by Alan Katz | Apr 12, 2020 | Agency Management System
What tools are you using to drive your customer engagement and ROI?
As an agency it’s imperative to have effective and efficient communication with your clients. Did you know that research has shown SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to 20% for emails? Research also shows the average response time for a text message is only 3 minutes, the average response time to an email is 3 hours.
Reach any client or prospect in seconds.
Quick customer responses streamline your agency’s service work allowing your team to spend more time marketing to customers. In any demographic customers use their cell phones dozens of times per day. Over 50% prefer texting for support. Some of the most common service inquiries that can be handled with NextText include payments, policy status, documents and more.
How your agency will grow with NextText in 2020.
- Improved customer support
- Build a better relationship with your clients
- Personalized account updates
- Prompt response times
- Get referrals and win more leads
- Increase customer retention
- NextText is a great channel to encourage your clients to buy other policies they need and up-sell during renewals
- More appointments with your prospects and customers
There’s no doubt that SMS messaging has changed the way we communicate with each other. It’s quick, highly engaging and often a preferred communication method. To watch an interactive video tutorial on how NextText can help your agency achieve your sales goals, please click here. Happy selling!
by Alan Katz | Mar 10, 2020 | Agency Management System, Coronavirus, NextAgency
The Coronavirus is going to change the way we do business, at least in the near term. That is simply a reality.
Our prior post, Thinking About Having Staff Work From Home?, was based on an email we sent out last week. It described how NextAgency can support your staff working remotely. Our message was that providing staff with flexibility could be good for your business. And that NextAgency was an important part of making remote work effective.
That email went out before health organizations and local governments began recommending that businesses let employees work from home. What a difference seven days can make.
That post also promoted many of you to ask a couple questions: Do my employees need to work from home? And how do I help my staff work from home?
As for the first question ….
Do My Employees Need to Work from Home?
In some parts of the country (sorry Seattle and New York), absolutely. Elsewhere, maybe not. At least not yet. However, the odds are you eventually will. The virus is spreading exponentially. Which means if it’s not in your neck of the woods yet, it is probably arriving soon.
Our previous post noted how enabling staff to work remotely can increase productivity and morale. The Coronavirus epidemic provides another reason to consider this step: employees working from home makes it harder for the virus to spread.
To be clear, working from home will not prevent you or your colleagues from getting the disease. That is always a possibility. But it could delay you getting it. And that means more time for health professionals to understand the disease and develop treatments.
There’s another reality. In certain Coronavirus hotspots you may not have a choice. We may soon see local governments requiring companies to permit telecommuting. In New York, the Governor today created a containment area that closes locations where large groups of people gather. This may include office buildings.
Whether voluntary or not, your office may need to close. Which leads to the second question.
How Can You Help Your Staff Work from Home?
Enabling your staff to work from home takes some thought and planning. You can’t just send folks home and ask them to “get to work.”
Fortunately, remote work has become relatively common in 2020. That means there are best practices available. Finding them is just an online search away. To get you started, here is a Fast Company magazine article with some worthwhile ideas.
Enabling your staff to work from home just requires some common sense. And remembering you are an insurance agency.
- HIPAA still applies. Your employees will need to secure personal health information they have at home. They need to make sure screen savers are enabled.
- Computers are mandatory. It’s hard to work from home without a computer. And you probably don’t want to have people using their home computer to store files. Of course, if they’re using cloud-based platforms like NextAgency, that’s not an issue. The key is to avoid having business (and PHI) stored on home computers.
- Keep connections secure. Make sure your team uses a reputable VPN. These can be used to enable colleagues to access your office servers. But even if you’re entirely in the cloud, a VPN can assure that communications are more provide. NordVPN is a good option, but there are others.
- Keep in touch. You may be working in different places, but you’re still a team. You need to continue to act like one. Agree on a video conference tool you’ll all use (e.g., Zoom or Skype, both of which are easy to use and have free versions). Hold regular web staff meetings to stay connected. And use these tools to reach out whenever you’d otherwise drop by their office.
- Enable secure access to information. This is where a modern, cloud-based agency management system like NextAgency comes in. NextAgency keeps all your data and forms handy. They enable you to assign and monitor tasks and client activity. You can upload your commissions, run reports to analyze your business, and even launch marketing campaigns. All from your home.
