NetVU News Flash

July 2, 2015

NetVU Stories – Meet Kevin Wheeler

Past Chairman Kevin Wheeler of Cardinal Insurance Services Inc. in Indianapolis continues to stay involved with NetVU 26 years after his first Chapter meeting. Find out why.

Do you have a NetVU story to tell? A favorite memory of past Conferences? Recollection of a time when you put aside rivalry to brainstorm on a Vertafore solution? A long-time friendship that took root from involvement with NetVU? Please consider sharing it with all of us! Contact Laura Toops and tell us why NetVU is important to you.


Industry Coalition ID Federation, Creator of SignOn Once, Names 3 to Board of Directors

Insurance industry coalition ID Federation -- creator of the SignOn Once standard for streamlined and secure access to systems of multiple business partners — has added three new members to its board of directors — all NetVU members: 

  • Steven J. Aronson, president and CEO, Aronson Insurance
  • Peggy Scott, vice president, commercial insurance distribution operations,  Liberty Mutual Insurance Group
  • Bruce Winterburn, vice president, industry relations, Vertafore

SignOn Once, launched in April 2014, is a standard using token technology to authenticate each user's identity among multiple insurance systems. SignOn Once offers greater security protection and ease of use than the longstanding process of using a different password to enter each carrier system. This token is certified for authenticity and is used to facilitate that user's ongoing access to participating and certified SignOn Once carrier or solution provider websites.

ID Federation is seeking insurance carriers to implement SignOn Once and certify their implementations so agent business partners can increase security and efficiency.

Insurance carriers and solution providers can participate in SignOn Once to streamline access to their online tools for distribution business partners. Key steps are:

  1. Joining ID Federation. Information is available at SignOnOnce.org or by contacting info@SignOnOnce.org.
  2. Completing certification as a SignOn Once carrier or solution provider.
  3. Implementing SignOn Once.


ACORD Helps Refocus Staff and Grow Business

By Cal Durland, ACORD

Over 262,000 carrier and agency pairs communicate with each other, passing underwriting, rating and policy information electronically instead of through manual processes. As a result, many agencies have been able to refocus their staff to service and grow their book of business. Their clients’ experience is improved, and thus their reputation and book of business is growing. The ACORD standards are built into the agency management systems passing that data between the carriers and agencies. ACORD and the volunteers from organizations, carriers, technology providers, agent/brokers, and other trading partners continue to work to develop and improve those standards for all lines of business, across the globe.

There are still many people who think of ACORD as just “a forms company.” It’s so much more: it’s a global standards development organization. Plus, our regulatory and compliance department ensures that the users of the systems built upon the standards avoid errors and omissions issues.
This year we’ve been taking this message across the country, publishing articles and engaging Ambassadors to share the reasons why ACORD is still valuable to their business and ultimately their clients. In April, PIA Glenmont published an article highlighting ACORD and Cal Durland as an Ambassador sharing that message. Click here to read more

Introducing IVANS Exchange:  New Tool Allows Agencies to View and Manage Their Carrier Download Online

IVANS would like to share some exciting news about IVANS Exchange, a complimentary online tool for agents to view and manage their carrier download.

IVANS Exchange offers agents a comprehensive view of their current and potential download activity with carriers, including an intuitive graphical Agency Connectivity Dashboard, an on-demand, customizable IVANS Connections Report and agency download usage reports.

Key capabilities of IVANS Exchange:

Agency Connectivity Dashboard: graphical, customized dashboard provides agencies a single view into their current and available carrier download connections, download transaction volume and newly activated lines of business downloads by carrier.

IVANS Connections Report online:  personalized report that allows agencies to review carrier download connections that are inactive, yet to be activated or of interest for download.

Agency download usage reports: usage reports identifying the number of download transactions agencies are receiving per line of business and per carrier.

To learn more about IVANS Exchange, visit http://ivansinsurance.com/ivans-exchange 

Clients Must Feel the Relationship

By Michael Jans, CEO, Agency Revolution

When I stumbled into this industry, I heard a common proclamation: “You’re going to love the insurance industry. It’s a relationship business!” If that’s true, why are we losing so many “relationships”? At a restaurant recently, I overheard a conversation at the next table. “My insurance agent must have the greatest job ever. I hear from him once a year, when it’s time for me to renew. Otherwise, I don’t know what he does. Really, it’s time for me to look somewhere else.” A couple of years ago, the “McKinsey Report” declared there was a “…gradual shift in the value that carriers and consumers…place on…local agents, which is increasingly calling into question what role they will play in the future.” There was a lot of industry clamor and criticism of the report, but numbers are numbers, and these numbers demand solutions:
  • In 2003, 80% of private passenger auto (PPA) was placed by a local agent. Seven years later, the number plummeted to 63%.
  • The percentage of customers who placed their PPA policy online five years ago or more was a scant 7%. If they had their current policy one year or less, the number skyrocketed to 26%.
  • In 2007, the local agent was the single highest factor in customer satisfaction. By 2012, only 14% of the population ranked their agent as the number one driver of satisfaction, dropping our ranking to number four.
  • Lest we get complacent about commercial lines, 84% of small business owners claim they would toss their agent overboard and buy online if they could save money.
We know enough about human psychology to know – unequivocally – that relationships matter. Again, why then, are we losing so many?

