Breaking Down Business Intelligence

by Michael Howe

Michael-Howe-BI-Blog--Image-in-BlogIn an industry that generates an immense volume of data every day, insurance agency and brokerage executives are increasingly turning to new business intelligence (BI) strategies and solutions that provide additional, data-driven visibility into their clients, prospects, internal operations and carrier relationships.

For many executives, business intelligence solutions build upon the established capabilities of traditional reporting. Traditional reports typically allow executives to examine “what happened” using data based on a defined set of criteria as of a specific moment in time. By contrast, BI solutions extend traditional reporting to focus on  “why something happened” by using visual representations of data over time that are both interactive and multi-dimensional, allowing agencies to drill into a particular aspect of the business for deeper understanding.

Crucial capabilities and insights at your fingertips
BI solutions put these crucial capabilities at your fingertips, with easy-to-understand visual illustrations of key performance metrics such as retention rates and hit ratios, as well as complex analysis of client growth, book of business trending, carrier response rate and employee productivity. By looking at data from multiple perspectives, you can gain greater business insights and better understand the cause and effect of what drives your business and how to respond to new business and market opportunities.

For example, when evaluating your organization’s book of business, you can cross-examine and splice data to:

  • Identify coverage packages that are popular and profitable within one industry and determine new industries that need identical coverage
  • Track active regions for business expansion and net growth
  • Know the best insurers with the highest likelihood of writing specific types of business
  • Measure business activities against book of business trending, identifying efficiencies and improved productivity

To get a better idea of just how a BI solution could help your agency or brokerage, let’s take a look at some specific scenarios.

Location, location, location
First, let’s examine an issue related to servicing your customers. Consider your agency or brokerage is operating in a region that has experienced a natural catastrophe, like Napa Valley’s 2014 earthquake. As soon as the catastrophic event hits, an owner can instantly tap into their BI tool to visually identify which of their clients could be affected in the geographic area where the event hit. A BI tool can drill down into geographical maps to provide instant access to the critical information (think:  who is impacted, what type of coverage do they have, when did the event happen and were they covered, where are their assets) agents and brokers need to proactively reach out to their clients to provide the level of personalized service and guidance expected from their role as a trusted advisor.

Second, let’s take a look a typical challenge related to evaluating new business development. Geographic business intelligence can also visually identify marketing campaign success by region. For instance, an agency or brokerage might be focused on expanding their client base in a specific suburb in their main city of operation. To increase awareness and drive new sales, the owner decides to run an advertising campaign, including local print and TV, for a month targeted at this specific suburb. Following the campaign, an owner can evaluate sales in the region leading up to the campaign, during the campaign, and thereafter to identify any change in the sales trend that could be a direct result from increased marketing activities.

People make or break your business
Insurance has always been a people-oriented industry – defined by personal interactions, relationships, and services. BI solutions can also help with a better understanding of the most important determining factor of your agency’s success:  your people.  To better understand the growth and profitability of an agency’s or brokerage’s business, executives have to closely evaluate employee productivity and revenue-generating activities to better understand their impact on the growth and profitability of their business.

Executives often consider these questions:

  • What is the average revenue per employee at my firm?
  • Who are my top performing producers?
  • How has adding an additional producer added to business development activities?

While straightforward questions, obtaining this information can take several manual steps, including pulling the data from multiple sources, inputting it into a program like Excel, manipulating it to produce the desired results, and building out simple graphical comparisons. With a BI solution, executives can dynamically evaluate employee performance and business development activities through dashboards that can be adjusted to visually provide different cross-comparisons of data. One view can provide an overall snapshot of how each producer is driving revenue. Another view can rank producers by revenue, added lines, retention, attrition, or a number of any other key business metrics. The ability to quickly toggle between information sets provides executives a user-driven experience to better understand how their staff is driving business growth and profitability.

Collaborating with carriers
When researching services for clients, agencies and brokerages engage with a number of insurer partners to find the best policy for their clients. Agencies and brokerages frequently place more business with insurers that are most responsive and provide the most competitive service. The key to effective negotiations and profitable relationships with your insurers is factual data. How often have insurers provided their own numbers from their own limited or adjusted perspectives, and used their data to attempt to negotiate higher results and/or lesser commissions? Executives now have the ability to track the performance of submission responses, declines, and ultimately what policies were written with each of their insurer partners. With a BI solution, executives can quickly review insurer responses rate to provide clear visual proof that the agency is trying to actively engage with the insurer. Executives can evaluate specific success metrics for their insurer marketing activities, as well as compare multiple insurers down to the submission activities for each policy type.

BI solutions have become a necessity for companies of all sizes, industries and verticals to be highly competitive in today’s marketplace. BI brings insights that will refine an agency’s decisions, permeate client, carrier and employee discussions, and ultimately create new business opportunities and more profitable relationships.

Data Analytics_Blog_Applied Systems
What are your thoughts on business intelligence? Do you feel your agency or brokerage could benefit from visually understanding your data?

