Comparative Rating in the Real-time World

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1 Comparative Rating in the Real-time World S p e c i a l R e p o r t

2 In case you haven t noticed, comparative rating is changing. Real-time rating is now a part of WinRater and soon will become the standard. Why is this important? Because WinRater will now quote differently. Long gone are the good old days of fixed and established rating when agents could get a MA auto quote in a few seconds. We re also well past the transition year of managed competition that seems but a distant memory! Now carriers are offering more and more complex rate filings, with countless premium options based on many many factors. Getting an accurate quote, unfortunately, can be difficult and time consuming. In response to this, the industry has moved to real-time rating, which allows agents to use comparative rating systems like WinRater to tap directly into their carrier s web systems and retrieve quotes in real time. Plymouth Rock was the first carrier to plug into SinglePoint and implement real time rating for MA Auto in WinRater in February of Commerce, OneBeacon, Safety, and Travelers are officially plugging into SinglePoint in the fall. Other auto and homeowners carriers will be joining throughout WinRater, as a result, will be a hybrid system. This means that WinRater will support both real time rating and manufactured rating (i.e. quotes are calculated by WinRater based on the rating data provided by the carriers). As you can see, we re not in Kansas anymore. I wrote this report to clarify a few important things you need to know about realtime rating and using rating technology to compete for business in today s changing market. I m not going to waste your time with sales talk and I m not going to sugarcoat anything. So if you are serious about succeeding against the stiff competition especially in the MA auto market I recommend taking the time to read the whole report. Charlie Walsh Director of Sales & Marketing Boston Software Corp. 1

3 A word about comparative rating as a survival tool As a rating vendor that supports hundreds of MA agencies, we have a unique perspective on agency automation workflow. In our opinion, agencies should use comparative rating as a strategic business tool, but too many are not. This opinion is based on countless conversations with agents and CSRs, carriers, and other insurance vendors; analysis of agency rating trends and behavior; as well as agency visits, surveys, etc. Many agents simply fail to take full advantage of today s rating technology. We know, for example, that more than 200 MA agencies have not even registered their CSRs to use SinglePoint or have barely used it. This points to a greater issue we ve uncovered with managed competition and the new rating requirements. Agents have one big complaint: It takes far too long to quote a policy! Unfortunately, many agents raise the white flag in response to that perceived problem; we ve heard this from many agents: I normally forget about running comparative quotes for the risk. I just ask the insured some basic questions to qualify the risk and try to figure out which carrier might be the best fit, and then quote one or at most two carriers. Because rating has become more complicated, agents are seeking quotes from fewer carriers. The sad irony is that this the exact opposite of promoting competition, and it completely undermines why consumers want to work with agents in the first place. Moreover, it plays right into the hands of your fiercest competitors, direct writers who are spending big bucks to lure your customers away. When consumers contact insurance agents, they re looking for pricing and coverage options. They re looking for professional expertise and guidance. They expect to be guided by a competent agent who works hard to understand their unique exposures, assets, concerns and can provide pricing and coverage options for them to consider. I believe these consumers do not want to purchase insurance over the Web they want the expert advice and service that agents provide so don t push them right into the lap of the direct writers! 2

4 Advantages There are advantages to real-time rating No doubt about it, agents, there is much to like about real-time rating. ACCURACY Proponents of real-time rating say it s superior because the carrier s system calculates the rate, instead of an outside vendor like Boston Software. They say this is especially true under competitive auto rating, where different carriers have complex, sophisticated rating plans that cannot be manufactured. TIME SAVINGS The amount of time saved by entering the rating data once in WinRater/SinglePoint and getting multiple quotes is significant. Our measurements indicate that agents can save as much as minutes on average when using WinRater/SinglePoint to comparatively quote and submit new business. The simple fact is real-time rating is a valuable tool that can help you more efficiently sell and service your book of business. REPORTS When WinRater presents the request for a real time quote to the carrier web system, carriers can run some or all of their 3rd party reports including RMV lookups and credit reports. The real-time quote that gets calculated is therefore based on carrier verified information. Eliminating this unknown will be a welcome relief to agents. ELIGIBILITY/ DESIRABILITY While calculating the real-time quote, carriers can also run the risk through their predictive analytic models to determine eligibility. So if the carrier finds the risk undesirable, agents will know immediately. In this case, WinRater will display ineligible in the premium panel instead of a quote. This should be good news to agents who need to know the eligibility information as soon as possible. After all, if a carrier finds the risk undesirable, why should the rating system quote it? And why would an agent want to present a quote to a customer for a policy that ultimately cannot be written? QUOTE BASED ON EFFECTIVE DATE In most cases, carrier Web rating systems will be able to provide real-time rates based on the effective date of the policy. The carrier site will support their previous rate filings and generate a quote using the appropriate set of rates based on the effective date entered in WinRater/SinglePoint. This represents a distinct advantage of real-time rating over manufactured rating, which can only support one set of carrier rates. IT S FREE The cost of SinglePoint and connecting to your carrier Web rating systems for real-time rating is included in your annual WinRater License Fee you pay Boston Software. There is no additional cost to begin real-time rating or submitting... so start using these powerful features you have no excuse! 3

