Is Your Data Ready for a New Agency Management System?

Is Your Data Ready for a New Agency Management System?

Moving to a new system may feel stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many steps you can take at the beginning to simplify the move so the transition is as seamless as possible. You can never remove or prepare for every potential headache or roadblock that may come your way, but there are steps you can take to be more prepared so you can face the majority of those difficulties head-on.

One of the most stress-filled parts of a transition is one many agencies overlook. It has to do with the formatting of your data.

You’ve probably heard us talk about the importance of clean data before, but if you haven’t, here’s a quick refresher from our eBook, A Valuable Book-of-Business: Preparing for sale, transfer, or growth in your agency:

“Clean data” is data that is formatted in an orderly unit. But it is more than that. “Clean data” requires “continual upkeep and a team effort to maintain the organization.”

Here’s a visual example of what this looks like:

Not Clean

Not clean data

Clean

Clean Data

We talk a lot about the state of your data, but why does it really matter and how does it adversely or positively affect you? Well, today we’ll talk about that.

Why the state of your data matters

If you’re moving to a new system, then you’ve already overcome the most pressing obstacle of all—making the decision. This shouldn’t be a decision you make lightly. No matter which system you’re on or which you’re moving to, it will require work. Some transitions are easier than others, but how smooth the transition is highly depends on you, your team, and the work you put into it. Your software vendor can only do so much to aid you in your transition; the rest is up to you.

Think of it as moving to a new house. Your realtor can show you the home and broker the deal, but you have to decide if the house is right for you. Likewise, the moving company will be there to physically move your possessions from point A to point B, but they can’t help you pack, unpack, decorate, or decide what to donate.

Just think if the moving company showed up to your home and you hadn’t packed a thing. Moving all of your stuff to the new place would be a nightmare; and it would cost significantly more considering the time and effort the moving company would have to invest. Not to mention the higher likelihood that things would get lost and or left behind.

The same happens when your data isn’t prepared to move to a new system.

For many agencies, this happens when they don’t have processes in place for continual upkeep of their data. As time goes on, and multiple people are entering information into your book of business, your data starts to suffer.

Imagine: you’re short on time, so you just quickly type it in without paying much mind to the format or style; you plan to update it later, but you forget. It can be something as simple as entering a date with dashes instead of slashes, or entering a social security number entirely instead of separated out with dashes. Repeat this time and time again and you have one messy database filled with inconsistent entries and a serious cleanup job on your hands.

This messy data is not only a massive headache for you, but it can impact your migration to the new system in a negative way. Let’s go through some of these ways.

Policy Management

One of the key components many agencies look for in an agency management system (AMS) or customer relationship management (CRM) software is policy management. It’s an obvious need since the largest part of your business is selling policies. However, if your data isn’t clean, your policy management abilities may suffer.

One example of this is linking policies to the correct carriers. In your new system you’ll want to do this to better manage your products and production. However, if the policies are misentered, you will have to go through and manually relink every individual policy to the carrier and update them.

Another example is tying those policies to the correct groups. If your data is misentered or in disarray, it may not populate correctly in the new system. You will then be faced with not only tying the policies to the carriers, but also the groups.

Both of these examples, depending on the size of your book, can provide a substantial amount of work; but it’s all extremely necessary.  However, doing it while also learning and integrating into a new system may not be the most opportune time.

Commissions

You want to be paid and you want to be paid correctly. To ensure this happens, you need clean data. Ill formatted and inconsistent data can make it arduous to connect agents to policies and ensure commissions are paid out correctly. This can happen to you, your agents, everyone. Failure to correctly pay your agents will result in even more headaches for you.

How does this happen? Well, blame the dirty data.

  • Agents aren’t populated in the system
  • Policies aren’t recognized due to ill formatted entries
  • Policies aren’t tied correctly to carriers
  • Agents aren’t tied correctly to policies

This can adversely affect setting up commission payments, split commission payments, and can make identifying missed or inaccurate commission payments difficult.

Automation

If the software you’re moving to has automation capabilities, then you want to ensure they run flawlessly—which can’t be done with dirty data.

One example would be automated emails. If your data is dirty, then your clients’ names may not be properly formatted—or worse, spelled correctly. If you have automated emails that have the client’s name directly inserted—often seen as [First Name]—then this could be extremely embarrassing. If they receive the email and their name is misspelled, it may make them second guess if they should be with you in the first place. If it’s not properly capitalized, it could appear spammy and be a big turn off for them. Either way, it just doesn’t look good.

If you have automated notifications that alert you to important dates like policy expirations, E&O and license expirations, or client’s birthdays, then you must have clean data for those to function properly. If the date is missing or incorrectly typed, then you may miss the notifications for these crucial dates. It could result in a loss of business, fines for renewing your licenses late, or generally less happy clients.

Let’s be honest, wishing a client happy birthday on the wrong day is far worse than not wishing them happy birthday at all. Why? It gives the feeling that your unorganized, incompetent, and your database is outdated.