Make Your Office Safer, Too
Maybe thinking about remote work is premature for your situation. That doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s happening. You’re probably washing your hands more often than you have before. Pay attention to workplace hygiene, too. The Centers for Disease Control provides advice on keeping your office safe.
In addition, be sure to regularly clean shared surfaces. This includes copy machines, scanners, fax machines, and even the microwave in your breakroom.
This Wired magazine article describes how to clean your cell phone. It covers how to safely clean your computer, too. These methods apply to other office machines as well.
Keep up to date on the Coronavirus. Don’t, however, succumb to despair or panic. The Coronavirus epidemic is not a hoax. It is also not the apocalypse. There are simple, common sense steps you can take to protect yourself, your colleagues and your family. Take them.
You will hear a lot of nonsense, but there are resources that can help you separate facts from myths, too. For example, this information from the World Health Organization.
As insurance agencies we’re used to thinking about risk. This, however, is usually in the context of risks faced by our clients. Now is the time to prepare against the risks your business faces as well.
by Alan Katz | Mar 10, 2020 | Agency Management System, NextAgency
Here’s an interesting trend. Businesses large and small are encouraging employees to work from home. Reports show remote workers are as or more productive than those who working every day in an office. And their morale improves, as well. And these results happen whether employees work remotely all the time or just a day or two a week.
Enabling your team to work from home requires the right technology. Video conference tools like Zoom or Skype are critical. As important: a powerful, modern agency management system like NextAgency.
With NextAgency your office is wherever you have an internet connection. Need to see the latest notes about a client? It’s there. Same for carrier information and forms. Want to track a colleagues progress on an important task? It’s right there.
With NextAgency you can launch a newsletter, reach out to renewing groups, analyze sales and manage commissions wherever you are.
Learn more about how NextAgency can help your life or health agency at one of our weekly webinars. During the demonstrations you’ll see how NextAgency can save you time, money and clients.
You’ll discover how to sign-up for our no-risk 14-day free trial and receive a code to save 25% on our already affordable license fees.*
NextAgency helps you more effectively and efficiently run your business. We can also enable you increase staff productivity and morale by giving them the flexibility to work wherever they are.
*25% savings promotion in effect at time this email was sent. It is a limited time offer, subject to change.
This email was originally sent on 3/2/20
by Alan Katz | Feb 10, 2020 | Agency Management System, CRM, NextAgency
This email was sent on February 9, 2020:
Want to send newsletters to your clients? Contact hundreds of prospects at once? Is expensive email campaign software overkill for what you need?
Good news. We’re rolling out NextAgency 3.0. And email marketing a part of the package.
NextAgency is agency management software for life and health insurance agencies with CRM and commission management tools. And now we’ve added the ability to blast emails and newsletters. Our agency management system makes it easy to understand your prospects and clients. Then launch email campaigns and newsletters with the right message to the right person. It’s fast. It’s easy.
Learn more about email campaigns and what else is new with NextAgency 3.0 at one of our weekly webinars. This week’s webinar is Tuesday, February 11th. Space is limited, however, so please RSVP now. During the demonstration you’ll see all the ways NextAgency saves you time, money and clients. And you’ll learn about our no-risk 14-day free trial and receive a code to save 25%.*
*25% savings promotion in effect at time email was sent. It is a limited time offer, subject to change.
by Alan Katz | Oct 7, 2019 | Agency Management System, CRM, NextAgency, NextBroker
Insurance agencies have lots of choices when it comes to technology. Take insurance agency software. These platforms come in all shapes and sizes. Well, not so much shape and sizes given that they’re basically zeros-and-ones. They do, however, come with different functions.
Two types of software available to insurance agencies are easily confused: agency management systems (AMS) and customer relationship management systems (CRM). This isn’t surprising. There’s considerable overlap in the benefits they deliver. Each can help you sell more. Each can help you be more organized. CRM and AMS software are not the same, however. Understanding the differences can help you decide which type of software you need.
This article will focus on CRM and agency management software designed for insurance agents – and, in particular, agencies focusing on benefits, senior and life products. If you’re interested in an AMS system for your realty company, there’s probably a blog out there for you. This is not it.
What is Customer Relationship Management?
