Get answers to the questions you may have about agency management systems (plus how to choose the best one).
Deciding to adopt any new platform comes with a lot of questions–and choosing a new agency management system (AMS) isn’t any different. You may have questions about its general functionality, security, data migration, onboarding, and more.
As the #1 Agency Recommended management platform for life and health insurance agencies, we get a lot of questions about our platform and its capabilities.
Read on to get answers to the 10 most common questions we get about agency management systems so you can make the best decision for your agency.
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1. What is the main difference between an AMS and CRM?
The main difference between an industry-specific AMS and a customer relationship management (CRM) tool is who they are built for. CRM software is generic and often not built for a specific audience. They specialize in helping you manage your relationships and communication with prospects and clients.
What is an agency management system? An AMS is a platform that’s specific to the insurance industry and is built specifically for a niche within that industry, like life and health or property and casualty insurance. An AMS has additional features on top of client relations to help you manage your book of business.
In short, an AMS is a CRM–with more extensive capabilities that allow you to save time and stay organized. AgencyBloc’s AMS is built specifically for life and health insurance agencies. Because of this, we can help you streamline a suite of tasks such as policy management, commission processing, differentiating records, workflow automation, data analysis and reporting, and more.
2. What can be tracked within an AMS?
An agency management system is built with insurance agencies in mind, so you can track prospects, clients (both individual and group), policies, carriers, agents, commissions, communications, and much more.
Also, because an AMS is industry-specific, your record templates will often already have the industry-related fields you need available, like policy number, carrier, coverage type, and group policy information (if applicable). And anything you need to add that’s unique to your agency can be created and tracked with custom fields.
In addition to tracking this critical information easily, you can keep it all in one place to prevent data silos.
3. What is an Automated Workflow?
An Automated Workflow is a series of tasks that are automatically triggered when a specific event occurs. These tasks can be emails to prospects, activities assigned to agents, and much more. Automated Workflows increase efficiency and accuracy in each business process.
Automation allows your agency to transition from inefficient, time-consuming manual processes to automated ones. This can help keep your agents on track and prevent important opportunities–like timely follow-up or regular communication–from falling through the cracks.
Learn more in our eBook: Automation for Life & Health Insurance Agencies: Using automated workflow to create efficiency & consistency.
4. What are examples of Automated Workflows for insurance agencies?
Common Automated Workflows include:
- Happy Birthday: Send emails with “Happy Birthday” wishes to your clients on their birthday
- New Individual Prospect: Assign agents to follow-up with new prospects
- Lead Form Submitted: Send an email to new leads who come in from your website’s lead form and assign an agent for follow-up
- Policy Application Submitted: Keep clients up-to-speed on the status of their policy application
- Policy Renewal: Send notices to clients regarding upcoming policy renewals
- Agent License Expiration: Help agents stay ahead of upcoming license and E&O expiration/renewal dates
These are just a few examples of ways to utilize AgencyBloc’s Automated Workflow.
5. How does AgencyBloc’s Commission Module process commissions?
With AgencyBloc’s Commission Module, some initial setup is necessary for processing commissions–however, it can pay off in the long run. Keep in mind that once steps one through three are complete, you won’t need to repeat them (unless you have new data).
Step 1: Set Up Policies
First, set up your clients and their policies. This can be done through our import process or manually.
Step 2: Set Up Rate Tables
Next, set up rate tables that can be referenced by multiple policies. Rate tables can be configured using:
- Percent of the premium
- Percent of the commission received
- Per life
- Flat amount
Your rate tables can also specify payouts based on carrier, coverage type, or plan code.
Step 3: Tie Payees to Policies
Policies may have many agents assigned for commission payouts. Typical scenarios can include paying a referral fee, trainer fee, manager override, or agency override. Each of these agents can be paid differently. Tie your payees and rate tables to your policies to make tracking your splits and managing your payouts easier. You can also use payee schedules to pay certain agents the same way on multiple policies.
Step 4: Import Carrier File
Steps four through six happen every time you actually process commissions with AgencyBloc’s Commission Module.
