In this episode of The Digital Broker, Ryan Deeds and Melissa Wilder review the technological options available to account managers. By listening to this episode, you will learn:
- How to be judicious when evaluating technological solutions for account managers, beginning with the agency management system (AMS)
- How to leverage other, less agency-specific productivity tools like Slack and Power BI
- How different clients will relate to your solutions differently, and what this means for the future of your agency
- How to keep any technology from being abused or misused by observing technological etiquette
- Why teamwork is key to selecting technological solutions that last and make sense
Account managers don’t have it easy. They’re expected to do their work as accurately and as quickly as possible, to keep up with the pace of operations. But this is almost paradoxical. Quickness and accuracy exist on different points of the efficiency spectrum. To deliver on quickness, sometimes you have to compromise on accuracy—but account managers know they can never do that, lest the lawyers come storming in. On the other hand, taking forever to quadruple-check everything invites impatient stares from everybody else at the agency.
Thankfully, technological solutions exist to help account managers do their jobs accurately and expediently. In this episode, we go through some of them.
No talk of the intersection between account management and technology can be without the basis of an account manager’s workflow: the agency management system (AMS). The market teems with AMS options: Applied Epic, Vertafore Sagitta, AMS360, TechCanary (recently acquired by Applied Systems), etc. Do these platforms vary significantly, or is one AMS as good as the other?
A spirited debate over this ensues at 3:33. Melissa has her favorites, whereas Ryan thinks it has more to do with how you leverage them. One of Melissa’s gripes is that some agency management systems don’t flow as naturally as others do. Entering client information is akin to telling a story—a pattern sets in that both the system and the user get accustomed to. It is nice when this pattern flows naturally, or at least in accordance with the user’s preferences. Many AMS’s, though, rigidly enforce their own pattern. Since you’re pulling documents all day on this thing, it is important that the pattern work for you. We’re not flunking any AMS in particular, but different AMS’s play better to different niches. Have a talk with your team about which is best for your agency.
Not every technological tool assisting account managers has to be agency-specific. Unlike producers, who are routinely out of the office, account managers are chained to their desks (we lament this in our diagnosis of account manager burnout) and have to suffer the barrage of emails that attends this imprisonment. Some emails are important and high-priority. Others, not so much. To help account managers distinguish, Ryan and Melissa tout Slack, a messaging platform better suited to the most actionable and important items, omitting the need to send an email about them. (9:38) Slack won’t tackle any agency-specific issues on its own, but it will help your employees keep a lot of crap out of view so they can focus on what’s most important.
Speaking of agency-specific issues, one of them is that insurance agencies struggle to visualize what value looks like. Many services are basically invisible—what does loss control look like, for example, and how do you explain it to the client? People understand anything better when they can see it, and this is why Melissa loves Power BI, an analytics visualization tool that enables customers and staff to envision otherwise formless things. (10:12)
This gives way to a deeper conversation about the purpose of an insurance agency heading into the future. Not all clients are in the mood for an educational boot camp of the kind we’re describing; in fact, most of them won’t be. They are happy to get their basic coverage and that’s it. But a minority of large accounts will come to rely on insurance agencies to demystify an increasingly complex world for them, and these clients are unlikely to be sold on price alone. They want to see effort, ability, and authority. Showcasing command of tools like Power BI will show you’re serious about partnering with those clients for the long haul.
But we mustn’t overhype the role of any technology at the office. There can be too much of a good thing. Saturating your workplace with too big a web of tech is likely to cause dysfunction and distractibility, especially if the functions of the tools overlap. (14:38) We see this happen with Slack a lot. It’s a blessing if your team is using it to avoid bothering you through email, but a nightmare if your team is emailing you to see whether you got their Slack message, which kind of defeats the point, right? Ultimately, Ryan is right: much of a tech’s value is in how you leverage it.
As we’ve said on this podcast before, even the best-designed technology in the world is useless if your team isn’t using it, doesn’t know how to use it, or is using it wrong. Try to have as big a mind toward technological etiquette, having a talk with your team not only about what you’ll be using but how. Just avoid being domineering about it. Some of the biggest tech fails are due to management heavy-handedly forcing a solution from the top-down without any regard for what the implementation looks like at the desks. No such “solution” will survive for very long. (18:11)
Remember that account managers are some pretty smart individuals, with a knack for solving their own problems. Too often, they’re afraid to do so because they haven’t been given permission to build their own solutions. Try telling them that they can—you’ll just check in periodically to see how it’s going and what they need. Now you have engaged, empowered, and excited them. Ain’t no software that can do that for them as well.
Got a question about tech? We’ll bet that Ryan and Melissa have an answer. For more information on account managers and the technologies, they like to use or not use, come on over to our thriving account manager hangout: the Digital Broker LinkedIn group. Which solutions have you leveraged to solve which problems? Are you looking for solutions now to help you deal with your current problems? Join us and tell us what you’re looking for some help with.
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