There’s a slight difference of opinion concerning what a CRM platform is. Some people claim customer relationship management is a strategy, not a technology. They define CRM as making the customer the center of everything an agency does. Technology may help implement this strategy, but the software is incidental to a customer-centric strategy.
Others focus on the technology involved when discussing CRM. Salesforce defines CRM as “a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with customers and potential customers.” That Salesforce focuses on the software, rather than the philosophy, is not surprising. They are, after all, one of the world’s largest customer relationship management platforms. That doesn’t make their definition a bad one, however.
These two definitions of CRM are not mutually exclusive. CRM can be a strategy for putting customers first. It can also be the technology that enables this. For purposes of this post, we’ll define CRMs as software that helps agencies manage contacts, track sales, measure productivity, and understand the history of their customer interaction and more.
What is an Agency Management System?
An agency management system is software. Someone somewhere may claim that AMS is a strategy. If so, I can’t find their posts. Agency management systems help you organize your agency. It helps with sales, but goes further. AMS helps you manage information about carriers, general agencies and your own agency. Agency management software helps you deliver better customer service, track your commissions, keep commitments and more.
Agency management systems are a subset of data management software. Techopedia defines data management well. “Data management refers to an organization’s management of information and data for secure and structured access and storage.” When data management software is built for insurance agencies it’s called an agency management system. But at the end of the day, it’s a data management system.
Comparing CRM and Agency Management Systems
Whether an agency management system or CRM software is the better choice for you depends on what you want to accomplish. CRM tools are great if your goal is to dive deep into customer interactions. Agency management systems are better if you’re looking to improve more than just sales issues.
Customer Relationship Management Systems
Strong customer relationship management systems go beyond just tracking client data. They may offer auto dialers and caller ID. They may have built-in text systems. More sophisticated customer relationship management systems can adapt your web site to the status of the visitor. Prospects will see certain content. Clients will see something different.
Because CRMs are fixated on sales, they can seem like one-trick ponies. They aren’t much help beyond selling. Sales are critical. But customer relationship management systems don’t help you run a more efficient agency. Agency management systems do.
Agency Management Systems
AMS software usually include CRM tools. Improving sales results is just a part of what an agency management system should deliver, however. For example, NextAgency helps you track prospects through your sales pipelines. NextAgency also helps you store notes and automatically associate emails related to each prospect and client. NextAgency makes renewing — and cross-selling — your clients easier. Our software makes it simple to implement a drip marketing campaign. The platform also helps you assign policies to specific employees. These are all CRM tools.
NextAgency is an agency management system, however. Which means it does more than help you sell. NextAgency helps you deliver better customer service with service pipelines and benefit portals for your clients. Our software helps you manage your carrier, general agent and vendor relationships. NextAgency helps you keep commitments made to clients and others. NextAgency includes a built-in agency library. This keeps your forms, documents and collateral handy wherever you are. NextAgency helps you manage commissions. NextAgency syncs with your existing email account. Not all agency management systems do everything NextAgency does. Most do not. However, all agency management systems deliver more than just sales tools.
Which is Best for You, an Agency Management System or CRM software?
How to choose between a CRM or an agency management system? The answer depends on what’s most important to you. Customer relationship management software has a narrow focus: sales. Do you need – and will you use – every sales tool available? We all want to improve sales. But buying tools you won’t or can’t use wastes money. If you will use all the sales tools available in a CRM, however, that may be the right choice for you.
Are you looking for software to address more than sales? A strong agency management platform will include CRM tools, just not as many as dedicated customer service software. Agency management software can help you track commissions, manage documents and carrier appointments and so on. If you want to make your agency smarter, more effective and more efficient (while increasing sales), you probably want an agency management system.
A number of agencies have come to NextAgency from CRM systems. They thought they only needed help with sales. These agencies realized that managing their client relationships was critical. However, they realized they needed something more. They found that CRM tools were a part of the solution, just not the entire solution. They needed an agency management system. You know, one like NextAgency.
There’s numerous types of software that can help insurance agencies succeed. For example, social media management tools can optimize marketing processes by having a single, centralized dashboard to manage social media activities. Still, two of the most powerful tools available to these agencies are CRM and agency management systems. Choosing the right one is critical.
