What is an agency management system?
An agency management system (AMS) is a SaaS (software as a service) technology or client-based software that insurance agencies use to organize their book-of-business and more effectively run their operations. Though an AMS is often said to be synonymous with a CRM (customer relationship management system), insurance agencies should be careful to take that opinion. An AMS includes CRM capabilities, absolutely. But, a good AMS has many more capabilities that go beyond the customer/client relationship. Beyond tracking clients, a worthwhile AMS can also:
- Track agents
- Track policies
- Track carriers
- Process commissions
- Automate workflow
- Automate email marketing
Why should I use an agency management system?
An AMS can definitely help you organize and automate your agency, but any good AMS will also help your agency grow. If you want to maintain current clients and continue to add new clients, an AMS is a must.
Agents Council for Technology says that an AMS leads to “Improved profitability and professionalism. Efficient operations result in higher profit. Clients are provided more professional service when your staff is able to devote more time to service by not having to deal with unorganized pieces of paper.”
Not only does an AMS help you be more efficient with clients, but as an agency owner, it allows you to consistently monitor the health of your agency and make quick decisions when the need arises. Without a way to monitor all of the aspects of your agency, you’re simply guessing in the dark and making important decisions for your agency based on those guesses.
Let’s take a look at the 5 steps to choosing an agency management system:
- Identify your goals
- Identify your needs
- Consider your budget
- Make a decision
- Manage change in your agency
Step 1: Identify your goals
Before you can even begin looking at software solutions, you must identify the problem you’d like to solve. If there wasn’t a problem, you wouldn’t be looking for a software solution, right?
To solve your current problem or situation, you should identify some goals you’re hoping the AMS will help you reach. These goals will be driven by the current issues your agency is facing (either with your current CRM/AMS or lack of one), and they should also be driven by your growth aspirations.
When you started your agency or acquired it, what was your initial goal? To grow it and pass it on? To eventually sell it? To pass it down to a family member? All of these questions are important to answer because they’ll help you identify areas where your book-of-business requires attention in order to meet these goals.
If your end goal is to eventually sell your agency, remember that you’re selling your data, not your agency. To get the most value out of your agency, both when you’re operating it and when you go to sell, you must have accurate data.
What is “accurate” data?
Accurate data is:
- Organized. This is crucial. It’s like when you are working on a group project, and someone has done some work but it isn’t clear where they left off or what they even did in the first place. The data needs to be super organized to the point where someone can look at it and understand where to pick up quickly. For an insurance agency, this would mean having your data in an agency management system first and foremost. Otherwise, there really isn’t an easy way to maintain organization. Maybe your spreadsheets or paper files have worked for you, and that’s fine. But when it comes to selling your agency, a buyer probably won’t want to take on that data knowing they have to do the data migration themselves with your data.
- Updated. This goes with organized, but it’s important to mention because often times, agencies will get their data into an agency management system and then do nothing with it. An agency management system is made to make your life easier, so take advantage of that.
In order to ensure you maintain organized and updated data, an AMS that fits your needs is crucial. Next step is identifying your agency’s specific needs.
Step 2: Identify your needs
Each agency has its own specific needs, and before you overwhelm yourself with the CRM/AMS choices, identify your needs. Don’t worry about wants at this stage—those will arise as you search to discover what’s out there.
These needs will be based on the goals you set for your agency in step one, but to help you get started, here are a few items to consider:
- Cloud-based vs. physical software. How important is it for you to access your book-of-business from anywhere on your mobile phone or tablet? Cloud-based solutions allow you to do that, physical software installed on your computer do not.
- Analytics. To what extent do you wish to monitor your business? Real-time graphs and charts are available in the best AMS/CRMs—otherwise, you’ll need to run reports and manually do your own analysis. What do you have time for?
- Email capabilities. Is one of your goals to improve your client and prospect communications? Does that include adding more touch points to your sales cycle or client retention plan? If so, you’ll want email capabilities within your AMS/CRM to automate most of this communication.
- Workflow automation. Every agent has wished that time could just pause for a second—you’re that busy. If you’re looking to automate activities within your agency and collaborate with your coworkers, workflow automation capabilities might be important to you.
Step 3: Consider your budget
When it comes to purchasing and setting up an AMS/CRM, there are a few things you need to consider: any hidden costs, the "Actual Cost", and any required vendor contracts. Each AMS/CRM vendor is different, but there are a few steps you can take to be sure you’re not blind-sided when you receive your first invoice.
What steps should I take?
- Make sure you do not over-purchase.Typically there will be a base plan with add-ons that have additional costs for additional features/modules. Be sure you don’t purchase a system that has a bunch of features you’ll never use—make sure the shoe fits!
- Ask about all pricing options and any volume discounts. Is there a setup fee? How about fees for training or support? Do they offer volume discounts or tiered pricing?
- Find out how long you will be tied into the contract. How will you get out of the contract if you find it isn’t, in fact, a good fit? How do they bill—monthly, annually, one-time fee?
Step 4: Make a decision
The actual selection process is the fourth factor to consider, not the first. Before you begin to pick which AMS/CRM you think would be best, remember that you can eliminate many providers who are not in line with your goals or specific needs you outlined above.
Include your team in this step in order to create buy-in. When you’ve narrowed your selections down, have a meeting and present this information to the other decision-makers:
- Your goals & subsequent needs
- The budget you planned & why it changed or did not change
- The 2-3 AMS/CRM systems you’ve narrowed it down to and why (list specific features and how you think they’ll meet your needs)
- How you’ve decided to make the decision (vote, debate, discussion, etc.)
After all that work of comparing more than up-front costs, considering training needs and then actually looking at the features of each system, you are finally ready to make your selection.
Step 5: Managing change in your agency
You've made your choice, so the process is over, right? Wrong.
Change is scary. You must manage the change process until your team feels comfortable with the new technology.
To effectively manage the process:
- Present the new system in a similar way as step #4 (make a decision), showing how the new system will meet your needs & help you reach your goals
- Roll out the new system to each department separately
- Assign someone as the AMS/CRM expert who other team members can go to for guidance
- Hold a review with the entire team after a few months of using the new system to discuss any concerns
Understand the human element involved in this change and lead your team to success by showing everyone how the new system will benefit each department.
Is AgencyBloc the AMS for you?
AgencyBloc is an agency management system built specifically for life and health insurance agencies. We help life and health insurance agencies grow their business by organizing and automating their operations using a combination of an industry-specific CRM, commissions processing, and integrated marketing automation. We put you first and aim to make your system run smoothly so that we can reduce the stress on you, your employees, and your business.