Michael HoweMichael Howe, senior vice president of product management, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Applied product portfolio. Howe joined Applied in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software. He formerly served as senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management at Aptean, a global provider of industry-focused enterprise software. Prior to Aptean, Howe held senior executive management positions at SAP and other leading software companies.


3 Tips Applied CSR24 Users Should Know

by Bob Zaczynski

CSR24-Blog-TipsEverywhere we go we see people glued to technology. Whether it’s getting directions from point A to B, searching for a great place to eat or browsing Facebook for status updates, the expectation for instant access to information is ubiquitous. This holds true for your clients as well. In addition to phone and in-person contact, today’s insurance consumers expect 24/7 self-service access via mobile or Web. Applied CSR24 delivers that technology, allowing agencies to offer clients immediate access to certificates and auto IDs.

But multichannel client service is only the tip of the iceberg. From the agency perspective, many Applied CSR24 clients find instant gratification in streamlined certificate processing, saving time and resources. With my 25+ years of insurance automation experience and more than 14 years assisting with implementation and training for Applied CSR24, I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you can get the most out of the application.

During implementation, Applied sets up the extract to pull data from your management system into Applied CSR24, saving time for both your staff and clients when filling out forms and requesting information. However if your agency uses Applied CSR24 with Applied Epic or Applied TAM, you can set up Sync, a real-time connection that interchanges data in both directions. This Sync ensures that all information seen by staff and clients is the most current available from the management system, and conversely that any data that originates within Applied CSR24 automatically gets added to your management system’s activities.

With Sync, you can:

  • Enable activities along with their related attachments to be automatically written into your Applied management system from portal-initiated transactions. Your staff will get greater visibility into client interactions conducted in the portal, all within your Applied Epic or Applied TAM management system.
  • Give your clients access to documents and attachments through the online portal. Never manually send a document to your insureds or upload into the portal again. Instead, click one checkbox in your management system to allow your clients to view and/or retrieve documents stored within the management system in real time.
  • Provide a “Claims View” option to your clients through the online portal. Customer service around the claims process is a huge factor in client retention and satisfaction. Give clients visibility into claims status directly from the portal so they can have 24/7 access to the information they need.

More and more people are visiting the Web from mobile devices to conduct insurance transactions. For this reason, Applied CSR24 is mobile-friendly and reformats the user interface of your self-service portal so that clients can easily tap and touch from a smartphone or tablet. To see for yourself how it looks, simply visit your agency’s portal from your smartphone.

And you can brand your portal with a mobile icon:
CSR24_Your Logo

Within the system administration tools, you can add branded icons to make sure that when clients save the webpage to their smartphones and tablets, it appears as a branded icon for your business.

Providing a mobile service option can set you apart from the competition. Visit the Help File within Applied CSR24 to get a communication template that can be used to announce to your clients that your portal is mobile-friendly.

Single Sign-On
Did you know that within Applied TAM and Applied Epic you can set up Applied CSR24 as single sign-on (SSO)? Once the SSO is set up, your staff will never have to launch Applied CSR24 as a separate browser session and sign in. Their Applied TAM or Applied Epic credentials will also give them direct instant access to Applied CSR24.

Applied CSR24 enables your staff to easily access the premium certificate processing capabilities directly from your management system. With direct access to the client account within Applied CSR24, staff can begin the certificate issuance process instantly without navigating to the client file or closing out of the management system. It also allows them to efficiently create and modify client accounts for the Applied CSR24 portal.

I hope this information helps you to get even more value from Applied CSR24. For additional resources, check the Help File within your system or the Applied Client Portal, and watch this video on the latest features.

Do you have additional tips to share with fellow users? Share your ideas below.

Bob ZaczynskiBob Zaczynski, senior vice president of implementation/support services at Applied, directs the implementation and training for various products including Applied CSR24, Applied MobileProducer, and Applied certTrax. He also heads the support teams for Applied certTrax, Applied WebEngine websites and Applied InsWorld publications. Bob joined Applied Systems in 2010 and has more than 25 years of insurance automation experience.


[Podcast] Steve Anderson – Why Customer Service Is No Longer Enough

by Applied Communications

Steve andersonGuest: Steve Anderson, Insurance Technology Expert
LinkedIn IconTwitter Icon
Length: 16:13

Steve Anderson, executive editor of The Anderson Agency Report and recently named a Top 150 LinkedIn Influencer, has been a licensed independent agent for more than 30 years and educates insurance organizations on how understanding and applying technology can help them navigate transformation in the marketplace. In this podcast, Steve breaks down what’s driving the insurance industry online and how agencies can meet consumer demand for online customer self-service. Having studied customer experience among insurance agents for 12+ years, Steve discusses why building an experience through digital technology is pivotal to sustaining long-lasting customers and driving business success. Steve also dives into his recent customer experience survey based on independent agents’ adoption of online self-service applications.

