The Agency’s Guide to Understanding an Agency Management System vs. a CRM

Many life and health insurance agencies are making the transition to technologically-based management systems to help them organize and manage their books of business. This article will focus on two of the major management systems and the benefits of using an industry-specific agency management system over a generic CRM.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in how health and life insurance agencies manage their books of business. In this move, agencies are switching to technological-based software to help them track their books of business, expand their agencies, and achieve their goals.

During this crucial time, it’s important to understand the options available and make the right decision for your insurance agency. This piece will focus heavily on the differences between two of the leading technological management systems for health and life insurance agents:

  • Agency Management Systems (AMS)
  • CRM Solutions

Section 1: What is an Agency Management System? What is a CRM?

Before we start talking about the differences between the two management systems, let’s look at the definitions of what exactly an AMS and a CRM is:

AMS: Agency Management System

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

CRM: Customer Relationship Management Software*

Definition: 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.
Example: Salesforce

Section 2: Agency Management System vs. CRM

When it comes to identifying the differences, the one main thing is this: an agency management system is a CRM, plus a whole lot more.

A CRM is a generic system built to adapt to the needs of many different industries. It can have a lot of capabilities, but you have to put in the time, sweat, and tears to customize those capabilities to fit your needs. Additionally, those customizations sometimes come with a hefty price tag.

Then, when updates are made to the software in general, all those customizations can be lost or broken, forcing you to start from scratch and recreate the wheel. This can restart all of those costs again, too.

In addition, there are three major ways that an AMS generally suits an insurance agency better than a CRM:

  • Specificity
  • Totality
  • Productivity

Specificity 

The major benefit of an agency management system is the fact it’s already built for your specific industry niche. For example, AgencyBloc is built to suit the needs of the life and health insurance industry. Yes, you can track property & casualty in it, but only to a certain degree and we often tell people that it wouldn’t be a good fit if P&C is your core business.

Specified software is a benefit because it’s already built for your industry-related needs, so you have far fewer customizations to make for it to work in your process. Not only that, but it can also help to cut down on implementation time so you can be up and running at full capacity quicker.

It also makes training the rest of your staff easier since it just makes sense. You don’t have to create as many workarounds or manual processes since it’s got the majority of your needs already there for you.

Totality

An AMS is much more than just tracking communications with prospects, clients, and leads. It can help you do a whole host of things like:

  • Track agents
  • Track policies
  • Manage and process commissions
  • Manage groups
  • Email marketing
  • Workflow automation
  • Task management
  • Business performance analysis
  • Industry-specific reporting

Plus much, much more. All of which are essential to helping you maintain a leading agency that’s competitive and efficient.

Totality also means it’s all in one system. With a CRM, you will likely have to run 2-3 different systems just to meet your needs—like running a CRM plus running a commissions-specific software. An AMS has all of those capabilities in one software plus integrations already built and ready to go. This helps you save time and work smarter because everything is centralized in one location making looking up information and maintaining organization much easier.

Productivity 

An agency management system like AgencyBloc helps you to work smarter not harder to achieve more in your day. This helps to boost productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Agencies that have adopted an insurance-specific AMS report feeling 44% more productive than they did prior to adopting it.

This is in large part due to the ease of finding information and being able to act upon it.

Plus, with workflow automation, you can easily automate many of your otherwise manual tasks to happen automatically whenever their trigger occurs. In AgencyBloc, we call this Automated Workflow, and it can automate tasks like:

  • Happy birthday emails
  • Policy renewal reminders
  • New lead notifications
  • E&O & licensure management
  • Policy status updates
  • Follow-up alerts

The other reason productivity is heightened with an AMS is because it helps to create clean, organized data for your agency to work from. One of the most common problems agencies face when transitioning from a legacy system or a system that doesn’t have a mandated organizational system is messy data.

Messy data is just key-entered information that doesn’t follow a specified format. For example, putting dashes in a social security number or writing names first then last. Everyone has to follow the same format; otherwise, it can create messy data because it’s not uniform and it’s not cohesive. Then, when you transfer that data over to tools like email marketing or automated workflow, the information can translate differently and make you look very unprofessional.

An example would be if someone entered a name Last, First like Smith, Mary instead of Mary Smith. When you set up a basic mail merge it would pull “Smith” as the first name. You’d be sending emails and letters saying “Dear Smith” which is obviously incorrect. That’s not how you want to come across to your clients, lead, and prospects.

