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By Beryl Dalton

In today's insurance industry, success in any agent's office often hinges on the quality of the computerized systems in use at any given time. The data needs involved in running a successful agency are intense, and keeping up with everything requires computer programs capable of tracking and managing all of that information. As a result, there are a variety of different concerns that must be addressed by agents when selecting their insurance agency management software.

Perhaps the most important is the issue of data management. CRM is focused on effectively managing the relationship with every customer, so these programs need to have the capability of storing data and enabling better use of that information. For both prospect details and existing client data, the program should provide agents with a variety of tools for contacting customers, and creating policy proposals.

Leads need managing as well, since the growth and stability of an agency is reliant upon maximizing the potential for new customers. Good CRM can track every contact with every prospect, schedule each point of the contact process, and manage each proposal. Centralized storage is important too, so that agents can access data from an online portal even when they are visiting prospects or clients in the field.

Reporting features should not be forgotten either. After all, how can an agency recognize success if no reports are ever generated? The top programs can provide regular reports detailing things like lead source return on investment, the average cost for each lead, and the rate at which leads convert to sales.

Modern programs provide document features that were scarcely thought of years ago. Agents would be wise to choose a program that can electronically create the various documents needed for following up on leads, compile policy proposal details, and deliver that information to prospects and customers. Brochures, rate plans, and other types of documents should also be included.

System security is of paramount importance. The fact is that these agencies are given access to the type of personal financial details and business records that most people would otherwise keep entirely private. And, since there are always criminals seeking access to that type of information, CRM programs need the best security available. That's why the truly superior systems offer encryption, monitoring of their networks, and other techniques to protect sensitive data.

Still, in many instances, a program that is perfect for one coverage type fails to manage another. That's why most experts recommend getting a different program to manage those other coverage offerings. The test to see whether this might be necessary is simple: whenever an office has one person singularly responsible for managing data related to one secondary type of insurance, chances are a second program might be beneficial.

The obvious takeaway from all of this is that modern insurers can no longer rely upon outdated customer systems. There are simply too many details, data points, and privacy issues involved to entrust the process to anything but the best computer programs available on the market today. For agents seeking those programs, attention to these key considerations can make that selection process much easier.

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