Here are highlights from our conversation:

  • Applied Systems: Delivering a superior customer experience at all customer touchpoints is a trending topic in insurance. Are you seeing this trend take shape in the independent agent channel?
  • Steve Anderson: Well, I’m certainly seeing the conversation being started around the difference between customer service and what I phrase as “creating a compelling customer experience.” Many agents, for so many years, have thought that what they provide is customer service and frankly they did, and most of them did a very good job of it. But I think in today’s age, certainly with the changing expectation of consumers, customer service isn’t really enough anymore. It really is about creating an experience with an organization…What is an agent going to have to do to create an experience that builds and sustains a relationship that will keep a customer coming back to them?…

“…With the changing expectations of consumers today, customer service isn’t really enough anymore.”

  • Applied Systems: Direct writers and comparison sites are requiring independent agents to change how they engage with their clients online. What are independent agents doing in response to this?
  • Steve Anderson: Well, again, I think more and more agents understand that they do need to be online; it is a communication channel that more and more people are accessing and using. In fact, I was just reading earlier this morning, in one of the industry trade publications, an article about the new Affordable Care Act and the people that have signed up online for that medical health coverage. The article’s  statistics said that 1 in 5 people used a mobile device to actually sign up – either a smartphone or a tablet. I think that’s pretty significant [and] that there is a percentage of people out there who expect to be online…. At the same time, there are times when I really do want to talk to somebody, but balancing that out is actually a difficult process. Perhaps a little more difficult for older agency owners who built their business on either people walking in the door, calling them on the phone or interacting with them in person. I think that’s a hard transition. One of the comments I hear all the time is, “Well my clients don’t want online access.” That may be true, however, are you really sure that is true? I think that’s an area where agents need to be thinking “it’s not what we like or don’t like, but what do [our] clients like and don’t like.”

“…Agents need to be thinking, ‘it’s not what do we like or don’t like, but what do [our] clients like and don’t like.’”

  • Applied Systems: Do you see mobile devices driving the need for self-service?
  • Steve Anderson: Oh absolutely…A high percentage of iPad tablets or Android tablets [are] coming out… I think that adoption of technology is driving mobile usage and people just expect to be able to get information, to do things whenever they have a few minutes. Be that waiting at a stoplight or sitting on their porch and just pulling their phone up to say, “Oh, I should have paid that bill” or “I should have done this” or “I wanted to look up this information.” …I would say a majority [of consumers] are used to accessing information and doing things using whatever device makes sense to them at the time.
  • Applied Systems: How have you seen agents adopt and leverage online portal solutions?
  • Steve Anderson: …I’ve been tracking this literally for probably 12 years now, at least… This whole idea of online – I’ve been talking about it and frankly, agents have been resistant, saying their clients don’t want it. I actually conducted an online survey, and I had over 250 responses to the very simple survey.

    The first question was: Does your agency have an online client portal? …Of those responses, 41% said yes and 59% said no… I go back to the statistics, and what I’m reading and the changes in consumer’s attitudes, expectations, [or] what consumers consider a good customer experience, more and more of that is online access. I know agents are afraid of losing the relationship and those are certainly some points to keep in mind, but the reality is, that may mean we need to be more proactive at how we interact and build relationships with customers.

    Then the second question I asked [was]: Of the 59% that said no, why not?… Almost 42% of those 60% that don’t have [a client portal] said, “Our clients are not asking for this capability.” Again, I pause and I guess, are you asking whether they want [it] as an agency?

    The other question I asked was: How many are planning to add it in 2015? Only 8% said that they were planning on adding it this year.

    The final question was: What technology platform do you use? … [We saw] that Applied CSR24 represented 54.5% of those that had said yes. …Applied CSR24 has been around for a very long time, it’s built a great solid base, it has lots of functionality, it allows customers to do certificates and auto ID and get documents or request changes.

    I would say [agents] are not nearly fast enough at responding to this changing expectation that is going on with consumers…I should mention at this point, when I say consumers, I mean personal lines, individuals; I also mean businesses because I’m absolutely convinced that people who buy insurance at the very largest businesses are just people and they’re consumers too – they have expectations of what should or shouldn’t happen.

“I would say [agents] are not nearly fast enough for responding to this changing expectation that is going on with consumers.”

  • Applied Systems: When you mention mobile apps, are there other channels that you see increasing in importance for agents when interacting with their clients online? Would mobile apps be part of that or are there other technologies that you would include?
  • Steve Anderson: I think the other “channel” that I might say that we need to pay attention to is texting. That’s a whole other area [for agents] but, more and more people… are using text messaging as a means of communication. “I’ve had an accident and I’m at the corner of this or that” and texting that information in. That opens up a whole bunch of questions – How do you respond? How do you get notified in the office? Can you get enough information in a small 160 character text message?

What are your thoughts on independent agent adoption of online communication channels? We welcome your thoughts and questions below.


Today’s Insurance Customer Experience Imperative

by Barry Rabkin

All the rage – and rightfully so
Customer experience (CX) is all the rage. You can’t click to an insurance industry news site or general interest news site, or even pick up an insurance industry trade magazine without seeing exhortations about the need for insurance industry companies, agencies and brokerages to become customer centric, customer focused, or customer engaged. Actually, there should be trumpets blasting the message in every direction you turn about the critical importance of CX to your firm’s ongoing and future success. It’s that important and why we believe it’s imperative that agencies, brokers and MGAs constantly strengthen the CX they provide their clients.

