How to Choose the Right Agency Management System the First Time

How To Choose The Right Agency Management System The First Time

Health & Life Insurance Software

Deciding to make the move to new software can be daunting. Where do you start? What questions do you ask? How do you make the decision? 

Choosing the right agency management system (AMS) for your agency is critical because the software you choose should be your partner. Not only will it house your information, but you’ll spend the majority of your working day in it. So, you want those hours to be productive (& enjoyable!).

This blog will cover the steps you can take to help your agency choose the right AMS the first time.
So, where do you start? We’ve broken the process down into 5 steps:

  1. Identify your goals
  2. Identify your needs
  3. Research your vendors
  4. Make a decision
  5. Manage the change

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

If you’re considering a new AMS, then there’s a reason. Here are some of the common reasons we’ve heard:

  • My current system isn’t supporting the growth of my book of business.
  • It’s missing key features that are essential for my day-to-day process.
  • It doesn’t allow for both contact and policy tracking.
  • It’s not built for the insurance industry—specifically health and life insurance.
  • You can’t track both individual and group business in the same system.
  • Commissions processing isn’t manageable or possible in my current system.

If your current system isn’t helping you reach your goals, then it may be time for a change. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish in the next 1/5/10/15 year(s)?
  • What are you actually on track to achieve in the next 1/5/10/15 year(s)?
  • What do you need to change/implement to bridge the first two questions?

One tool many insurance agencies use is called a goal-setting SMART sheet. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Use this goal-setting SMART sheet to help you determine your goals.

Step 2: Identify Your Needs & Wants

After you’ve defined your goals, you need to sit down and create a needs and wants list.

  • Needs: Needs are features that are integral to your current day-to-day business process. These might be things like commissions processing, bank-grade encryption, or email marketing. Many people think of needs as the “must-haves” to make the switch to new software. 
  • Wants: The wants are the added capabilities you’d like to have with your new system—things that would make your day streamlined and more efficient. These could be features like workflow automation or integrated business analytics. 

It’s essential that your needs and wants work in tandem with your goals. Ensure you’re looking at the features that will truly help build or revolutionize your current baseline and how they will affect the goals you’ve set forth for your business. To get you started, use this AMS vs. CRM checklist to ensure you cover all of your bases.

Step 3: Research Your Vendors

The digital space for management software is ever-growing, and the insurance niche is no exception. This can make moving to a digital management system both confusing and challenging. 

You will see many options in the insurance space, but the majority will either be a CRM or an AMS. Want to learn more about the difference? Check out our blog: AMS vs. CRM.

CRM: Customer Relationship Management software

A term that refers to practices, strategies, and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention, and driving sales growth.

A CRM is a generic management system that can help businesses organize their contacts. Some examples of well-known CRMs would be Salesforce, SugarCRM, and Zoho.

Often these systems provide robust capabilities, but they are generic and require extensive customization to function appropriately for your industry needs. These customizations will likely require a substantial amount of resources (both time and money) to ensure they’re done correctly. 

Additionally, there is no guarantee the system will support the customizations you create as they continue to upgrade and provide ongoing maintenance. To learn more about the pitfalls of generic CRM software, read our blog: 4 Downfalls of Generic, Overly Customized Software.

AMS: Agency Management System

A SaaS (software as a service) technology that insurance agencies use to organize their book of business and more effectively run their operations.

An AMS is a CRM, but it’s also so much more

It does everything your generic CRM does, and then some. There are 3 significant ways an AMS trumps a CRM for insurance agency management:

  • Specificity. It’s built for your specific industry.
  • Totality. An AMS like AgencyBloc is built to handle the core business processes it takes to run a modern insurance agency. 
  • Productivity. When information is centralized and the need for customizations is minimized, your work can flow and become even more streamlined.

However, it’s important to note that all AMS software is not built alike. You’ll have to take a look at each system individually to decide which has the features you need. This process is where your checklist comes in handy to note which vendors provide which solutions.

How to Vet Your Software Vendors

Once you start looking around, your next step is to vet your vendors to ensure you’re creating the right partnership for your agency. It's important to know who you are partnering with when it comes to choosing your software provider. Research your options to make sure they 

  1. Are a credible company 
  2. Will be able to grow with you into the future

Start fresh and review these 4 key areas:

  1. Company Details / History
  2. Reviews
  3. Social Media / Online Presence
  4. Security / Reliability

Remember, you're not just investing in software. You are investing in a partner. 

Questions to Ask Your Vendors

When you start looking at new management solutions for your book of business, come prepared with questions. Here are some you should consider asking.

What are the additional costs? 

Some software agencies include fees that are additional to the overall cost of the software. Often these fees are tied to things like:

  • Migration
  • Training 
  • Storage/Document Space
  • Support
  • Additional Features
  • Setup

When you move to a new software system, the more you’re aware of in the beginning, the better. Make sure you ask about any fees, at the start, so you’re more prepared and not blindsided at the last minute.

