Improvements in document management bode well for agents
Ninety-two percent of independent agencies rely on their management system for document management. That’s according to the Applied Systems 2016 digital agency report on technology adoption across the independent agency channel.
Effective electronic document management means that business moves through your agency with efficient workflows.
Today ACORD eDocs and Messages Download gives carriers the means to provide agents and brokers those streamlined workflows. Called “Activity Notes” before being rebranded in 2015, eDocs and Messages Download allows carriers to send documents directly to agency management systems. Claims Download allows carriers to send claims information to agency management systems.
Together, these tools—eDocs and Messages along with Claims Download—can boost the electronic sharing of vital business documents. For agency principals, that means staff can cut down on time spent visiting carrier portals, freeing up time to spend on revenue-generating activities.
Let’s take a look first at vocabulary:
ACORD eDocs and Messages Download:
The electronic transfer of documents from a carrier to an agent’s management system. These can include declaration pages, billing summaries, pending cancellation notifications, and other documents in .pdf, .xls/xlsx, or .doc/docx formats.
ACORD eDocs and Messages Download “are an ACORD XML data standard designed to allow carriers to generate a variety of messages and documents, which can be sent to their agencies using the existing download services,” according to a white paper from IVANS Insurance. They “offer a secure and managed alternative to email, mail and faxes. eDocs and Messages allow insurance carriers to send information to an agency. That information is then directly attached to a client and/or policy. It is an auditable, secure, system-based method of handling essential communications between carriers and their agents.”
Claims Download: The electronic transfer of claims information from a carrier to an agent’s management system. These messages can be claim summaries, adjuster information, claim status updates, and payment and reserve amounts.
Now, some background:
In October 2015, ACORD, along with the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations (CSIO), rebranded the Activity Notes standard to ACORD eDocs and ACORD Messages and CSIO eDocs and CSIO Messages. This harmonized North American standards for electronic delivery of policy documents and messages from insurers to independent agencies and brokerages. (eDocs, a CSIO Message Standard used by Canadian carriers and brokers for the delivery of secure insurance documents directly to broker management systems, were developed by CSIO, based on the ACORD Activity Notes message structure.)
While that’s a nice history lesson, what’s most important are the present and the future: These tools
can pay off for any agency anywhere in North America.
Your agency can use eDocs and Messages Download to:
Improve workflows: Documents and messages are automatically routed to the appropriate client/policy and customer service representative each day.
Save costs: eDocs and Messages eliminate the need to have someone in your agency open, scan, file, or shred paper.
Enhance customer service:
These tools allow your agency to receive information before the
client does. That positions you to be proactive in dealing with the information.
Increase convenience: Once the system has been set up correctly, little manual intervention by your staff is required. To ensure consistency, documents are also filed to the folder structure you set up.
Meanwhile, property/casualty insurers also benefit. They save costs by reducing printing and postage, increase speed with more timely delivery of documents, and boost efficiency by supporting and encouraging paperless workflows. Anecdotal information also shows that electronic documents are more likely to be read.
These tools work across a range of agency management systems. For example, for the TAM and Epic systems I’m most familiar with, eDocs and Messages support PDF, Excel, and Word file formats, with PDF being the most used by far. Vertafore offers eDocs and Messages Download through its TransactNOW product, according to NetVU (Network of Vertafore Users).
Carriers can send their business partners documents related to any stage or process in the policy life cycle. For instance:
- Declaration pages for any policy action: quote, new, renew, endorse, cancel, and reinstate;
- Billing notices and commission statements;
- Carrier bulletins, such as changes in product availability; and
- Pending cancellation or
Carriers also can send claim information via eDocs and Messages. In my view, Claims Download should be the primary way for agencies to obtain this information from carriers.
eDocs and Messages are designed to provide automated delivery of electronic documents—not to update application details, as does policy download. So these tools reach into lines of business beyond those supported by traditional policy download, such as personal, commercial, agriculture, E&S, surety, and life/health/benefits.
Let’s see how eDocs and Messages Download can tie in to the daily workflow for agency producers and staff. For example, here’s a typical path for a message within the TAM and Epic systems:
- Documents are processed into the agency management system via download from the insurer’s system;
- eDocs and Messages match up with existing policies based on the policy number and term;
- An activity is created for each eDoc and Message. Each document sent within a message is associated with the activity created;
- Activities are assigned based on your agency’s activity code configuration and the CSR or producer shown on the billing and servicing detail for each policy;
- Documents are attached to the client using the folders/sub-folders and categories as defined by your agency for eDocs and Messages; and
- Documents can be previewed in “Suspense” to identify the account to which they should be assigned.
For the insurance industry that we all strive so hard to make better ACORD eDocs and Messages Download create an environment of greater security and privacy of data. They also promote a common workflow across organizations and offer a competitive advantage against direct-writing companies.
Check with your agency management system provider and/or carrier partners to inquire about ACORD eDocs and Messages Download as well as Claims Download. You also can check here for further information:
Applied Systems: www1.appliedsystems.com/en-us/solutions/connecting-to-carriers/ivans-download/acord-edocs-and-acord-messages/IVANS Insurance: ivansinsurance.com/resources/tools/
Brian Bartosh, CIC, LUTCF, is president of Top O’ Michigan Insurance Agency, an independent agency based in Alpena, Michigan, with seven other locations. Bartosh served as 2011 chair of Applied Client Network (AppliedClientNetwork.org), a group of educators and advocates for users of Applied Systems software. With more than 55 affiliated local and virtual chapters, Applied Client Network identifies and responds to needs of users in developing new educational tools and materials to drive efficiency and enhance agency value.