Escaping change is impossible. It is the only way to make progress, both in our personal and professional lives. For an independent insurance agency, one example of change might be the difficult decision to switch to a new management system. This affects every member of the agency. The following guidelines can help if your agency is looking to make a technology change.
- When should I make a technology change?
- Coming to terms with the fear of change
- Overcoming fear. Preparing for change.
- Making the change. It's "GO" time.
Resources to prepare your agency for changing management systems:
With 74% percent of insurance agencies using either an agency management system or a CRM to manage their book of business, the decision to change your technology can be very impactful on your staff and clients. There are many factors that influence the decision to upgrade to a new system:
- System and/or operational costs are consistently increasing, without seeing added value
- Staff is increasingly complaining about downtime, workflows, and inefficiencies
- System is aging, with no plans for technological upgrades
- System is announced to be in end-of-life stage (no further updates)
- System lacks reliable E&O control
- Current provider is more concerned about market growth and profit than meeting customers’ needs
Understanding your unique business cycle and monitoring the pulse of your agency on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis can help identify if change is needed. Sometimes a switch to a new system may not be necessary; but rather, your staff needs additional training or a version upgrade is required to optimize the existing system’s capabilities. Either way, don’t let your agency reach a breaking point where the management system no longer meets your needs, your business begins to suffer, or your growth becomes stagnant due to operational limitations.
Change can be scary. Stressful. Overwhelming. Just the word “conversion” can make agents turn the other way. Why? Is it because we are creatures of habit, fear the unknown, have heard another agency’s conversion horror story, or simply hesitate to learn something new? Some of the more common fears independent agents face about adopting a new management system include:
Down time and training
- How many days will the conversion process take?
- How long will it take my staff to learn the new system?
- What kind of training is included?
- How difficult are the workflows compared to what we currently do?
- Is there training for accounting and commission reconciliation?
- Are there educational videos for staff to reference back to in the future?
Data and Security
- Will it cost me to get my data from my current vendor?
- How much of the data will convert to the new system?
- Will log notes and activity history be retained?
- How will the vendor guarantee that my data is secure before, during, and after the transfer?
People dislike change. It’s easier to remain comfortable and stay where you are. But as Henry Ford said, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
This is one of the biggest questions about change. Will it produce a positive ROI?
Bottom line: If the new system improves your agency’s efficiencies, allow you to write more business, build a framework for your agency’s growth, improve reporting capabilities, and increase staff morale, then your ROI will be positive. The right software can save hours of time on daily tasks, which could easily make up the difference in the cost of a new system. If your agency currently doesn’t use a management system or you are starting up your own agency, download this brochure “Why Automate?” to see the cost savings of automating policy management workflows.
Agency owners are doing themselves, their employees, and and their clients a disservice by not actively looking to deploy more efficient systems.
Choosing the right agency management system takes thoughtful preparation. The worst plan is no plan. Fear takes over when we don’t know what we don’t know. To help alleviate your fears, take steps to educate yourself about all aspects of the move. Prepare.
A management system serves as the blueprint upon which you will build your agency’s operations and workflows. Your staff’s workday and office productivity depends on the effectiveness, ease-of-use, and seamless integration of the management system with the actions your people engage. Making the right decision today will affect where your agency will be in the years ahead.
The other intangible area a reliable management system affects that many agency principals value – sanity to their workday. What value do you put on that?
Asking the right questions is more important than asking every question
Let’s face it: 80% of the capabilities across agency management systems are the same. Asking the right questions of prospective vendors about services outside of features is key to evaluating the overall value of the new system. Choosing the right management system for your agency is dependent on answers to some critical questions about your goals and processes.
HawkSoft’s 5 Questions Agencies Wished They Had Asked Before Choosing a Management System is a non-biased, educational White Paper that helps you assess how your current vendor, or prospective provider, handles:
- Contracts, pricing, and add-on features
- Promises about data and capabilities
- Data backup fees
- Cloud vs. In-Office deployment
- Customer service accessibility and support call resolution
- Business growth. What kind of software vendor are you investing in?
While evaluating a system's capabilities is key, it is often these other areas that can make or break a partnership. Make sure you look behind the flashy sales curtain and understand the company’s backstage operations, pricing, and philosophies.
|If you want to know how HawkSoft would answer these 5 questions, please call us at (866) 884-4680 Option 4, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.|
Ask for references from agencies that operate like you
One of the most insightful ways to gather intel about a management system is getting candid feedback from an agency that currently uses the system you are evaluating. No marketing fluff. No sales pitch. Just real questions and answers from one agency to another. Ask for a reference during the sales process and ask them about:
- Onboarding process. Did training meet their expectations? Were trainers and CSRs accessible and responsive?
