A Buyer’s Guide to Producer Management Software
Learn what 10 criteria to evaluate when comparing insurance producer management platforms.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- A strategic approach to selecting a producer compliance management software
- Why to begin with your data in hand
- What criteria to use for a comparative evaluation of vendors
Maybe you’re ready to leave behind manual processes, to trade in spreadsheets and paperwork for modern insurance infrastructure. Or, perhaps you’ve had producer management software to handle producer onboarding, license verification, carrier appointments, and distribution channel management before, and you’re on the hunt again to find a more modern and flexible solution.
Regardless of your starting point, this guide is for anyone who’s ready to seriously evaluate which producer management software will be worth your time and money.
Know Your Why
Begin with the end in mind. Keep in mind what it was that drove you to look for a producer management solution, and you’ll be that much closer to getting a software product that suits your actual needs. Whether you’re looking to prioritize compliance, make your process more producer-friendly, or use data to control your distribution decisions, keeping your “why” at the forefront will help avoid distractions in the decision-making process.
Gather data on your current state
It’s easy to rely on anecdotal evidence (particularly if your current-state is heavily manual) as your driving force, but you’ll be in the best position to make a choice if you have a thorough understanding of what your current state truly is. A few considerations in this vein:
- How long is your onboarding process and what’s the experience like for agents and producers?
- Where are your process bottlenecks, and how much time do they take, on average?
- How many records are inaccurate on average when you validate license or appointment information (assuming you do this periodically)?
Another point of evaluation: What are the downstream results for your current process? Is this a point of both internal friction between teams, and a point of external friction with your contracted partners? Are your goals of maintaining compliance being met efficiently and effectively?
If you have a good understanding of your current state, it makes it easier to evaluate what “better” could look like.
Set realistic goals for your future state
We all wish onboarding was as simple as pushing a big fat button and declaring a producer licensed, appointed, background checked, and all. But it’s not, even in a best-case scenario. So, using your current data, how much do you think you can realistically improve? For example, if onboarding and credentialing a new agent takes an average of 40 days now, can you expect to reduce that time to six or seven days? Or, if you know that a lagging onboarding process costs you X-thousand of dollars in opportunities, can you peg how much you might gain from reducing your onboarding time? Remember to evaluate your options in terms of both lagging and leading indicators.
Identify key values
The values that drive the hunt for producer management software often break down into classifications such as:
- Reducing onboarding time and streamlining for an exceptional producer experience, internal operational efficiency, and industry reputation
- Making regulatory compliance automatic and seamless throughout your organization
- Increasing your ability to use your business data and specific insights to inform your distribution management
Having clarity on where you are, where you want to be, and what’s driving you there will give you clarity to prioritize as you approach your potential compliance vendors. The reality is that it’ll do you little good to save a buck on the front end for a solution that doesn’t actually solve your needs.
10 qualifications for producer management software
The foundation of any compliance process is that of risk reduction, of complying with relevant regulations across the board. In the past, though, a robust process also meant creating friction by manually requiring input and attention from a team of people and from producers, sometimes leading to turnover or dropoff as interested producers failed to stick with the hoop-jumping. But, done well and done speedily, compliance can reduce risk, lower the cost of attrition in onboarding, and make it easier to attract and retain producers while growing.
So, how do you reach that bliss, that point of ecstasy where compliance brings risk reduction, cost savings, great agent and producer experiences, and revenue growth into alignment?
Features vary across the industry, and your priorities determine the extent to which any one service matters. However, in our evaluation of the top producer compliance management solutions on the market, the following functionalities are a good basis for a comparative standard:
1. NIPR as an automated source of truth
Most compliance tools on the market use the National Insurance Producer Registry as a source of license or appointment truth in their product, so this is the ground floor of qualifications.
However, not all NIPR-synchronization is equal. A few questions worth considering are:
- How often does the software synchronize its data with NIPR?
- How does a solution handle data discrepancies?
- How much data pulls in on a data sync?
- How does the software price the data pull?
- Does the synchronization go both ways, allowing you to submit or correct data?
A daily synchronization gives you the highest degree of confidence in your compliance controls and can also help you make the most of your data all the way up- and downstream.
2. Make use of automations to scale
Moving your processes from paperwork to digital isn’t much of an improvement if you can’t take advantage of automation and a user-friendly interface. Green-lighting license and appointment processes that are all in good order can reduce a lot of button clicking and monotonous work for your compliance staff and speed up your onboarding for producers and other distribution partners that would otherwise be left waiting.
From automated email notifications for CE reminders or renewal deadlines to in-system compliance checks that stop sales violations before they happen, finding compliance solutions that let you tailor automations to your processes can help you scale.
If you’re vetting a potential compliance partner, understand to what degree they can leverage automation to make compliance more streamlined, hands-off, and frictionless in your future state.
