ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 27, 2006-ACT�s latest report, �Independent Agency Preferences for Carrier Electronic Communications,� discusses how agents would like to receive electronic communications from their carriers for specific types of notices and transactions, so that agencies can benefit from a consistent communications approach.
�Today, the carriers are all over the lot with regard to the methods they use to communicate electronically with their agencies,� says Mele Fuller, Safeco�s Director, Vender Integration, and ACT Electronic Communications Work Group Chair. �This is very inefficient for agencies and makes it difficult for them to manage these communications effectively.�
�We encourage carriers to adopt ACT�s recommendations in order to give agencies a consistent approach to these communications, along with the administrator tools to make sure that these messages are routed to the appropriate people in the agency,� says Jeff Yates, ACT executive director. �The ACT report goes through each type of carrier bulletin, notice and communication and provides the method agents recommend for that communication, any acceptable incremental solutions, as well as how the e-mail subject line should be handled, where e-mail is an appropriate method.�
The report recommends that agents receive bulletins and other non-policy/customer specific information by e-mail�in most cases, by way of an e-mail notification with a link to the carrier site. In contrast, where the communication relates to a specific customer and/or policy, such as a notification of late payment or an underwriter inquiry, agents would prefer to receive notification messages, because they have the advantage of automatically becoming a part of the agent�s regular agency management system workflow.
�We are currently working with ACORD to enhance the current Activity or Note Request/Response XML Message Standard, to facilitate the wide adoption of notification message technology by carriers and agency system vendors,� adds Mele Fuller. �ACT also will investigate further the appropriate uses of secure e-mail, while being mindful of the potential inefficiencies that secure e-mail may create in agency workflows.�
The ACT report also finds that:
Agents prefer to receive communications electronically, rather than by mail. They want to become more paperless, and reduce paper shuffling and processing.
Before carriers turn off the policy paper to agencies, they should make sure they have effective downloads in place, have electronic policy view available, and contractually commit to continue to provide electronic access to this policy information even following an agency termination.
Carriers should have an administrator facility for the agents, so agents can define the specific persons by email address to whom particular emails should be sent. Agents also should be able to opt out of certain types of e-mail, as well as notifications.
Some agencies find that setting up generic e-mail mailboxes by subject matter or carrier help them to manage their email flow more effectively.
Agents should not be expected to check their multiple carrier Web sites in order to ascertain that new information pertaining to them or their customers has been posted. Rather, a message should be actively �pushed� to the agency notifying them of the information, containing a link to the direct location of the information on the site.
This new report can be found by clicking on �Technology Reports� at www.independentagent.com/act.
Established in 1999 by IIABA, ACT provides a candid, action-oriented forum for agent and industry associations, user groups, companies and vendors to address critical technology and workflow issues facing the independent agency system.
Founded in 1896, the Big �I� is the nation�s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance�property, casualty, life and health�as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.