Who owns your data?

This is far and wide one of the most important questions you should ask. 

Why? Because your data is your entire business—it’s your livelihood. With AgencyBloc, you are the sole owner of your data, but not every CRM/AMS operates this way.

If you do not own your data 100%, it can make leaving a software company extremely difficult. Best case scenario: you never leave the solution you choose; but, you need to be prepared should you require an exit strategy.

What does security look like?

You want to ensure that the software you’re investing in will keep you safe and secure. Some critical questions to ask are:

  • What level of encryption do you provide? 
  • Is my data protected both in-transit and at-rest?
  • How is my data protected in case of disaster?
  • If the system is cloud-based, who hosts your system? 
  • Can I restrict data access from specific users?
  • How often is my data backed up, and where are the backups hosted?
  • What is your historical up-time?
  • How and when do you do updates to the system?
  • How long is downtime for those updates?
What is the migration process?

Migrations will vary, but the process will likely depend on:

  1. Where your data is currently (i.e., what system you currently use). The process of retrieving data from an existing system can be tedious and is unique to each software. However, at AgencyBloc, we have an entire team dedicated to helping you make the transition as seamless as possible
  2. Who owns your data. This goes right in line with #1. Your current system’s policies dictate what data you can extract, how, and at what price.  
  3. The amount of data you have. The general size of your book of business will affect the timeline of your migration.
  4. The number of attachments and notes you want to bring over. The more attachments and notes you have, the longer it can take to import and ensure everything comes in correctly. 
  5. The state of your data. If you have clean, uniform data, then the process will likely be much simpler. If your data requires an extensive amount of reformatting, updating, and reorganizing, the process will likely be extended. 

The last thing to keep in mind is that the speed of the process is highly dependent on you. If you’re responsive and open to working on and learning the new system, the process could be much faster than if you’re harder to reach.

Step 4: Make a Decision

This step can be the hardest step of the five as it’s the step where you decide which system is the best fit for you. And, although it seems like an oxymoron, failing to make a decision is actually a decision, too. Learn more in our blog: Why Indecision is Unhealthy & How to Combat It.

The best advice I can give you is to give each system a try. AgencyBloc offers a risk-free trial where you can check everything out and see how the system could work in your agency. 

The other piece of advice I can give you is to include others. Two significant benefits of making a decision as a group are:

  • Acceptance & Camaraderie. If more people are exposed to the product and like it, your staff’s buy-in will be higher. It will feel more like a personal decision rather than an assignment.
  • Faster Implementation. With increased employee buy-in, the adoption rate can improve throughout your agency, making the system more successful and increasing your chances of using the system.

If a group decision seems a little daunting to you, check out our blog: 7 Steps to Making Effective Group Decisions About Insurance Technology.

Step 5: Manage the Change

Congratulations, you’ve chosen a new system, and you’re getting ready to move. That means you’re all done, right? Well, not quite. 

As much as we may wish, technology is not magic. 

You can’t expect to be up and running in a new system at full capacity the next day or even in a week. Implementation timelines vary greatly, and much of that variability is dependent on 3 things:

  1. The size of your database
  2. The state of your data
  3. Your availability

As I said earlier, the size of your database will affect how fast you can get up and running. However, no matter how much data you have, the implementation and actual utilization will take longer if it’s not in order

But the biggest factor is you. 

How much time are you devoting to learning the new software? How much time during the week/month are you committing to updating, creating, tying relationships and policies, etc., in the new software to make sure all of your data is functioning the way you need it to?

A good AMS will provide you with a dedicated resource to train you and help you develop confidence in managing your system. But, you also have to work at it and build up your own confidence, too.

This should not scare you away from adopting a new system. To be completely honest, if your current system is not working for you now, it will likely only get worse as time goes on. Read our blog, 4 Ways to Make Learning New Software Easier, for tips and tricks from our AgencyBloc team on how they recommend you adopt new technology and learn new features

The most important thing to remember during this entire process is that your employees are humans. Give them grace, give them space, and give them the confidence/tools to succeed. 

Following the 5 steps can help you keep your entire new AMS process on track and within your timeline.

Ready to start vetting software?

Schedule a 1-on-1 demo with our sales team to see if AgencyBloc is the right fit for your health and life insurance agency.

Schedule My Demo

This blog was originally published on November 26, 2019. It has been updated and republished on March 23, 2021.

  1. TAGS
  2. technology
Allison Babberl

By Allison Babberl on March 23, 2021 in Database Management

Allison is the Marketing Content Specialist at AgencyBloc. She creates educational content and designs videos to promote AgencyBloc's resources to help you organize, automate, and grow your insurance agency. Favorite quote: “Conversation is the bedrock of relationships. Without it, our relationships are devoid of substance.” -Maribeth Kuzmeski  More articles

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