3. Using industry knowledge to inform the product
Once a compliance software is built, the industry doesn’t freeze – with 50+ jurisdictions (plus the federal government) all exercising regulatory voices, you want to be sure your product reflects the changing regulatory environment. Compliance often means more than marking a checklist for appointments and licensing.
Building a process that is relevant to your particular niche in the industry means accounting for very detailed compliance concerns. Annuity sales, surplus lines, or even state-by-state regulations regarding the status of a producer acting as an “insurance broker” – each of these has a layer of nuance that may go beyond the yes/no validation of an insurance license or appointment.
Understanding how a product accounts for these variations is critical when we’re talking about renewals or applications that could mean thousands of dollars in non-refundable fees for unnecessary or errant appointments. Don’t be afraid to press any possible software solution team for information on how they track and build regulatory nuances into the product, or how they implement changes as they come from legislative, judicial, or administrative bodies across the states.
4. Robust producer licensing or appointment portal
Agencies, carriers, and every business in between has a reputation to manage and compliance processes they’ve developed over the years (or decades!). Having a custom-to-you portal for producers and agents to complete your process the way you require it should be paramount, both to preserve your reputation and culture of compliance and to give your producers control over their own data.
An effective portal paired with solid automations could mean onboarding new teams in days, not weeks or months.
5. Cloud-native architecture that prizes configurability
Companies that pin their hopes to a one-time tech reorganization that stops improving the moment the proverbial ink dries on an agreement will find themselves left behind in the digital age. Modern infrastructure should be adaptive, making constant improvements for your compliance ecosystem.
Questions that can help vet this qualifying factor:
- What’s the underlying architecture of your system?
- Does your software store data in the cloud or on a mainframe?
- What’s a general timeframe for making changes to the controls or configurations we require?
6. Using APIs for high-quality integrations
Along with having a configurable tech stack comes a consideration with how quickly a compliance solution can integrate with other systems. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are like data doorways that can open a feed of information into other software. If you’re looking to end time-intensive typework for your teams and make complete use of available automations, being able to integrate your compliance software with other tech is vital. Want in-system compliance checks? Want a successful background check to automatically trigger a contract process? Want a producer’s updated address to autofill your CRM and PAS? Then you want to ensure your solution provides solid integrations.
Many competitive platforms in this space share a development ecosystem, such as Salesforce, although they aren’t limited to working with Salesforce as an exclusive CRM.
7. Customer service that turns feedback into partnership
This is where the rubber hits the road. It doesn’t matter how amazing the tools are if, in a pinch, your compliance needs are left sitting for days, weeks, or even months of non-response. Critical need = access to someone who takes the time to understand and connect you to a real solution – whether it’s a training module or an opportunity for the compliance software company to rework their solution.
Questions to ask:
- What does retention look like?
- How long is an average response time – is it calculable in hours? Days? Weeks?
- What is an average resolution time?
- Do you have a reliable assigned connection or team, and what’s their load look like?
- How will your organization find out about service interruptions or outages?
8. Accessible analytics and custom data reports
You can’t make good data-led decisions without good data. So, what reports do you have available to you with each vendor?
Whether exploring a market expansion or seeking to open up the bottlenecks in your onboarding or offboarding processes to reduce risks and producer churn, being able to access your data is vital. So be sure to ask whether a potential compliance partner has this information available to you, how custom it can be, the quality of the data, how well-presented it is, how current it is, and what it costs.
9. 360-degree view of producer management across all channels
Perhaps most important when it comes to data in the context of compliance is being able to tell if your producer force is properly licensed and appointed across all the jurisdictions you need them to be. Not every vendor can provide this level of visibility, but, in a world where a single missed deadline could equal lost business or looming regulatory fines, validating full compliance at a glance is becoming the new standard.
10. Transparent, predictable, and inclusive pricing
Different pricing models make it difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison between potential producer management solutions. The features you expect can become line items in the billing process, depending on the vendor. Some charge for each data pull from NIPR. Others charge for each custom report.
The simplest approach may be vendors that structure their pricing based on the number of national producer numbers, allowing an inclusive price structure that offers high customization, high functionality, and broad access to your own data without obscure shadow charges on a later bill.
Preparing to choose your producer management solution
Most producer compliance management vendors have some degree of these qualifications. If you’ve accurately assessed your own organization’s needs, then discerning what priority each one takes will help you choose a vendor that falls in your comfort zone and helps you accomplish your goals.
Ultimately, you want to get and stay compliant. You want to turn your partners into raving fans that are wild to spread your excellent reputation. And you want to use data to make strategic business decisions to envelop a broader market share.
If you think AgentSync is the compliance software partner to turn those objectives into your reality, then schedule a demo today.