Selling Your BoB

For many, the goal is to make your book of business look as valuable as possible in order to get top-dollar when you decide to sell. You’ve worked your whole life building this book; but, no one will want to pay top-dollar if your book is full of messy data.

When buying someone’s book of business, agents want a transition that will be seamless and simple. This way they can easily integrate the book into theirs, the clients feel little to no transition, and they retain the majority of the clients in the coming years. A book of business full of inconsistent or out-of-date data doesn’t give that impression in the slightest.

To create a book that is enticing and valuable, you’ll want to put your data into a coherent and consistent format. Many insurance agencies look to AMS solutions for this because they can house all of their data in a secure, centralized environment that encourages you to keep your data clean—thus maintaining value.

Business Analytics

Business analytics give you the ability to make informed, smart decisions for your insurance agency. They provide snapshot visual interpretations of your data to help you better understand the health of your business.

However, these results will be skewed and inconclusive if they are simply pulling from dirty data. Without the aid of clean data, you will not be able to gain a full, complete view of your agency or make better decisions. When it comes to running your own business, the decisions you make are essential to the future of the business. You want to ensure that they are not only beneficial now, but will also aid to a prosperous future.

Pulling analytics from dirty data can lead to misinformed decisions and could put the future of your business in jeopardy. Having clean data will help you eliminate these worries and help you sleep better at night knowing that you made the best, most informed decision you could.

What can you do?

If you are dealing with a dirty database, then at some point you will need to clean it up. We always advise to do the cleaning prior to the moving because it allows you to start fresh with the new system without the hassles and hold-ups of dirty data.

Trying to learn a new system while also cleaning and updating your data will make the transition clunkier and more frustrating because it’ll delay you functioning at full capacity. Think of it this way, when you are moving to a new home, you clean and update all of your belongings so that you can start fresh at the new place. You should be doing the same routine when moving your data to a new system.

Cleaning Your Data

There are a couple of ways you can go about cleaning your data. Regardless of which path you choose, cleaning your data will take time but you’ll thank yourself for it in the end. It is important to note that the time requirement for cleaning your data is highly dependent on the size of your book, how messy your current data is, and how much time you can devote to it upfront.

Option 1

The first way is to hire an intern or a temporary position to help you get your data in order. This person’s whole job would then be spent organizing, correcting, and cleaning your data. It will be an extra expense, but it would be a great job for a college student who is trying to get their foot in the door or someone trying to gain general experience. This will allow you and the rest of your team to continue focusing on your own essential duties without the extra burden of having to relegate time to clean the data, too.

Option 2

A second way is to do it yourself. Be wary, depending on the size of your book, this could be many, many hours of work. To help, you can assign members of your team to different sections to even out the work. This way the work is evenly spread throughout and the burden doesn’t fall all on one person.

Whatever you decide, just make sure you do it.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take this step. Don’t let the time commitment or expense of hiring an additional employee shy you away. This step is crucially important for the health, wellbeing, and longevity of your business.

Think of the acronym GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. If you continuously input and work off of dirty data, then your output will not be as optimal or as prosperous as you would like.

No system can solve your problems if you continue on the path of inputting dirty, inconsistent data. Eventually, dirty data will be your downfall and your business could seriously suffer.

So, take the time beforehand and really look at the state of your data. Then, once you’ve assessed the state of you data take the necessary steps to improve.

Ask for Help

Your software vendor is there to be of assistance to make your transition as smooth as possible. Ask them which format would be best, what kind of file it requires, and what you should really pay attention to. Taking the time to clean your data and get it in its best possible format will make the transition significantly easier on you and will allow the vendor to be of more help once you get into their software.

Plus, you’ll be up-and-running sooner. If all of your ducks are in a row, then you move faster. You can have your functions going day one, automation capabilities linked up, and commissions processing. Otherwise, it could take weeks for you to get everything together and clean your data.

Ask Questions Up Front

When vetting a new software system, make sure you’re asking what the data migration process looks like. If you’re not sure where to start, we strongly suggest these eight questions:

  • How do I get my data into the system?
  • Does the file have to be in a certain format?
  • Can I import multiple policies for one client?
  • Do you have templates available?
  • What about notes and attachments?
  • Is there a separate fee for data migration?
  • How long will this take?
  • How easy is it for me to get my data out? (you must ask your vendor this!!)

For more about these questions and what you should be looking out for in the answers, check out our blog The 8 Questions You Should be Asking Your Sales Rep about Data Migration. We highly encourage you to ask these questions before you buy into the software because you want to ensure the process will be as smooth as possible into the system and out of it if you ever choose to leave.

The most important thing about the whole process is that you feel supported. Your new software should be your partner, and your new vendor should give you the impression that they’re there to help. You’re putting your trust in this vendor the same way your clients are putting their trust in you. Keep that at the forefront of your mind throughout every demo, trial, and sales conversation you have with your various vendors.

[eBook] The Insurance Agency's Brief Guide to Data Migration

Data migration can be daunting. This brief guide will give you a high-level insight into everything data migration so you feel more prepared to take it on and reassured that it will go as excellent as possible.

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Allison Babberl

By Allison Babberl on March 6, 2018 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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