Pretty much anyone in a challenging job in most industries can quickly become frustrated with – and sometimes overwhelmed by – fractured workflows. In insurance, there are often dozens of tasks to be performed and many pieces of documentation that must be collated and packaged to complete tasks, however the tools used to do this work are scattered across multiple platforms, apps, and sometimes filing cabinets. Mental and physical energy better used to, say, underwrite more files is often burned navigating multiple computer applications and/or digging through paper files.
Perhaps they’re using Word to create policy documents, Excel to track policy and coverage data, QuickBooks to handle money, OneDrive for document storage, and a file cabinet for everything paper. Every policy is a mishmash of pieces from each of these programs, and an administrator must complete multiple steps between the programs to complete a policy, however there’s no master checklist or link between the systems to indicate what’s even missing. (And no matter what anyone says, their capacity to hold all of that information in their head is limited!)
Or, perhaps they’re using policy management software already. That’s great, right? Except it’s super compartmentalized, so they have to close screens with work-in-progress to access other screens to cross-reference data points or verify that prerequisite documents are on file. Or they have to exit the customer interface to look up underwriting or financial status; or they’re working on issuing a policy and receive a phone call from an agent about another policy, and must exit the current window, thereby losing their work (because they’re missing some required fields, argh!), to look up the agent’s policy and answer his questions.
All of these scenarios lead to very real brain fatigue and frustration, and will eventually break down even the most committed, passionate, and energetic worker. A professional who should be your business’s biggest cheerleader, now left sour-faced and grumbling as they watch the clock for quittin’ time. That’s not a scenario anybody wants.
The most successful and enduring businesses effectively leverage the right tools so that employees use their energy to help customers and complete tasks, rather than burning it on wrestling with interfaces.
So why don’t companies use the right tools? The answer is generally threefold:
- They aren’t aware the right tool exists;
- Employees are married to doing things “the way we’ve always done them” which makes changing seem hardly worth the effort; and
- The right tool is cost prohibitive to a smaller business.
Reason #1 is (hopefully) remedied with sufficient searching. The fact you’re reading this post is a great sign.
Reasons #2 and #3 can make the change seem hardly worth the effort, but that impression is wrong — and can be dead wrong in terms of business survival.
First, imagine if your administrators and underwriters used a streamlined system that enabled them to save an average of 15%, 20% or even 25% of time handling policies. Let’s be conservative and say you improve your underwriters’ efficiency by 15%, across 3 underwriters. You’re now saving time equivalent to just shy of a half employee, an average of $25,000 per year, right off the top.
However, secondly, this efficiency gain also allows a company to eliminate its opportunity cost of using their legacy system. And this is the big win. Not following? Allow me to explain.
When a system is operating at maximum capacity, it cannot accommodate additional input. Let’s say your current staff is handling 40,000 issued policies and simply cannot handle any more business. That is, your resources are being fully used, and to increase capacity, you’ll need to hire another staff member.
Let’s say, however, we cut 15% of their workload through simple interface efficiency: making it easier to complete their tasks, putting everything they need under one tabbed hood, and having essential navigation within two clicks. Now you have the ability to add the equivalent of 15% more workload — new business — to your existing resources at no additional cost! This is opportunity gain, and because you’re doing it right, you’re not taxing your staff into that sour-faced state. They’re less stressed out because their system is fully integrated, logical, and linear, allowing them to focus on underwriting, issuing policies, recording payments, and helping customers.
But what about Reason #3, costs? Word, Excel, and a shared drive can certainly look very tempting for their financial accessibility, but the fact is they don’t scale, and aren’t usable past a certain point. A professional software package built and priced for exactly your kind of business makes the most sense, because it ensures efficient management of current business while also seamlessly scaling for future growth. Throw another 200,000 policies into it — no problem. Best yet, if it’s priced at no more than 4% of annual written premium (first year cost; compared to most other vendors charging 6% to as high as 12% of written premium), then it truly makes sense to move forward.
What I described above aren’t stand-alone modifications but an entire paradigm shift that causes everyone’s eyes to look for possibilities, new ways of doing business so that the enterprise can scale and grow without frustrating and potentially burning out its employees in the process. Change is accepting that “the way we’ve always done things” may have worked ten or twenty years ago, but there’s a better way now that can make everyone’s jobs easier and deliver better service to customers. If your team can excel thanks to utilizing modern, easy-to-use tools that allow members to shine their brightest because they’re great at what they do, rather than being delayed by constantly shifting back-and-forth between applications and broken workflows, then this sure seems like a shift worth making.
Karin Hankwitz is an Efficiency and Implementation Consultant for Megalodon Insurance Systems. As a longtime business owner in multiple industries, her background includes leading numerous implementations of new software and lean business practices for small- to medium-sized businesses. Her crisis management skills have been honed by 20 years’ experience as an EMT.