Think of “customer experience” as the total amount of positive and negative perceptions customers have each time they interact with an agency, producers or CSRs for any reason, regardless of the nature of the interaction or the technology the client uses to interact. Moreover, the perception of whether any one interaction between the customer and your firm is positive or negative is entirely up to the customer.

Technology is the culprit and is reshaping customer expectations
Technology advances, including the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, are ratcheting up customers’ expectations of immediacy, ease of use and accessibility of people and information, regardless of where they are or the time of day. Customers will increasingly expect producers and CSRs to be even more accessible, more responsive and more personal in their interactions.

What we used to call “Moments of Truth,” but now label customer interaction, are quickly becoming high-definition spotlights that uncover every blemish and every age-mark of the quality and timeliness of the service you provide customers. Adding to your workload to support CX, the customer interaction options extend to the information that your firm publishes online: the content must be easy for clients to find, easy to understand, relevant to customers, and equally important and engaging.

The number and type of customer interaction options continues to grow
The days of customers having only the options of meeting face to-face with producers or using the telephone, fax or email to interact with a firm are quickly fading. Customers know they have, and are comfortable using, many more options to reach out and interact with producers and CSRs.

Market Insight Group believes that there are 4 phases of known and potential customer interaction options.

Four Phases of Customer Interaction
Each phase is associated with time, progressing from the earliest era of geographically bound commerce (Phase 1) to the current and unfolding eras of real-time online digital social media-amplified mobile commerce (Phases 2–4). Specifically:

  • Phase 1: Insurance firms conduct business from geographic locations. Insurance firm owners and producers use Yellow Pages, newspapers and telephone directories and participate in community associations to maximize the likelihood of prospective customers knowing the “who, where and what” of the firm and its producers.
  • Phase 2: Insurance firms create online digital presences to primarily reach out to and conduct commerce with clients. Insurance firms are constantly challenged to determine how to ensure that prospective clients are able to find the agency or brokerage online – often through search engines – and offer their existing clients information anytime and anywhere they want it via tools such as an online self-service portal.
  • Phase 3: This phase is rapidly becoming the “new normal” of online digital communication, collaboration and media consumption. To compete successfully, insurance firms need to acquire social media, digital brand marketing and content management skills to attract prospective customers and keep them engaged – particularly customers using smart devices and expecting increasing functionality as apps for their smart devices. In fact, this phase represents the tipping point from insurance firms conducting business on a transactional basis to conducting business on a more interpersonal client engagement basis.
  • Phase 4: This phase is slowly beginning to emerge and encompasses interaction options that enable customers to reach out to insurance firms, producers and CSRs from an expanding set of on-the-go mobile capability choices, including Web-connected vehicles, wearables, interactive TV and other video streams that are personalized for each customer. Market Insight Group believes customers will bring their expectations of personalized content to their on-the-go interactions with insurance firms, producers and CSRs. We are well on our way to live and work in an interconnected real-time digital mobile marketplace.

Adapt or remain the same?
This is the question regarding strengthening CX that you have to answer. Do you truly want to play a status quo game?

Are you, as an agency or brokerage firm owner willing to bet your future competitive success being based on the same capabilities and daily operational activities you use to support clients in the current marketplace?

This blog shares insights from the report “Adaptability: The Insurance Customer Experience Imperative in an Online Digital Mobile Society” by Market Insight Group, sponsored by Applied Systems.

MIG Adaptability The Customer Experience Imperative
What is your agency or brokerage doing to provide better CX now and in the future?
We welcome your thoughts and questions below.

Barry RabkinBarry Rabkin, president of the insurance technology analyst firm Market Insight Group, is known for his research focusing on areas where current and emerging technology affects insurance commerce, markets, customers and channels. He has been involved with the insurance industry for more than 35 years. Before rejoining his own company in April 2014, he was a principal analyst at Ovum, where he was responsible for leading the global insurance research stream. Before that, Rabkin was responsible for leading the global insurance advisory team at Financial Insights, an IDC company.



Making Insurance Agencies’ Priorities a Reality – A Look into Accenture’s IA Survey

by Michael Howe

accenture-pie-chartIn the recent report “Evolving to Compete and Win in the Long-Term,” Accenture discusses the growing division between the independent agent and carrier relationship – one that is both simultaneously interdependent and competitive. In fact, 39% of independent agents saw carriers’ direct solutions (website and other direct-to-consumer channels) as their greatest source of competition.

To enhance their competitive value, participating independent agents named improving the customer experience and concentrating on providing higher value service to the existing client base as their number one business priority. Additionally, adding sales capabilities is the second priority – yet, with capital constraints, it is a difficult operational objective for many agencies to fulfill.