Perhaps we’ve simply outgrown our ability to be in a relationship with our own customer base. Is it possible that the surviving agency of today is too big to deliver on the promise of relationship? After all, if you have 3,000 or 5,000 or 20,000 or more customers, can you really be in relationship with them? Can you make them feel relationship?

Our own field research indicates that, yes, you can. But not the way the industry did it in the “old days” – whether that’s the 1950s or seven years ago.

Modern technology permits us to communicate genuine value – in multiples. And through those communications, we can enhance and enrich relationships. We can deliver value. And we can reestablish the unique and worthy role of the agent.

Sophisticated marketing automation can deliver emails, drive readers to landing pages and websites, present video and audio, engage customers and prospects in surveys and much more. All the while, the content of the message can fulfill the promise of the independent system: to deliver value through relationship.

Lest we fear – from misinformation – that “email doesn’t work” or “people don’t read email,” recent research demonstrates:
  • 70% of people say they always open email from their favorite companies
  • 95% of those who opt into email from brands find those emails “somewhat to very useful”
  • 91% of consumers check their email at least once per day.
And marketers report:
  • Email marketing yields an average of 4,300% ROI for business in the U.S.
  • For every dollar invested in email marketing, the average ROI is $44.25
  • Companies using email to nurture leads generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost.
Specifically, in our own industry, J.D. Powers reports that customers who interact with the insurance industry through agents who use “emerging technology” have the highest satisfaction rating. Further, they report that the resulting satisfaction rating leads to higher retention, more referrals and greater price tolerance.

Of course, the mere “blasting” of email – or any other communication – does not necessarily deliver value. While some marketing gurus may preach the need to “touch your clients 17 times a year” (or some other magic number), meaningless, vapid or self-centered sales messages will only serve to irritate the recipient and diminish the relationship.

The power of marketing automation, of course, is that it multiplies, and naturally, you can “multiply smart” or “multiply stupid.” To “multiply smart,” we must return to our primary value proposition: that the agent delivers value through relationship.

The agent touches and handles the insurance product as it travels through the value chain and does so at some considerable expense. From the customer’s perspective, value must be added during that part of the process. If not, the customer will wisely seek another channel – and the agent deserves the loss.

Marketing automation can reestablish and enhance the value of the agent relationship by aptly executing on three critical aspects of relationship management:

  1. Deliver value at every point of contact. We are often asked, “How many times should you contact your customers?” If you don’t add value, never. If you add value, a lot.
  2. Deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. “Blasting” the same email to everyone is often among the least meaningful of communications – a 15-year-old use of marketing technology.
  3. Enhance the “real people” asset of the agency channel by integrating the technology with agency team activities.
Integrating Marketing and Communications
Sophisticated marketing automation integrates with an agency’s marketing automation system, “reads” critical changes in the customer’s life cycle, and delivers an appropriate and relevant message at critical points when the customer both wants and appreciates the message.

In other words, you can automatically communicate with one person at a time, not just through “broadcast” messages. Messages can be delivered when a person:

  • Becomes a lead
  • Converts to becoming a customer
  • Suffers a claim
  • Enjoys a birthday
  • Purchases a new policy
  • Approaches their renewal
  • Leaves the agency, and much more.
Of course, sophisticated marketing automation allows you to sub-segment your customer base, opening unlimited opportunities for cross-selling and nurturing specific market segments with specialized messages. But make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing. Few things diminish the customer experience more than responding to an automated marketing campaign by calling the business, only to discover that the customer service staff is unaware of the campaign.

Sophisticated marketing automation doesn’t just integrate with the agency management system. It integrates with the appropriate staff. For example, if a prospect completes a quote request form, the appropriate CSR or producer should receive a “shoulder tap” notification. Or if a customer completes an account renewal landing page, the staff assigned to that customer should receive a notification, and so forth. Then, outbound calls can be made, by real people, to real people, with real needs.

The agency system has been under siege for more than a decade, ceding market share to alternative distribution systems. In the process, many agents have chosen precisely the wrong strategy: competing on price, further commoditizing the industry and diminishing our channel’s inherent asset of value through relationship.

Sound strategy must be built upon inherent strengths, and the presence of real people in real communities or real niches is the distinguishing feature of this channel. Modern technology can amplify this strength.

Recent research by Bain & Company reveals that the loyal customer delivers seven times the lifetime value of the non-loyal customer. Loyalty is earned, over time, through careful relationship management, and that value can now be captured, strategically, by the agency channel.

The effective use of well-crafted communication tools can reestablish the fundamental promise of the agency channel: that we are real people caring about and caring for real people. We will, otherwise, continue to cede market share to the opposition – a loss to the agency force and the customer alike.