Whether you sell benefits, senior or life products, NextAgency can save you time, money and clients. NextAgency is a powerful, modern agency management system (NextBroker) with CRM, marketing and commission management tools. Please visit www.NextAgency.com to learn more. And to see NextAgency in action, please sign-up for a free demonstration at one of our regular webinars.
by Alan Katz | Aug 17, 2019 | Agency Management System, CRM, NextAgency, NextBroker, NextConcierge
Change. Whether you’re implementing insurance agency management software for the first time or moving from one software platform to another, you’re engaged in change. And change can be hard.
Change can be uncomfortable. You may realize the need to improve the way you run your health insurance agency. After all, that’s why you’re shopping for a CRM or agency management system. However, you and your team are used to doing business a certain way. And that way is, usually, familiar and comfortable.
There is also that pesky “change takes time” thing. You’re in the insurance business, not the software business. You have prospects and clients to attend to. You have insurance carrier reps to talk to. Products to learn. Employees to train. When it comes to priorities, learning new software will rarely be at the top of your list.
So, how do you make change?
For an insightful, in-depth dive into the subject, you may want to read Switch: Making Change When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Health. It’s entertaining, helpful and well worth your time.
In the meantime, however, here’s three lessons I’ve learned in the past 30 years of developing and implementing sales software. During that time I’ve engaged in new technologies at health insurance agencies, general agencies, health insurance carriers, and insurtech start-ups (like NextAgency). Given that this is a NextAgency blog, I’m focusing on implementing insurance agency management software. But the lessons apply to any change — buying new equipment, entering new markets, selling a new product and so on.
Lesson 1: Appoint a Champion
Implementing new software requires everyone in your insurance agency to be involved. Your entire team needs to make time for training. They need to use the new agency management system so that the data is current and stays relevant. However, you can make things easier for everyone by appointing a change champion. This individual is on point, leading the effort to implement your new software. Others can procrastinate (a bit), but not your champion. Your champion works with the software vendor’s success team (like our NextConcierge group). Your champion schedules training, helps other find training videos and helpful articles. They offer encouragement to others and pay attention to progress. They’re the go-to person in your agency others talk to when they have questions.
Without a champion, everyone has plenty of excuses. “I have other things to do.” “This isn’t my job.” “I haven’t been trained.” Change champions, however, cuts through the excuses. She answers questions. She provides an example. She gets things done. Whether you are implementing new agency management software or adding a new product line, someone needs to lead the charge. And as the agency owner, it’s your obligation to appoint — and support — that champion.
Lesson 2: Embrace Frustration
Even bad habits can feel familiar and secure. By definition change — and change — forces people out of their comfort zone. Change demands a learning curve. The status quo does not. The learning process can be frustrating simply because it’s different. “Why is that button blue? In our old system it was orange.” “Why is search field on the right instead of the left?” “Why do I have to enter my notes in the software instead of on a Post-it?” You get the idea.
This frustration is natural — and even helpful. It shows your team is thinking about what they’re doing. It’s part of the process of developing new habits. And it’s very human. Does it matter whether a button is blue or orange? Probably not. But you’re moving your team out of their comfort zone and they’re annoyed. Expect frustration and know it will pass. In a few weeks, the change becomes the status quo.
Lesson 3: Choose Flexibility
Some change is needed. Some is not. If you’re successful enough to consider insurance agency management software, you’re doing something right. So why would you change what’s working? Learning new software is one thing. Abandoning what’s made you successful is another thing altogether.
Instead, choose software (or hardware) that helps you do what you do — just in a more effective and efficient way. You know, software like NextAgency. We designed NextAgency for health and life insurance agencies. We know, however, that every agency is different. Which is why we made NextAgency flexible. So you can personalize the platform for your agency.
Change is Inevitable
In today’s reality, change is inevitable. Laws change. Products change. Client expectations and needs change. Insurance agencies who pretend the status quo is permanent will lose. This is why agency management systems more agencies are adopting software like NextAgency every month.
Given that insurance agencies like yours — you know, the ones that will be around for the long-term — will adapt, make the change process easier. You can do that by 1) appointing a champion; 2) embracing frustration; and 3) choosing flexibility.
NextAgency saves health and life insurance agencies time, money and clients with a powerful, modern agency management system featuring CRM and commission management tools. Please visit www.NextAgency.com to learn more. And to see NextAgency in action, please sign-up for a free demonstration at one of our regular webinars.