- Data migration. Was it fast, accurate, and how much down time was there?
- Workflows. How are specific workflows handled, especially those that are important to you? Compare processes between systems for quoting, accounting, producing certificates, etc.
- Reporting. Were they easy to generate? Did they provide the business metrics needed to monitor your sales, production, and activities? Did these reports cost extra?
- Staff experience. Was it easy to learn and how quickly did staff adapt? Are tasks more efficient? Does the staff like the system?
|Agency Insights. Read an unedited email transcript between a current HawkSoft customer and an agency interested in switching to HawkSoft from another system. This reference provided valuable insight to an agency searching for the right management system.|
Tips from Insurance Journal
Surviving the Agency Management System Switch offers additional tips for planning a move between management systems:
- Perform a solid cost-benefit analysis.
- Involve a swath of staff and producers in deciding whether to switch, what to change and how to transition. (Don’t make a decision solely on an agency owner’s opinion. Daily users of the system often have more insight to the value and efficiencies of a system.)
- Realize where and what the pain points are and prepare for them.
- Clean up data in the current system prior to porting it to a new one, recognizing that processes often require updating for a new platform. Kris Hackney, EVP of Customer Experience at Applied Systems likens the switch to moving to a new home:
“You take the time when moving to consider what to move into your new home and what you no longer need,” she says. “You don’t simply move everything from your existing home to the new one. When making the transition to a new agency management system, data quality is critical to your success."
- Budget extra time and effort to ramp up the new system and get acclimated.
“If [your existing] system isn't cleaned up prior to the conversion,
the conversion can by very challenging."
— Michelle Somberg
Marketing/Commercial Lines Manager
Collinsworth, Alter, Fowler & French, a division of Nielson, Hoover & Company
Your biggest assets are your book of business and the rich client relationships and notes that you have accumulated over the years. Losing this information and facing down-time are the biggest risks that agents face when converting to a new system.
A good software provider should be able to answer your questions and put aside any fears you may have about these risks. They should give you a variety of ways to learn and understand the system so you feel comfortable with the onboarding process, the data conversion, the workflows, retaining file history, handling accounting tasks, etc.
10 elements of a good conversion|
- Data experience. How much experience does the software vendor have with migrating data from one system to another? What data will or will not convert and why (client and policy information, policy details, coverages, downloads, ACORD forms, Certs, etc)? Obtain a written copy of the data conversion process so you have a clear expectation of what data elements will migrate.
- In-house specialists. Do they have onsite staff that conducts the migration or do they outsource the process? Having onsite, expert staff often gives you ore flexibility and control over custom requests.
- Open communication. Is the communication between you and the new provider transparent and honest? If a conversion doesn’t make sense for your agency, will they tell you?
- Policy Company Setup help. Do they have processes in place to automate initial setup of policy and company data, or will you be required to input data manually?
HawkSoft Setup JumpStartTM — a $500 value included at no cost for a limited time.
Learn about this unique process to automate your Policy Company Setup information, saving you 8-12 hours of manual data entry. Email email@example.com and download the Conversions Brochure, All Data Conversions Are Not Created Equal.
- Fast and accurate implementation. How long will the entire process take? An average implementation time from start to finish should not take longer than 4-6 weeks.
- Data validation and trained implementation specialists. Do they do a preliminary data upload and review process? Are there specialists available to guide you through the review and handle your custom requests?
- 24-hour Go-Live. Upon your final data review and approval, how long does it take before you go live? An experienced vendor will get your data live overnight, providing minimal down time to your agency.
After the conversion
- Accessible and knowledgeable Customer Service. Make sure you know who to call for help. Will CSRs answer the phone in less than 2 minutes? Do they understand the system and the insurance industry?
- User Group. Is there a user group that is active and supportive of the system? A strong user group community can offer invaluable resources, support systems, and insight about workflow operations.
- Ongoing education, on-demand. Make sure there is access to training videos at no additional cost. Videos should cover topics from simple workflows to more complex transactions like accounting and commission tracking.
Despite the challenges that come with changing management systems, the benefits should far outweigh the bumps along the way. A system that better fits your agency’s needs can produce overwhelming positive results, including increased:
- Staff morale
- Cost efficiencies
- Ability to better monitor the pulse of your agency with advanced reporting capabilities.
Take the leap and gift your staff better workflows and a sane work day. Equip your agency to achieve transformational change in 2019.