The Commission Module was built to save your team valuable time and improve accuracy while processing commissions. With these two goals in mind, one of the most appreciated aspects of our system hinges on Carrier Imports.
Build import maps for your commission statements to make the process of getting your statements into AgencyBloc’s Commission Module more efficient. Once your maps have been built, your team can simply upload the carrier or upline commission statement, ensure everything has been linked correctly, and reconcile. This import process significantly reduces the amount of time spent manually inputting data.
Note: Once your account has been configured, the import and payment calculation process is very quick. Our clients have carrier imports containing tens of thousands of records; it takes less than 2 minutes to process these files.
If a carrier doesn’t provide you with electronic statements, AgencyBloc has a standard import file that your team can use to automate the process.
Step 5: Calculate/Reconcile Commissions
Reconciliation is a simple process and another highly appreciated aspect in AgencyBloc’s Commission Module.
When commissions are imported, you’ll see which policies were linked to the carrier’s statement, each payment that was calculated, and any policies that didn’t match. AgencyBloc highlights any exceptions that require further investigation. After everything has been imported, you can run a quick “Commission Not Received” reconciliation report to identify any inaccuracies in your commission statements.
Step 6: Generate Commission Statements
Once all your carrier commissions are reconciled for the payment period, you’re ready to generate commission statements. Statements can be run in spreadsheet or PDF format. You can run statements at any interval you choose. Statements can be organized by sub-agency in order to facilitate paying multiple companies under your agency.
Agent statements show the premium paid and the amount owed for each policy. You can organize your statements by carrier or policyholder. And they reflect any adjustments or balance carryovers that your team has made for a specific agent/agency during that payment period.
Dive deeper into commissions processing best practices with our eBook: The Agency's Guide to Commissions: Process Efficiently, Uncover Missed Commissions, & Analyze Performance.
6. How does AgencyBloc’s Commission Module identify missed commission payments from carriers?
As long as you have all of your commission's data correctly entered, the missed commission payments from carriers will be apparent in a couple of ways:
- On a policy level, commission payments not received by statement date or by bill from date will appear on the policy screen
- By running AgencyBloc’s “Commission Not Received” report
Using AgencyBloc’s Commission Module, agencies have found tens of thousands of dollars in missing compensation from the carriers. Often, these savings are more than the annual cost of AgencyBloc and AgencyBloc’s Commission Module.
For more on identifying missed commissions from carriers, read: How to Find & Collect Missed Commissions With an Agency Management System.
7. How is data backed up on an AMS?
It depends on how the AMS is hosted. Cloud-based data is backed-up to several locations in real-time, meaning your data is always saved as the latest version even if something happens to the computer, tablet, or phone you access it from. In contrast, on-site hosting requires a manual backup and is typically only done, on average, once per day.
To make sure you find a secure agency management system, read this blog: The 6 Hallmarks of Secure Agency Management Systems.
8. How long does it take for your team to be up and running on an AMS?
Every situation is unique, and, again, varies from system to system. Typically, you will first go through data migration and then be onboarded and trained on your new agency management system. Depending on the amount of data you have and what the training schedule looks like, both of these things can take a few to several weeks.
9. What happens during AMS onboarding?
Every company will have a unique process, but you should expect to be trained on their system by someone on their team. Be sure to ask questions as you follow along. After that, you’ll probably meet on a regular basis with homework for you and your team in between training sessions.
To see an outline of what onboarding may look like, grab our checklist: New Agency Management System Onboarding Checklist.
10. What’s the standard for customer support with an AMS provider?
There is no “standard” when it comes to customer support, but there are definitely things to look for to ensure that the AMS vendor you choose can support you. For instance, find out how many different avenues are available to work or speak with customer service (phone call, email, live chat, etc.) and how quickly is someone from customer support able to help you out.
The level of ongoing support you’ll receive will be vital to your success with the system. Make sure you ask about it upfront and use a vendor research tool to ensure you choose the right fit.
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This blog was originally published on January 3, 2020, and updated on December 27, 2022.
by Kelsey Rosauer on Tuesday, December 27, 2022
Customer & Policy Management