North America P&C Portal Solutions: 2016 Vendor Spectrum
Celent has released a new report titled North America P&C Portal Solutions: 2016 Vendor Spectrum written by Karlyn Carnahan, a Research Director with Celent’s Insurance practice.
More than 70% of carriers surveyed say they are replacing their current portal or making significant enhancements. The primary driver for these changes is to improve the ease of doing business for an agent. That typically means a streamlined user interface with significant data prefill to reduce data entry requirements.
Agent portals are a relatively mature technology. Most carriers provide some sort of portal functionality to their agents as they have found that agents place business with carriers that are easy to work with. Carriers recognize than an agent portal is a must-have and that a more robust portal increases both growth and retention. Many carriers developed their agent portals in house on modern standard horizontal technologies rather than vendor solutions. However, this trend is changing.
Early agent portals acted as a gateway for an agent. The agent would sign into the portal and then bridge to a back end application to handle their transactions. This meant that the user interface was different depending on which application the agent was acting in and was limited to that of the back. Today, carriers are moving to using the portal as the point of transaction, allowing the agent to conduct their transactions directly in the portal.
The advantages carriers see include the ability to tailor a UI specific to the agent and to make that UI consistent across applications. Carriers also say they are able to make changes faster in a portal than in a policy administration system. Stand-alone portals are also helpful for carriers running multiple policy admin systems. They can expose a slick UI to an agent that is tuned for an agent while running older policy admin systems in the back end.
“As a carrier rolls out a new or enhanced portal, there are some lessons learned and best practices for success. Make it easy to use and involve your agents in the design process. Carefully plan your roll out and be sure to consider multiple audiences - executives want very different things than those using the system on a day to day basis. Plan for feedback. Define a process to track and manage agent feedback before implementation. Informal feedback mechanisms can cause inaccurate information to spread, inappropriate escalation, and general organizational swirl,” Carnahan said.
“As a group, vendors continue to make significant investments in their portal systems. The solutions are delivering more functionality, improving configuration tools, and being more connected, with SOA and web services becoming the de facto standard. Although these trends are all very good news for insurers, they do make the competitive challenges facing vendors that much more daunting,” she added.