The report identifies a noticeable and critical discrepancy – agencies are prioritizing customer experience while placing less emphasis and investment in new technology capabilities, which are key in reaching today’s more tech-savvy consumers. To maintain the strength of the IA channel and lay the platform for dynamic growth, independent agencies need to harness the benefits of technology and digital capabilities to improve their customer experience and increase operational efficiency.

PropertyCasualty360 reviewed the survey and published 5 steps that agents can take to optimize their channels. Below I evaluate these key opportunities and how technology can support agencies’ top priorities.

1. Maintaining and improving customer loyalty
Property Casualty 360 says: “Independent agents should focus on providing differentiated services that are important to customers, and selectively choose carriers that have similar goals. Furthermore, independent agents can sharpen the focus on advisory services in order to put an agent in the position to give customers choices, while also assisting them in making sound decisions on complex insurance and financial offerings.”

My technology advice: Recent Accenture research confirms that customers trust the advice provided by independent agents more than others, which is a clear competitive differentiator for the IA channel. However, in order to maintain the trusted advisor role, agents need to have adequate time and insight into their clients to provide superior advice. Technology can streamline business operations and reduce time spent on administrate tasks, creating more time to focus on providing an improved customer experience to drive client loyalty.

Technology allows the agent to automate customer touchpoints, based upon historical and current activity, as well as predict future opportunities. For example, your system can automatically alert you when policy renewal premiums increase beyond a preset amount or percentage, prompting you to evaluate the policy for your client. Additionally, advanced technology can deliver insights into an agent’s book of business, allowing them to identify opportunities for better client coverage – which increases client retention and drives organic business growth.

2. Adopting an omni-channel approach to engage with customers on their terms
Property Casualty 360 says: “Integrating with the online distribution ecosystem, by becoming part of the growth of new and alternative channels, is one way an independent agent can adopt, fostering an omni-channel approach to business.”

My technology advice: Today’s consumer expects access to insurance information anywhere, anytime and carriers are clearly investing in providing this access. Agents need to evolve their customer service model to include multichannel servicing, extending client touchpoints to reach each client through their preferred channel – whether online, in person, or on the phone. By leveraging technology, agents can increase their mobility to service clients away from the office and can extend their online presence to include client self-service portals, providing access to insurance documents and claims processing 24/7.

3. Engaging in advice-oriented sales and services
Property Casualty 360 says: “While selling insurance products is the essential crux of an independent agent’s role, no less important is their ability to address customers’ needs holistically. Agents should work to provide advice for their clients on risk management and value-added services.”

My technology advice: In an effort to increase client retention and satisfaction, agents need to evaluate opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell their current client base, ensuring they provide more complete, full coverage and advice to clients while expanding their book of business. To maximize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, agents need an advanced, modern agency management system that provides a single view into their entire client base across different products and regions.

4. Creating efficient, effective and adaptive agency operations
Property Casualty 360 says:
“Making the most of capabilities provided by carriers, deferring low-value tasks to them while motivating producers to sell and serve customers is key in laying the groundwork for effective agency operations. Agents must also consider investing in new technology solutions that operate business through an integrated and highly efficient platform.”

My technology advice: Time is money. Leading agencies require advanced agency management systems with pre-built, best practices operational workflows that will streamline processes and reduce time spent on duplicate tasks. Additionally, agencies can leverage ancillary mobile and online technologies that extend access to information within the agency management system to producers via tablet devices, enabling them to service clients and prospects on-the-go, and to clients via online portals, allowing client policy and claims self-service.

For carrier-agency connectivity, Direct Bill Commission Reconciliation and Commercial Lines download are two examples of functions many agencies perform manually (at considerable payroll cost) when there are effective automated solutions.  Automated Direct Bill Commission Reconciliation from carrier download can save many agencies up to 15% of their servicing payroll. Implementation and integration of these technologies can increase agency productivity and mobility, allowing agents to focus more time servicing clients and driving higher rates of business growth.

5. Leveraging data to achieve insight- driven actions
and outcomes
Property Casualty 360 says: “Agents need to apply basic analysis to current customer data and interactions to identify relationship building, cross selling and retention opportunities, Accenture claims.”

My technology advice: With the immense amounts of data agencies accumulate daily, insurance businesses’ agency executives are quickly and increasingly adopting new business intelligence (BI) strategies and product solutions needed to provide additional, data-driven visibility into their clients, prospects, internal operations and carrier relationships.

Agencies can leverage BI solutions to better understand “why something happened” – why one producer outselling another, why clients are based in a particular geography, and why one carrier is quoting more business than another, among other key business considerations – to make more informed business decisions. BI brings insights that will refine an agency’s decisions, permeate client, carrier and employee discussions, and ultimately create new business opportunities and more profitable relationships.

What are your thoughts on implementing new technologies? Do you feel technology can help your agency enhance its competitive value?

Michael Howe

Michael Howe, senior vice president of product management, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Applied product portfolio. Howe joined Applied in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software. He formerly served as senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management at Aptean, a global provider of industry-focused enterprise software. Prior to Aptean, Howe held senior executive management positions at SAP and other leading software companies.



