Time to Get Real
If the ultimate goal for independent agents is "real time" interaction with insurers, they need to take the steps themselves to achieve it.
Recent company performance surveys from the Professional Insurance Agents of New Hampshire and Connecticut clearly outline the business needs and wishes of agents – they favor flexible underwriting, fast and fair claims handling, and innovative products and insurers appear to be responding in those areas.
Additionally, survey respondents mention the companies that excel in providing easy-to-use Internet platforms and agent-friendly technology. Agents that are interested in helping their company interface become even more streamlined would do well to pay close attention to a recently launched campaign to improve use of ‘real time” interaction with companies.
For decades now, agents have been promised “single entry multi-company interface” or SEMCI and been disappointed in the results. And although agents may be content to use the proprietary system many insurers have created, there are just as many that complain that the proliferation of private company sites have taken the industry further away from the goal of SEMCI. It’s still in reach, however. It may not look the way it was expected to and it might be called “real time” now instead of SEMCI, but as long as the end goal is the same, agents could get their wish before another 30 years pass.
According to the industry-wide Real Time/Download campaigners, real time “is the ability to click on a button from a client file in your agency management system or comparative rater for immediate access to carrier information on that client.”
Most agencies, if they have the latest version of their agency management system, already have the capability. They’ve already made the necessary investment, they have the “button,” they just need to click on it.
The transactions available could be quotes, billing or claims inquiries, loss runs, policy views or simply requests for information. And all insurers might not offer these options. If agents push for it and really use the available real-time interfaces, more companies will step up.
Perhaps the traditional stagnant pace of SEMCI reform was due in part to agencies waiting for insurers to act, or insurers waiting for software vendors to come up with the necessary options. Whatever the reasoning, each cog in this machine has its task clearly set out for them – and for it to work, all must be willing to tackle those tasks. If every agencies opts to be the first one to try out these real-time options (and more information is available at www.getrealtime.org), then they will find that instead of being the lone adventurer, the entire industry will be striding forward together