Thus, clean data makes a massive difference. Plus, it saves you time because you don’t have to decipher or take the extra second to understand the format. With an AMS like AgencyBloc, the fields are specified and you enter the information correspondingly instead of in a spreadsheet or open field in a CRM.

Client detail screen in AgencyBloc

Image source | AgencyBloc

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Section 3: Benefits of Using an Agency Management System Over a CRM

Regardless of the system you use, you need to make sure it can track policies, handle commissions, and is client-centric. A generic CRM can do some of this, but it can be difficult and trying. An industry-specific AMS will likely have these capabilities built directly into the system so that you can easily access the information in one centralized area.

Policy Tracking

Keeping track of all of your policies is crucial for the longevity and success of your agency. A generic CRM will likely not be able to track your policies in a way that makes sense without an integration from another software or platform.

This is one way an AMS can serve an insurance agent better. AgencyBloc can track all of your policies sold to both individual or a group, where the policy is in the application process, and when it’s up for renewal. It’s easier to stay on top of your policies with automated triggers that will send reminder emails to both your agents and clients so they know the renewal date is approaching.

You will also be able to view detailed graphs showing the various statuses of your policies, the different coverage types you offer, and from which carriers the policies belong. This helps you maintain more control over your policies, understand which kind of policies you’re profiting from, and determine the types you may want to phase out.

Groups & Policies Graph within AgencyBloc

Image Source | AgencyBloc

Commissions Processing

Another major downside of a CRM built for the masses is commissions processing. Either it won’t have that ability OR it will take a significant amount of work and money to build it out. If it’s the latter, then you’ll likely have to hire another full-time position or contract out to a developer which could run you $75,000 or more a year. The full-time is better as they’ll be around all the time to help put out fires and overcome challenges whenever they arise.

You want to grow, and to do so, your agency needs to stay profitable. A generic CRM can help you by giving you an audit trail and month-to-month records of your various accounts and policies, but you can’t truly see where you are with these records only.

An AMS like AgencyBloc can give you not only detailed records of your various accounts and policies, but it can also track your commissions on a granular level. You’ll be able to see what commission payments are coming in from the carriers vs. what you expected them to be, see where they are going, and how much of the split is going to each agent and the house.

This way you can better monitor the money flowing in and out of your agency and ensure that the flow is correct. By utilizing this information and tracking their payments, our clients have been able to uncover tens of thousands of dollars in missed commission payments from carriers.

How carrier statements flow in and out of AgencyBloc's commissions module

Image Source | AgencyBloc

You will also be able to view detailed graphs to give you insight into the health of your agency. You can see where you are being the most and least profitable in a variety of areas like marketing automation, lead generation, certain carriers, or particular policy types.

Having these capabilities are essential for your agency whether you want to grow or sell because you’ll know exactly where your agency is and where you could improve. If you want to sell, it gives you a baseline of what your agency is worth to help you determine at what price you should sell.

Top commissions received by agent and by carrier graphs in AgencyBloc

Image Source | AgencyBloc

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Client-Centric

Let’s face it, your entire business is all about your clients.

You want to serve them to the best of your abilities, provide them with whatever information they need, and keep them happy so they remain loyal. In order to stay loyal, they need to know, without a doubt, that you have their best interests at heart and are dedicated to helping protect their livelihood. Your clients need to know that they can trust you and lean on you in the worst of times. They are buying the protection and peace of mind of the coverage as much as the trust that you will be there when they need you most.

If you’re not sure where you stand with your clients, then a goal for this year is to find out! After all, it can cost up to 10 times more to acquire a new client than it does to keep one.

One way to help you understand overall happiness is an NPS survey. You’ve likely interacted with an NPS survey in the past. It consists of one question:

“How likely is it that you would recommend [your agency] to a friend or colleague”.

Then they rate you on a scale of 0-10—10 being highly recommend. It’s an easy email to send and a great way to gauge how happy your clients are with your services.

The next step is to then follow-up.

If they rate you a 9 or a 10, they are what is called a promoter. These people are your best candidates for referrals, testimonials, references, and more. These are the people you should be reaching out to for all of the above. Just don’t forget to say thanks!

If they rate you a 7 or an 8, then they are a passive. These people are neither overly impressed or unhappy with your services, but they are also the ones in danger of becoming a detractor if they are made unhappy. Reach out to them to see how you can best serve them to get them up to a promoter.

Lastly, if they rate you a 6 or below, they’re a detractor. These are the people who are unhappy or vehemently unhappy and can pose a danger for your brand. Remember, we as humans are far more likely to share criticism rather than praise, so keep that in mind. Reach out to your detractors immediately and get to the root of their unhappiness so you can, hopefully, make them happier. It doesn’t work every time, and you may find that it’s not the right partnership for either of you. Regardless, it’s the effort that counts and it shows you care enough to try.