Top 3 Cloud Myths – What Does it Mean to You?

by Tim Sander

Top 3 Cloud Myths_Applied Systems BlogAccording to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), public IT cloud services spending will reach $56.6 billion by the end of 2014 and grow to more than $127 billion by 2018. While demand and spending for cloud services continues to trend upward, there still remains mystery and confusion surrounding the technology among some business and IT stakeholders.

Gartner recently highlighted some of the most discussed myths about the cloud, so I took a closer look at the top three myths that could potentially mislead your agency/brokerage.

MYTH1The Cloud is Less Secure than On-Premises Capabilities
Gartner says: “Cloud computing is perceived as less secure. To date, there have been very few security breaches in the public cloud — most breaches continue to involve on-premises data center environments.”

Applied’s advice: In today’s more digitally connected world, maintaining security and access to critical business information is a top business priority. With a cloud system, your critical applications and data reside in a secure data center. Our data centers deliver redundancy for power and Internet access, and a physical infrastructure that offers greater protection from natural and man-made disasters and other unpredictable business interruptions. With 99.9% uptime, Applied data centers deliver both data security and business continuity. Most locally deployed environments do not have dedicated security professionals that are monitoring the health and safety of the data. Just having a firewall is no longer sufficient. It is necessary to maintain a comprehensive security program with multiple layers of defense and monitoring. Applied has this multi-layer approach and professionals that are looking out for the interest of all data that resides in the Applied Cloud.

MYTH2The Cloud is Always About Money
Gartner says: “While it’s sometimes the case that the cloud always saves money, there are many other reasons cited for migrating to the cloud, the most common of which is for agility. Saving money may end up one of the benefits, but it should not be taken for granted.”

Applied’s advice: A cloud solution eliminates many requirements for hardware and software on premises and additional personnel to manage IT infrastructure. This frees up more time and money for core insurance activities like selling insurance. Additionally, your Internet-based applications and software update automatically with the cloud, so your business continually runs the latest applications without incurring delays or extra expenses that may be required with a manual updates. The cloud can deliver both cost savings and business agility.

MYTH3Migrating to The Cloud Means You Automatically Get All Cloud Characteristics
Gartner says: “Cloud computing has unique attributes and characteristics. Gartner’s cloud attributes include scalability and elasticity; they use service-based (and self-service) Internet technologies; they are shared (and uniform) and metered by use. The most common use case for the cloud, however, is new applications.”

Applied’s advice: The flexibility of a cloud solution can be ideal for insurance agencies that need to scale their business quickly to meet changing needs such as a business acquisition or rapid growth. The cloud eliminates the additional time and expense it takes to add or integrate new IT capacity, including applications. Since applications are hosted remotely in data centers and accessible via the Internet, your agents, CSRs, producers and others can access complete client information – anywhere, anytime – enabling them to provide clients faster service with greater flexibility that can lead to higher productivity. With Applied Online, agencies and brokerages benefit from more deterministic pricing based on individual usage, providing static budgeting for agencies and brokerages that is difficult to determine in other cloud environments.

How are you embracing the cloud? Share your thoughts below.

Learn more about the benefits of the cloud >

Tim SanderTim Sander, senior vice president of IT, Cloud Services, heads global IT operations for Applied’s Cloud Hosting and corporate IT services. He began his Applied career in 1987 as a systems technician and has held numerous technical leadership roles, helping Applied to evaluate and transition to new technologies. Today Sander is responsible for the company’s corporate IT services and oversees the operations of Applied’s four global data centers.


Who Are Millennials? Why Do They Matter To Your Agency?

by Christen Kelley

There are more than 80 MILLION individuals in the millennial generation including me. This generation is larger than the baby boomer generation and our 1.68 TRILLION dollars of purchasing power is transforming how companies market their products and services.

Who makes up the millennial generation?
Millennials are individuals born between the years 1980 and 1996. We have strong opinions and high expectations of businesses and employers. We are also considered the most educated generation as a result of growing up during the digital age. True digital natives, technology and social networking are a part of our everyday lives. In fact, we use mobile devices more than any other generation according to the YAYA Connection.

demographic statistics concerning millennials

Why millennials matter to your business
Millennials are transforming how insurance agencies operate, from how to market products and services to providing multichannel client touch points. With the proliferation of this new demographic, it’s imperative that your business develops a strategy to attract and retain this younger generation both as clients and employees.

Consider these millennial preferences when developing your strategy:

  • Millennials navigate seamlessly between devices
  • Always connected, millennials send upwards of 100 texts a day
  • 80% of millennials visit social media sites daily
  • An online search is the first stop to finding a solution for 71% of millennials
  • Once they go online for support, millennials expect a resolution within 80 hours
  • Millennials are 2.5 times more likely to be early technology adopters than older counterparts

I encourage you to learn more about millennials and their growing influence in the marketplace. Our ebook, “Why Millennials Matter: Guide to Understanding the Insurance Industry’s Fastest Growing Consumer Base and Workforce” covers all aspects of working and selling to the millennial generation.

What are your strategies for attracting and retaining millennials? Share with us on your favorite social channel using the #futureofinsurance hashtag. 

