Although many insurance advisors have long felt that their insurance agencies' contact management system (CMS) leaves a lot to be desired, that sentiment was even more pronounced in this year's Insurance Advisors' Report Card.
This displeasure was evident in the fact that advisors with London, Ont.-based Freedom 55 Financial, Calgary-based PPI Solutions Inc. and Mississauga, Ont.-based RBC Life Insurance Co. rated their firms lower by more than half a point in the "adequacy of your firm's MGA's contact-management system" category. This led to the overall performance rating for the category dropping to 7.6 from 8.0 year-over-year. ("MGA" is an acronym for "managing general agency.")
Not only that, but when comparing the overall average performance rating to the overall average importance rating of 8.9, the result is a "satisfaction gap" of 1.3 points - the third-highest gap in the survey. Such a gap reveals that firms are failing to meet their advisors' expectations.
There are various reasons for this. Some advisors pointed to CMSes that lack functionality and features; other advisors pointed to CMSes that are old or outdated, making them cumbersome and frustrating to use.
"I rarely use [the CMS] because I think it could be better," says a PPI Solutions advisor on the Prairies. "The user interface is pretty outdated. It's very clunky."
Advisors with RBC Life were disappointed because their firm is in the midst of making changes to their CMS that are causing discrepancies and affecting useability.
"[RBC Life is] making some improvements right now, but you have to flip back and forth among a few different software [applications] that we use," says an RBC Life advisor in Atlantic Canada. "[The firm] is in the process of combining those; it's just not finished yet."
Freedom 55 advisors are clamouring to see an update to their CMS. They rated their firm very poorly in the category (4.9) because, they said, their firm has promised to change its CMS for years, but has yet to deliver.
"We've been using the same CMS for more than 20 years," says a Freedom 55 advisor in Ontario. "The whole thing is almost useless. You don't know if it's even going to work from one day to the next."
The firm has promised to make the switch to Salesforce.com Inc.'s namesake CMS. However, according to Abbie MacMillan, vice president with Freedom 55, the delay is related to issues that the vendor has experienced recently.
"The reason that we have been delayed on the implementation of Salesforce is that Salesforce is delayed in implementing its Canadian data centre," she says. "We weren't really comfortable having our client data stored in the U.S., so we put our project on hold because of that."
Freedom 55 advisors can expect to wait upward of 12 months before the Salesforce CMS is in place, MacMillan says.
In contrast, Waterloo, Ont.-based Sun Life Financial (Canada) Inc. moved to Salesforce earlier this year. Although Sun Life advisors still are experiencing growing pains in using the new CMS, they were particularly pleased with it. Case in point: Sun Life was the only firm in the Report Card to see its rating in the category rise by half a point or more, to 8.3 from 7.3 last year.
"Salesforce is great, secure and easy to use," says a Sun Life advisor in Ontario.
Adds a colleague in the same province: "The organization is really functioning well. I don't have to maintain paper files, as everything is on the CMS."
Advisors with Mississauga, based IDC Worldsource Insurance Network Inc. (IDC WIN) also were very positive about their MGA's CMS, as they gave their firm the top rating in the category, at 9.0. IDC WIN advisors cited their CMS' seamless integration with insurance carriers, along with how accessible and current the CMS is.
"It's up to date all the time. We have excellent software," says an IDC WIN advisor in Ontario. "This year, I began subscribing with it, and I feel it will be very helpful in my operation."
Adds a colleague in the same province: "I like the fact that the documents are all there. I could be at home and I still can see everything, as [all documents are] scanned and up to date. [The CMS] helps me out greatly in case I misplace something or I'm not in my office."
Ron Madzia, president of IDC WIN, notes that the CMS used at the MGA also are available to other insurance agencies. He believes the reason for IDC WIN advisors' satisfaction with their CMS isn't tied so much to the system itself, but to the support the MGA offers.
"First of all, a system is a system. [The data] have to be input by individuals. Systems don't run themselves. Every system we use is a vendor system; it's not a proprietary [product] - anyone else can use it," Madzia says. "I don't think [our advisors' satisfaction is] so much [due to] the system; I think where we're different from other MGAs is we spend a lot of time working with our advisors in the field and in the office, training them on how to use these systems and following up with them."
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