Another way to make your agency more client-centric is by boosting your client communication strategy. Staying in more consistent communication with your clients can really make a difference in how they feel about you. We discussed Automated Workflow earlier, but there are some workflows you can set up In AgencyBloc that are specifically built for client communications:

  • Happy birthday emails
  • Policy renewal notifications
  • Policy status alerts

The policy-specific notifications are especially helpful because it makes your clients feel as if they are a part of the process and have a hand in it all.

You can also help your clients better prepare for upcoming changes by running simple reports that help you identify who will be affected by what change. Being proactive makes a big difference and can make a significant impact on your clients because they’ll be grateful you were able to prepare them ahead of time.

With a CRM, this may be more difficult because policies, carriers, and clients may not all be tied together, so you may have to run a multitude of reports then cross-reference between them all. This boils down to a very time-consuming process that leaves you with a lot less time to contact and focus on your clients.

With an AMS, you have everything tracking together in one cohesive unit so you can pull one report with all the information you need. One example would be when changes come from the ACA on which carriers and plan types will be offered and which ones will be discontinued for the upcoming year. You can pull a quick report detailing all of the clients that will be adversely affected and reach out to them sooner to set up a game plan. That way, when the change does happen, you’ve already got everything figured out and ready to go and their coverage will continue without incident.

Making the plan and reaching out can make a world of difference in how your clients feel about you and can significantly affect how they respond to your NPS. All of these will help to show your clients that you are dedicated to their well-being and that you’ll be there for them through all the coming changes.

This type of commitment goes a long way to impressing your clients and can seriously build your client retention. Eighty-one percent of clients leave due to lack of communication, so these tactics to maintain contact and conversation with your clients is essential for client retention, referrals, and overall agency well-being.

Section 4: Finding the Right Agency Management System for you

Now that you understand the true benefits of an agency management system over a CRM, let’s discuss find the right one for your agency.

It’s important to note that not all agency management software is built the same. It’s crucial to ask questions to help ensure the system is the right for you, your agency, and your needs/goals. Here’s a list of features that might be important for your book of business and whether an AMS or CRM would offer them:

Feature

CRM

AMS

green bloc

Track Clients
Track Prospects
Track Groups
Track Group Enrollments & Elections **
Track Agents
Track Policies
Track Carriers
Email Marketing Automation ** **
Automated Workflow ** **
Email Campaigns ** **
Cloud-Based Access ** **
Data Backup
CRM Data & File Storage **
Third-Party Integrations ** **
Lead Management
Industry-Specific Reporting **
Industry-Specific Analytics **
Process & Track Commissions **
Project Commissions **
Tiered Pricing ** **

**Varies on software, check with your provider to see if that feature is available

It’s also important to have your needs and goals worked out ahead of time. When you’re making the change, you want to ensure the AMS has the right features and abilities to help you achieve the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

Once you have your goals set, determine which features are essential to your goal achievement and which ones would be a great supplement overall. You also need to determine what is essential to help your agency continue running at the level it currently is and what would be a nice addition to help improve processes and functionalities throughout.

Then, do your due diligence. You’ll find a wide range of options with agency management systems. Some are geared for life and health. Some are geared for P&C. Some try to cater to all four or are more insurance generic. Some are geared for independent agents and some are made to facilitate larger agencies. There is the right fit for you out there, just make sure to shop around.

To help you in your search, we’ve put together some downloadable tools to help you know what to look out for and what to ask. Keep these by your side while you talk to your sales rep and throughout your demo(s) to take notes and be more aware. Make sure to write the answers down to have for later when you compare and contrast different software options to have all the pros and cons top-of-mind.

We encourage you to use all of these during each of your demos. Even on our demos, call and ask our sales team about them, too! In the end, it’s crucial to find the right fit for your agency. Ask your questions, take diligent notes, then converse with your team to make sure it’s the right decision. Deciding as a team can be significantly more effective than deciding as a singular CEO/Owner. The team can help with employee buy-in and managing the change once you implement the new software.

For more help, here are some additional resources to aid you in the process of adopting a new agency management system for your agency:

An Agency Management System Can Help!

AgencyBloc is the #1 Agency Recommended Management System for the life and health insurance industry. Our AMS helps 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 business and marketing automation.

Schedule a Live, 1-on-1 Demo of AgencyBloc