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3 Tech Tips to Eliminate Agency Time-Wasters.

Byline: Aaron Weiss

By Aaron Weiss, director of marketing, LaserJet and enterprise solutions, HP

According to a national survey, 46 percent of small business owners confirmed that they often fill three to four employee roles on a given day. It's no surprise that insurance agents find themselves wearing many hats--from small business owner to appointment scheduler--as they often work independently and may have limited access to additional staff.

Unfortunately, you can't add extra hours to the day. However, by using technology to eliminate common distractions, insurance professionals can maximize time to efficiently manage their business operations. Below are some of the most common timewasters that insurance agents face and how they can be conquered with cloud-based technology:

Read related: "Got Process Pain Points? These 4 Tech Strategies Can Help."

1. Do more with less (clutter)

For an insurance agent, multitasking is a daily occurrence and can lead to miscellaneous documents strewn around your home and office. In fact, desk clutter is such a distraction that it is ultimately one of the biggest timewasters that employees face. According to a study by IDC, on average, a worker spends about 2.5 hours of the workday searching for information, including paper documents, files and emails. This adds up to roughly 30 percent of the work week.

You can easily de-clutter your desk by storing and organizing your office documents via cloud-based document management technology. Uploading document files to the cloud helps you clear the clutter and work more efficiently, regardless of location.

Many cloud-based document management solutions include powerful search tools that dramatically simplify and reduce the time associated with finding key information. Because insurance agents can spend a great deal of time traveling, staying organized and being able to access information while on the road is key.

Smaller offices looking to clear electronic clutter and streamline office processes can improve efficiency by eliminating multiple devices including printers, scanners and fax machines. A multifunction printer reduces the amount of space used in the office and enables businesses to print, scan, copy and fax using a single device.

2. Don't lose (version) control

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently found that 46 percent of U.S. businesses use virtual teams in their workplace. Approximately 32 percent of those businesses named distribution of work as one of the top challenges of successfully managing a virtual team.

For small businesses with multiple teams working on the same account, maintaining and updating documents through version control can often be a time-wasting task. When various edits need to be made to the same document, it is common for teams to share updated versions of the same documents through email. This can easily lead to overlapping versions and an overwhelming amount of emails. While revisions and edits are often necessary, managing multiple versions can be stressful.

Cloud-based document management solutions enhance office collaboration and take the stress out of the editing process. This technology allows agents to capture, store and share edited documents without the added stress of version control. Agents can manage paper and digital documents more efficiently, collaborate with other offices and have a quote edited, sent or shared with an underwriter in a matter of minutes.

3. Take note of mobile technology

Note-taking during meetings helps agents remember key information that is important to a client's specific policy needs. Transferring handwritten notes to digital files after meetings is not only tedious and time-consuming, but can also result in the loss of important information. Whether handling the note transfer personally or delegating it to another team member, details are often lost in the shuffle. Using cloud-connected tablets allows business teams to share their notes and access them from anywhere at any time.

Businesses of all sizes that are shifting to cloud-based document management solutions are utilizing tablets to further streamline their workflow. A recent Forrester study found that 60 percent of businesses employ bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs for smartphones and 47 percent for tablets and laptops. Whether you are an independent agent or lead a team of agents, tablets are among the top devices facilitating the shift to the digitized mobile office. In addition to serving as a solution to working effectively on the road, tablets also allow you the ability to easily provide customers with insurance quotes in a timely manner.

Read related: "Slideshow: Finding Value Through Mobility."

Agents are continually on the move and working with clients in the field, which makes it challenging to digitize and process paper documents in a timely manner. With cloud-connected mobile apps, agents can use their smartphone or tablet to capture business documents or photos and upload them to the cloud for immediate processing, helping agents to be 100 percent productive with their mobile devices.

As consumer expectations in today's landscape continue to grow, insurance agents face the challenge of meeting client needs and standards around the clock. In order to meet these standards, agents must being to adopt technology that can best help them keep up with consumers living and working in a mobile society.
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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:May 1, 2013
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