Christen KelleyChristen Kelley, product marketing manager at Applied Systems, leads the marketing strategy for various products including Applied CSR24 and Applied MobileProducer. Christen enjoys presenting on the insurance industry’s latest topics and trends including mobility and multichannel engagement.


5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Applied Net

by Earl Kelly

(as told by an 8-year conference veteran)

5-Tips-to-Get-the-Most-Out-of-Applied-NetIt’s that time of year again, when Applied software users join together at our annual conference to collaborate and brainstorm ideas to maximize the return on our Applied technology investment. Since my first conference eight years ago, the program has gotten bigger and better each year due to the expanded partnership between the Applied Client Network and Applied Systems. In fact, at this year’s conference there will be approximately 2,700 insurance professionals and 175+ educational sessions. That’s really impressive! So whether you’re a first-timer or just haven’t quite figured out how to get the most out of Applied Net, you’re probably going to ask yourself: What should I do? Where should I go?

To help all Applied Net attendees, here are my 5 tips for a great experience at the world’s largest event for independent insurance agents and brokers:

Tip 1: Build Your Agenda Online
Before the conference starts, visit appliednet.com or use the Applied Net mobile app to build your agenda in advance so that you’re ready to roll come Monday. Like I said before, there are more than 175 educations sessions to choose from! But there’s no need to get overwhelmed.

Here are my tips for choosing the most beneficial sessions:

  • Choose sessions related to your interests
  • Determine which sessions address your agency’s/brokerage’s challenges
  • Identify sessions that can help make your job easier
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for must-attend sessions talked about by your peers
  • Be flexible; don’t hold yourself strictly to the agenda you built in advance because it’s likely you’ll be interested in checking out others on the fly. Feel free to switch sessions as needed.

Tip 2: Download the Applied Net 2014 Mobile AppAppliedNet_APP
With the Applied Net app, you’ll have all of the resources you need at your fingertips to successfully navigate the conference. You can manage your session schedule, network with peers, get the latest Applied Net news, and more – conveniently from the app. There are maps of the entire venue to help you find you way around, as well as text notifications that tell you what’s going on and where to be throughout the day. You can also play the Click! game, which is a really fun scavenger hunt played through the app. You earn points by taking and submitting photos for each challenge. Best of all, iPad minis are given to the top 3 players!

Watch this short video to learn about all of the cool things you can do with the app.

Tip 3: Plan to Network, Network, Network
With 2,700 insurance professionals in attendance, you don’t want to leave your office without packing your business cards. Industry peers, Applied staff, Applied Client Network members and exhibitors are ready and willing to network with you. At my first conference, I didn’t bring any business cards and found myself writing my email address down repeatedly! Business cards also come in handy when you’re visiting booths in the Applied Net Exchange. Practically all of the exhibitors have giveaways you can enter with your business card. While you’re in the Applied Net Exchange, be sure to visit the Applied Client Network and Applied booths. There you can get answers to questions you might have about Applied software, demo the latest Applied solutions and learn the many benefits of being an Applied Client Network member.

Along with sharing your contact details and business cards with others, be sure to collect attendee information yourself. Connecting with peers and Applied Client network members who use Applied software is an invaluable resource. And if you’re a first time attendee, the First Timers Reception is a great way to kick off your conference.

Tip 4: Join the Conversation
Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, you can use the #AppliedNet hashtag to follow and join the conversation. Your posts might even show up on one of the jumbo social media screens set up around the conference. If you follow Applied Systems on social, you can get exclusive behind-the-scenes content:
Lastly, a lot of the conversation takes place on the Applied Client Network forum. If you’re a member, you can keep up with your newfound connections on the forum website.

Tip 5: Take Lots of Notes
You’ll learn so many new things at Applied Net that it’s impossible to remember everything. Bring your tablet or smartphone and use the “My Notes” section of the Applied Net app to jot things down. You can also view session handouts from the app. I recommend downloading your handouts and reviewing them before the conference so you know what to expect. As you’re listening to presenters, think about tips they provide and points they make that can favorably impact your job or agency’s business. Don’t be afraid to ask that burning question that’s been nagging you for some time. Answers to questions and tips become important action items you can bring back from the conference.

Last but not least, have fun! The evening events are always unique, well-planned and allow you to unwind and mingle with your colleagues in an engaging atmosphere.

Do you have any tips to share? Leave your comments below, and to learn more about Applied Net visit appliednet.com.

DSC_0732Earl Kelly, Chief Information Officer, Greene Hazel Insurance Group has been in the Information Systems industry for over 20 years, and joined the Insurance industry in 2003.  In his current position he provides Support, Training, and Project Coordination for all aspects of the information systems on site.  His agency started with Applied TAM in 1988 and has recently moved to Applied EPIC. Earl  holds many certifications including Data Encryption and Security, Database Administration, Desktop Support,  Server Administration, and Disaster Planning.  At present Earl sits on the Member Relations Committee for the Applied Client Network, and is also a past president of his local user group the ASCnet North Florida.



