Migrating data from your current software to a new system will depend on the amount of data you have and the number of attachments in your existing system. Find a vendor with an efficient process, and avoid any sort of multi-year expensive implementation. Ask them about their process and if they offer rapid deployment in weeks or months.
Keep in mind, though, that the process does depend on you. If you are responsive and work on learning the new system, the process will be much shorter than if your vendor has a difficult time reaching you.
Take the time to learn about each company. Their mission statement and history can tell you a lot about how they conduct their business. Pay attention to what other customers are saying about them. Online reviews can provide important information from an agency’s perspective. Also, see how the company responds to reviews. Do they take the time to answer concerns or address problems?
Consider the social media and online presence of the companies you compare. If you need to get a hold of someone quickly, could you reach them online? Do they provide relevant and useful information through their social media channels? This can help tell you how innovative, knowledgeable, and reachable they are.
Step 4: Decide on Your Software
Each step up until this point will help narrow down the right AMS for your specific business needs both now and in the future. Get your team’s buy-in by including them in the decision-making process. They can provide valuable insight and will likely have a better adoption rate if they feel their opinion is valued.
Find the Right Software for Your Agency
Taking the time to find the right software that fits your needs ensures that it will help you achieve your goals, instead of becoming an expensive drain on your time and resources.
Agency Management Software provides technology specifically tailored for the insurance industry. It can help make your agency faster, user-friendly, and more efficient. Give it a try today!
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.
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