It's a common small-carrier dilemma: offering competitive, 24/7 service without breaking the budget. "Large companies are way out ahead because they have in-house systems and huge IT staffs," says John Reiersen, president of Kingston, N.Y.-based P&C carrier Commercial Mutual Insurance Co. (CMIC; $12 million in annual premium income). "But even our peers are increasingly Web-enabled, so we needed to move in that direction."
So in mid-2005 CMIC began seeking a better way to leverage the Web. At the time, the carrier offered downloadable applications on its Web site, where producers could "ballpark" rates with an estimator, Reiersen relates. But CMIC's policy-issuance process remained substantively manual, and customer service was available only during business hours via telephone, fax and postal mail.
The first two vendors Reiersen approached for a solution couldn't integrate their offerings in a cost-effective manner with CMIC's existing database and underwriting system, IDP's Vision 21. According to Reiersen, IDP (Wyncote, Pa.) representatives reported that other Vision 21 users faced similar challenges. To address the problem, IDP decided to engineer its own integrated solution, and CMIC agreed to serve as a development site for the proposed suite of tools, dubbed "AgentXpress."
Although AgentXpress eventually will include a quote-and-issue module, the first priority for CMIC was to provide producers with secure Web-based access to policy and claims data. IDP addressed that priority by engineering an agent inquiry module over the course of summer 2006, collaborating with CMIC and other carriers via a link to IDP's development site.
In September and October, IDP conducted on-site integration at CMIC. Concurrently, the insurer expanded its LAN from two servers to three, purchasing a Web server to support AgentXpress. CMIC's two IT employees also migrated its existing Web site onto the new server.
CMIC rolled out AgentXpress in waves of 10 to 15 producer agencies throughout November, Reiersen says. Other than sending an AgentXpress manual to each agency, no training was required. "Less than a dozen agencies had any problems. Even for those, it amounted to a few minutes over the telephone with our IT department," he notes.
"Overall, [deployment] went off without a hitch," adds Reiersen. "With 43 years in the business, it's been my experience that automation often creates work. It's very rare to roll out anything without any glitches." Best of all, CMIC immediately reaped returns. "All of our agent feedback has been positive." says Reiersen. "During the first month, our customer service call volume dropped by 15 percent to 20 percent. In fact, our CSRs say that they know which agencies aren't using AgentXpress because that's where all their calls are coming from."
The next step for CMIC will be to adopt the quote-and-issue module. "By late 2007 we expect agents will be filling out and submitting applications completely online," says Reiersen.
With AgentXpress, Reiersen expects to write approximately $2 million to $3 million more in business without hiring more staff. In addition, CMIC will save hundreds of dollars monthly on incoming 800-number fees. Agencies also will benefit, he notes. "When producers use AgentXpress, it cuts down on my overhead, so I can pay better commissions," Reiersen explains.
Commercial Mutual Insurance Co. (Kingston, N.Y.; $12 million in annual premium income).
lines of business
Homeowners, dwelling fire, automobile.
IDP's (Wyncote, Pa.) AgentXpress Web-based policy servicing solution.
Implement competitive, affordable Web-based policy servicing.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio