Category Archives: In the News

Measuring Agency Performance Can’t Be Done with Technology Alone

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Bruce Cochrane of the Renaissance Alliance says agents have to measure everything to stay competitive, however that does not mean relying on technology alone, according to experts who work with and for agencies.

“Many principals make the mistake of believing their agency system is primarily a back-office function that does not affect producers,” says Val Jordan, president of AgenciesOnline and herself a former agency president. “They will delegate the system operation to support staff and leave producers out of the training process.”

Jordan, whose firm develops marketing systems for agents, says owners must take charge of their systems, insist every producer receive all the available training these systems provide and that everyone in the office follows the same protocols:

“These systems all have the capability to measure a wide range of data, but only if everyone uses the same procedures and enters information the same way. It’s the old garbage in, garbage out rule. It’s up to management to make sure that everyone is using the system according to the same rules and best practices. Data must be entered properly and completely at the outset so you can avoid double entry and missing information.”

tech-quote-2014-05-05Brandie Hinen says the emphasis on technology is also misplaced because the skill and support of the agency’s staff – producers, customer service representatives and support staff – are critical to the measurement process. Hinen is a well-known agent coach and speaker and owner of Powerhouse Learning, and was also a star producer.

“You’re paying for very intelligent problem solvers to help your clients oversee and manage one of the more complex aspects of their business – why would you not include those same intelligent problem solvers to help you with key agency functions, all of which involve the use of technology to measure performance,” Hinen said.

Hinen also points out that training takes more than saying “just suck it up.” Every staff member brings different skills, habits and perspectives to the table. The best systems in the world don’t work if the people using them can’t or won’t use them to their best advantage. That said, Hinen recommends going beyond measuring the traditional benchmarks such as new and renewal commission and revenue by line.

“Evaluate what you are ‘committed to create,’” she says, “in other words the experience or emotion you want to evoke in another party – then evaluate if and how you’re getting the responses you want. Conduct periodic surveys with clients with an inexpensive tool such as Survey Monkey or do personalized interviews with select clients.”

Finally, an agency’s social media activity should be monitored and measured continually, not just the number of likes, comments and shares but other details by using free or low-cost tools.

Terry Golesworthy of the Customer Respect Group says monitoring should be the first item on the agenda. “If people are talking about your agency, you need to know about it. Monitoring and responding promptly offers the quickest impact – possibly a lead or saving a client,” he said. “As an agency gets more ambitious, this can be extended to looking for, and responding to people talking about or asking questions about insurance in the local community.”

“Google Alerts is always the first option but also take a look at SocialMention, which can sometimes dig deeper in social media,” he says. “Tools such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Buffer are all good with free options available.”

This is the second of a series on the technology issues facing agents. The focus will be on practical solutions on many fronts, including the customer experience, mobile, privacy and security.

This article was cross posted at: http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/techtalk/2014/05/05/327698.htm

Agents’ Use of Technology Is About Attitude

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Technology overload is a common lament among independent agents, who face a growing list of challenges in how to use it effectively. According to leaders on the front lines, however, the number one technology issue is not privacy, security, the use of mobile, or even its cost – it is accepting technology in all its forms as critical to their survival.

“Agents must become more efficient and do more with less,” says Bruce Cochrane, president of the Massachusetts-based Renaissance Alliance. “It’s a matter of evolution vs. revolution. It’s like changing a tire at 60 miles an hour and we have to adapt to the reality we’re in.”

Jason Cass of JDC Insurance Group is just as blunt. “When it comes to technology, we’re not talking incremental change, we’re facing transformational change – the same kind that the newspaper and music industries are caught up in,” says Cass, an agent from Centralia, Ill., and former chairman of National Young Agents of the IIABA.

For example, Cochrane cites how technology is pushing down loss costs and commissions as the use of telematics ratchets up. Examples in personal lines include driverless cars and cars that talk to each other. He says agents also must become masters of data analytics, measuring everything.

tech-quote-2014-03-24“Carriers love predictive modeling and will be less dependent on agents to produce quality risks,” says Cochrane. “Agents will be rewarded for growth, however.”

As a consequence, Cass says agents need to become “sales machines.”

Beyond the understanding that technology touches every aspect of an agency operation, Brian Bartosh says agents should not assume that keeping up requires buying the latest system so much as making sure they are fully utilizing the system they have.

“It’s not about just working faster or harder,” says Bartosh, president of Alpena-based Top O’ Michigan Insurance and chair of the Applied Systems Client Network (ASCnet.) “Agents need to work smarter, and one simple way to do that is to make full use of the system you have to ensure a healthy ROI and increase agency value and profitability.”

tech-overload-300x235Bartosh points to fundamental but often overlooked uses of technology such as encrypted emails and a disaster plan for data breaches.

“If you’re not using your system with all of its capabilities now, what do you have to offer?” he asks. “Efficient use of technology must expand beyond the ‘techies.’”

All of these executives stressed just how much the consumer is now in control.

“Insurance consumers don’t like to be sold something even if it’s in their best interest,” says Cass. “Agents react the same way when they’re being sold. But the fact is, because society is changing so dramatically, agents must change their mindset and turn the push-pull marketing model on its head. Agents were taught to push out their messaging to consumers and businesses. In today’s world, consumers and businesses alike are resisting that – they want to be pulled in to a relationship and many agents don’t yet grasp just how transformative and how completely different the marketing landscape has changed.”

Cochrane summed up the technology absolutes for agencies: to be fast and nimble, completely mobile and interactive and have access to big data.

This is the first of a series on the technology issues facing agents. The focus will be on practical solutions on many fronts, including the customer experience, mobile, privacy and security.

Cross posted at http://www.insurancejournal.com/magazines/techtalk/2014/03/24/323871.htm