Attention MGAs and Carriers - You’ve Got Your Client’s Attention...

By Cal Durland, ACORD

Do you have a risk that doesn’t fit nicely in a standard market? As an agent or broker you’ve worked with your client to identify all their risk management and insurable exposures for protection, P&C, L&A, Benefits, Bonds, Health, etc….Now you need to work with your industry partners to rate, process and service that client. Will it be written in standard, non-standard or a combination of markets?

Efficiency begins when the agency enters the data they receive from the client into a system. That system should follow best practices workflows and allow for data integration with your partners throughout the pipeline of protecting the client’s assets. The technology today eliminates the need to re-key data, assisting in eliminating potential errors and omissions issues. If you’re not utilizing a system that accomplishes this goal, or as a carrier not supporting this efficiency, you need to learn what you’re missing and get involved!

Our goal is to help you provide your client with a great experience. Your relationship with them is supported by your agency tools. The goal is to educate the industry on what they could utilize today, where ACORD standards bring efficiency to that pipeline, and the overall value this efficiency brings to our industry!

The size of the account may be large or small: a global organization, or a real estate company seeking coverage for 200 units on a college campus. Today, from a retail market perspective, thousands of agents are passing real time data, rating their clients’ exposures and updating their clients’ insurable needs through the use of their agency systems. They are synchronizing policy data in their agency systems with the writing carrier’s system, and if the claim occurs have the information to advocate for the prompt resolution of the claim. “We cannot continue to do business with entities who will not upgrade; they cost us way too much money, time and resources to be profitable for us,” says Ted Joyce, Insurance Agency Services LLC.

The opportunity to duplicate this process with the excess and surplus lines channel is an ongoing goal. “We have found that many agents, if they know they will be submitting to the E&S market, don’t enter the data into their system as they know they have to manually submit the business to the MGA’s. A few agents I have talked to only enter data into their systems for E&S business AFTER it has been bound so they can invoice it,” states Tate Tooley of Bloss & Dillard, Inc. “Regardless of which market will write the business, the agent always needs to start the process by entering data into their system!”

Through the efforts of the Excess & Surplus Lines Joint Working Group, the four sponsoring associations (AAMGA, act, NAPSLO and ACORD) are leading conversations to encourage the implementation of these efficiencies in this market. The ability to issue a policy based on the systematic conversation between two systems passing data is the current goal. This group had previously worked on General Liability Rating, and during that process validated that 80% of the information needed to rate a risk was already identified in the ACORD standards. Through the input of the individuals selling and writing the business, we learned how to extend the existing ACORD standards for use in the excess and surplus lines transactions. We’re currently working to expand that effort and need input from people who write crime, umbrella, and special events, anything that is different! If you want to help, contact us through email, or the website.

The partners in the pipeline of information include Managing General Agencies. These individuals or businesses are appointed by an insurer to solicit applications from retail agents for insurance contracts or to negotiate insurance contracts on behalf of an insurer or carrier. (They may also be called a Coverholder or Binding Authority.) Once the risk is placed with the MGA/Coverholder or Binding Authority, the information has to be reported to the insurer or carrier. This too can be automated, and ACORD standards are available today to share that data electronically.

The reporting data is a subset of the data utilized between the retail agent and MGA. The data in the reporting process may be passed in real time to the insurer to report on bound policies, premium payments, and to request claims payments. We need a few MGA’s who are currently experiencing this or want to experience this to help us share their story. Like the retail agents who have streamlined their experience and freed up their resources, MGA’s want to work on writing and servicing the business, not manually processing it. Carriers, we want to hear your experience too. If you’d like to be spotlighted, contact Melissa Bond at Melissa@NetVU.org.To learn more about the reporting initiative, you can view this webinar: Binding Authority Bound Risks Reporting Standards.

  Tips from NCOM (NetVU Community) Posts                                                                         

NCOM
- One of the best parts of my job is hearing the excitement from someone who has just learned a new tactic or gained a new skill. Below are few of the things that create excitement for our subscribers. Why not join them?

Customer Portal

Elaine Miller of Poppell Insurance Inc. in Plant City, FL is considering purchasing the customer portal. For those who have it what is your opinion of the program? Are the customers using it? Do you feel it is worth the money? See others responses and questions


Customizing Agency Management Software

Candy Gonzalez, Williams-Cleaveland Co. in New Castle, PA tells you how to customize/optimize your Agency Management software on startup.  Find out how


Getting it done!

Barbara Brian, Western States Insurance Group Inc. in Clovis NM would like to hear from other agency managers about how they may have addressed the issue of getting the account reps to get their work done. Sounds like a simple thing but my staff is constantly behind, can't see to prioritize, can't seem to get caught up. We've had training, we shuffled the workload, and we have had outside assistance, We have offered overtime pay for those that would be interested in coming in on a weekend to get caught up but no one takes us up on that. I would try quiet time - but there is already too much socializing in the office, so I don't see the point. Any suggestions? See what others have suggested – do you have any input?