Business Lessons from the #WorldCup: Win the Game by Going Mobile

by Tom Ives

PrintThe past few weeks have been a long and exciting journey for World Cup contenders. Following each game closely, I was on the edge of my seat. Brazil’s loss was a hard one to swallow, and Germany’s win over Argentina was epic. Regardless of where I was during each game, I knew the score and possession details within a matter of seconds through Web updates, a mobile alert, or live game stream.

On-demand, real-time access to information is the new norm – whether you want to know the latest news, weather conditions or game score, you can access that information anytime, anywhere and, more likely than not, ‘there’s an app for that,’ as Apple continues to tell us.

Here are some reasons why this year’s World Cup was the most mobile yet:

  • 2 out of every 3 American soccer fans used their smartphones or tablets for World Cup coverage
  • FIFA’s new website included the “Global Stadium,” which aggregated content from all 64 games, designed specifically for smartphone or tablet users
  • Visa used swipeless pin-and-chip technology during the World Cup to make transactions more seamless
  • Apple used iBeacon Bluetooth low-energy wireless technology to help World Cup attendees find their seats, send instant messages, and make purchases right with from their iPhones

Additionally, consumers watched the game on their TVs or in-person, while at the same time interacting on their mobile devices, creating a unique and personalized user experience.

How can mobile technology improve your agency?
Today’s consumer is “always-on” and connected, personally and professionally. Just as the World Cup embraced mobile technology, you must also adapt to the changing digital environment by being more mobile compatible. Mobility is a key factor in communicating to your customers and prospects.

Here are a few reasons why you should embrace mobility:

  1. Enable Your Agents 
    In an article from Insurance Business Magazine, Jim Schubert discusses how future insurance agents will be able to “sit across the table from prospects they found on social media” and service them using their iPads. Agents will be able to work more remotely with cloud-based mobile tools. Mobile connectivity reduces the need for office locations, resulting in lower overhead cost and increased efficiency, with less time in meetings and more time to service customers. Applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, PocketCloud, Evernote and Applied MobileProducer keep agents connected while in the field. Mobile capabilities become increasingly important during disaster situations, when it’s best for agents to be on-site and quickly to collect information.

    Takeaway: More mobile capabilities for your agents will allow them to more efficiently service customers.

  2. Be a Mobile Technology Leader
    Today, consumers are interested in keeping up with the latest technology. For prospective customers, knowing that you offer cutting-edge mobile technology, such as Applied CSR24 or Applied MobileProducer, could be a major factor in their buying decision. Using the latest technology shows customers and prospects that you understand the impact technology has on their lives and establishes you as a leader in technology adoption. Additionally, offering the latest technology will enable you to attract the younger millennial generation, as well as “Boomers” born between 1946 and 1964, who have shown a growing increase in mobile usage.

    Takeaway: Stay ahead of the competition by enhancing the mobile experience and catering to a new generation of consumers.

  3. Provide Customer Self-Service
    In an increasingly digital landscape, customers expect multichannel communication on their terms with 24/7 service and the ability to connect with you on social media channels from their iPhone or tablet. As part of the purchasing process, prospects spend time conducting online research, often on their smartphone. If your website isn’t mobile capable upfront, your agency could be omitted when prospects are making their initial purchase decision. As noted in Agents and the Digital Future, “customers who use emerging technologies as complementary channels to their purchase channel are significantly more satisfied than are those using only their purchase channel to meet their service needs.” Being present on channels that are mobile compatible such as social media, email, Web pages and apps will provide extra convenience for both customers and prospects.

    Takeaway: Take a “self-service” approach to mobile technology and think about what transactions customers expect to accomplish through mobile devices.

  4. Drive Mobility with the Cloud
    Cloud technology is rapidly transforming the insurance industry by driving greater connectivity and mobile access. The cloud is a collective term for a secure data center that houses information that can be easily accessed by a wired or wireless Internet connection. The cloud allows for greater accessibility, less worry about data backup, and more focus on the business of selling insurance. By housing all information with a cloud provider and connecting your mobile devices to the virtual environment, you are better enabling your agents to be mobile.

    Takeaway: Cloud technology allows agents to access data anytime, anywhere while keeping information safe and secure.

Businesses must keep up with mobility to engage and service customers. FIFA and World Cup sponsors like Visa offered mobile technology that created a seamless user experience and increased customer satisfaction. As an agent, you can do the same. Mobile technology enables your agents to work more efficiently, positions your business ahead of the competition with enhanced technical capabilities, and, most importantly, makes customers the top priority by offering them on-demand access.

How are you embracing mobile technology? Has it led to more sales or better customer service? Leave your comments here, and learn more about agency mobility by reading our resource brief on mobility best practices.

Tom Ives PictureTom Ives, product manager, Applied Systems, is responsible for strategy and design of Applied CSR24, Applied CertTrax, Applied InsWorld and Applied WebEngine products. Ives served most recently as a director of national accounts with Artizan Internet Services and various other roles for automation providers in the insurance industry, including sales, business analyst, system installer and software support.