Real Time – What Exactly Is it?
“The reality is while most agents have heard of the term “Real Time,” most don’t know what it is,” explains Massachusetts independent insurance agent Steve Aronson. “I think most have a ‘half-baked” notion of what it is. For those agents looking for a clearer vision of what Real Time is and how it can help their agency, they should look no further than the Real Time website, which provides the following definition:
“When we speak of Real Time, we mean the ability for you to click on a button from a client file in your agency management system or comparative rater for immediate access to carrier information on that client. The transaction may be a quote, billing inquiry, claim inquiry/loss runs, policy view, endorsements or a request for information. This provides a single workflow for servicing or quoting.”
Mr. Aronson likes to compare it to an around-the-world trip. “For my agency, Real Time is like a round-trip ticket. The journey may start from Winrater and then it travels on to the carrier and then back to my office. For many agencies it does start in the agency management system, but there is the flexibility that it can start with any of your agency partners,” explains Aronson. “In a bigger picture, it might envision going out to a third party system, like the Registry, where I don’t have to re-enter the information to get back a response.”
So who owns Real Time, who controls it?
No one “owns” Real Time and it is not a system nor a program that can be owned by anyone. Rather it is a protocol or a work-flow. “The systems involving insurance are all becoming interconnected,” explains Aronson. “the ACCORD standards are what allow things to take place.”
Mr. Aronson should know. In addition to being a Real Time expert in his own agency, he was also on one of the industry committees which dealt with the initial single company interface and which advocated for its ultimate name change to Real Time.
What type of real benefits can agent expect from implementing Real Time?
Time and money are the two biggest reasons why every Massachusetts agent should be thinking about how to maximize Real Time in their agency. Not convinced? The Real Time Campaign estimates that an agent who implements Real and Download can save an average hour a day of extra work. This is accomplished by eliminating multiple data entry, password management tasks and other redundant type work.
In Aronson’s case, it has allowed him to organically grow his agency without having to add to his staff. “It’s a commitment – a mindset, it’s training,” contends Aronson. “I go to too many agencies, and three CSRs are doing it one way and then another CSR the more manual way.” The results says Aronson is that the agency doesn’t really ever benefit from what could be accomplished with Real Time because of this refusal to adapt and accept the REAL time workflow and management in favor of not upsetting the apple-cart.
The other huge advantage that most agents without Real Time don’t realize is that most features of Real Time are already available to them through their agency management systems and are something for which they have already paid. As a result, by simply implementing these standards, agencies could save time, money and efficiency without having to incur any additional cost.
“It’s free, it’s not a program ,” adds Aronson. “While I as an agent pay AMS360, which is my agency management system, along with Winrater and the Home valuation guide – those companies probably pay fees to be a member. As an insurance agent, however, I do not pay a direct fee for those modules.”
More specific ways in which an agent can benefit from Real Time
There are a number of other ways in which agents who maximize their reliance on Real Time can see tremendous cost-savings and increased efficiency within their agency. These can include:
- An increased ability for an agency to handle customer service requests thereby reducing their response times;
- Improved customer retention through superior service and request responses;
- Increased processing efficiency and consistency across carriers as well as internally among your agency’s CSRs.
- Increase productivity with your current staff allowing them to engage in more productive activities including sales, account rounding and proactive advice and service to your existing customers;
- A fostering of organic agency growth to occur by generating efficiency, cost savings and opportunities for new business development;
- An increase in employee satisfaction by reducing frustrating tasks like manual re-entry of information;
- A reduction in additional costs incurred by an agency for training because there is no need to learn different carrier workflows.
“In the olden days when the carrier sent me the paper, I then had a CSR type the dec page,” recounts Aronson. “Now they send me an e-download file that is an ACCORD file, saving me time from having some one re-key in the information. Now in my management system, once I have a policy file that’s it.”
Mr. Aronson is so bullish on the benefits of Real Time that he has simply started refusing to do business with those carriers who are not on Real Time either. “We essentially only do business with carriers who participate in Real Time. I terminated with a national carrier because they were not participating in Real Time,” says Aronson. “Ultimately, it was a business decision because it was too expensive to do business with them.” When asked what was the carrier’s response, he says, “They asked me to be patient and as I understand it, they will be on board with Real Time in two years, but in my mind that will make them at least about five years behind the curve.”
And he is not alone. The Real Time campaign confirms that agents and brokers are increasingly placing their business with carriers who use Real Time.
Insurance Carriers That Are Real Time Leaders in Massachusetts
According to Aronson, the following insurance carriers are leading the Real Time race in Massachusetts. “The national carriers who are industry leaders and who do business in Massachusetts are The Hartford, Travelers, Chubb, The Liberty Mutual Companies (Agency companies) and The Hanover, while locally-based leaders include Safety, Arbella and Plymouth Rock.
Any Downsides to Real Time?
Mr. Aronson says that while Real Time for Personal Lines has been thriving since its implementation in the 1980s, on the commercial lines side, things are moving more slowly. “Commercial lines has always been seen as the more complex side of the business, although the workers comp, BOP, etc. can often be relatively simple,” says Aronson. The problem for most agents is that right now with Real Time, a Commercial lines file is generally only 80 or 90 percent complete and will require someone in the agency to just tidy it up in the end,” he explains, “and until its 100 percent, most agents are not touching it. In my opinion, they are missing a huge benefit by not using commercial lines downloads. These agents are making placement decisions on whether or not it is being downloaded or not. In the end, the company who makes it easier gets the business.”
Learn More During National Real Time Day On April 9th
For those agents who do not use Real Time but intrigued by the possibilities, more information and live streaming events will be available all day on April 9th on the Real Time website. While Mr. Aronson was very active last year for the inaugural Real Time Day, this year his efforts are more focused locally. On April 9th, he will be giving a presentation at the AMS360 Boston chapter as well as continue to help the industry towards Real Time in the many other seminars and presentations that he does throughout the year.
For those agents who are ready to take the plunge, find out everything you ever wanted to know about Real Time on the Real Time Campaign’s website which includes an informative implementation guide to preparing you and your agency on how to best make the move to Real Time in 2013.