5 Rate comparatively and give your customers what they want We ve heard that some agents have abandoned trying to get a comparative quote. Given the complexity of rate filings for some carriers, these agents believe that only the carrier can understand and calculate their rate(s). So their rating workflow looks like this: Ask the insured some basic underwriting questions. Decide which carrier is most likely to have the best price and coverage. Then go directly to the carrier website to run a quick quote. They usually end up quoting only one of their carriers and, if the price is not right or the carrier rejects the business, the agent is stuck re-keying the data at a second carrier website. This is hardly a good way to run your agency. The value of being an independent agent and representing multiple carriers should not be so easily discarded. For the advantages noted in the previous section, we believe real-time rating will help keep independent agents in the practice of comparatively quoting. The way we see it, agents need to: Shop the policy for their customers from as many markets as possible. Provide comparative, accurate quotes from these carriers. Help customers sift through the price, coverage, and carrier options. Assist customers in making an informed decision. Complete the Quote-to-Issue process as quickly and professionally as possible. This is the best way agents can demonstrate their expertise and build long-term relationships. Moreover, it s the best way to establish value in the customer s mind; a value that the pricedriven direct writers cannot provide. 4

6 CONCERNS But there are concerns to be aware of, too It may take more than a few seconds to run real-time rates for some carriers Once you key the data into WinRater and tell SinglePoint to get a real-time rate for some or all of your carriers, it may take a little bit of time for the quote(s) to be returned and displayed in the WinRater premium list. The back and forth between SinglePoint and the carrier system may take some carriers only 2-3 seconds, but others may take as long as seconds. Many factors contribute to the time it takes for a round trip, including the speed of your internet connection, the amount of traffic on the carrier rating service, and the types of reports the carriers run. Another factor is the complexity of the quote. For example, quotes with multiple vehicles and drivers will take longer than a quote with just one driver and one vehicle. The need to refresh real-time quotes OK, so you can bear with a short wait as long as the rate is accurate. But what happens when the premium that gets returned needs adjusting, for example, to increase the deductible or add an endorsement? WinRater will no longer display the real time quote hey, it s gone stale now that the information has changed. WinRater will therefore remove the quote and display re-rate next to the real time carriers in the premium list. This indicates that you will have to click the SinglePoint rate button again and wait for the new real time rate to be calculated. The point is, you need to be aware of the back and forth required to get the sellable premium quote in the real-time world and allow for this extra time. (Interestingly, as you know the manufactured rates in WinRater will recalculate in less than a second. Advantage goes to WinRater s manufactured rating at least for this point!) Manufactured rates are accurate, too and faster to calculate We feel certain that the manufactured rates in WinRater are accurate. I could give you tons of evidence why we feel this way, but let s not waste your time. Let s assume that as long as you enter the correct rating data in WinRater, it is just as capable of calculating an accurate quote as a real-time rate is. If this is true, then WinRater will give you an accurate quote more quickly. You do not have wait for SinglePoint to interact with the carrier site and retrieve the quote. And as we noted above, if/when you need to make an adjustment to the quote, WinRater recalculates instantenously. In this regard, real time rating does not represent a significant benefit over manufactured rating. 5

7 Some carriers may not run all their reports during real-time rating The fact is only some carriers choose to run all their reports and predictive modeling at the time the real time quote is generated. It may take longer, but their web system can handle it and they believe it is important to collect this information upfront and is a better workflow for their agents. Other carriers may not be able to handle this from a technical perspective and/or they believe it s a better idea to give agents a quick quote in which some reports are run but not all. This allows them to provide faster quotes. In addition, they believe it makes more sense to run these reports only when the insured is going to purchase the policy. So even though real-time rating holds the promise of 100% accuracy, the reality for some carriers is it s only a quick quote without all of the verified data. Some carriers may not determine eligibility as part of the real-time rate Just as above, some carriers may not have the technical capabilities to determine eligibility when the real time rate is calculated. So they will return a premium quote to WinRater, but really the risk is ineligible. Agents will find this out only when visiting the carrier web site for validation/ issuance phase. We expect that all carriers will eventually provide eligibility notice during the rating process, but this may not happen for a while. This may frustrate agents. And some carriers may not be able to support multiple sets of rates as part of the real-time rate Once again, some carriers may only be capable of handling a new business quote when SinglePoint hits their system. Because of technical limitations they cannot handle endorsements or renewal rating when the request comes from a comparative rater. For these carriers, agents will have to be careful not to quote new business premiums when it is actually a renewal policy. 6

8 NEAR FUTURE Comparative rating in WinRater/SinglePoint in the near future As you can see there are significant things to consider as we move to real-time rating. Besides these specific details, we also want to make sure you understand that real-time rating and submitting with WinRater/SinglePoint works right now and is gathering momentum. > Plymouth Rock was the first carrier to come onboard in February 2009 and since then agents have run more than 250,000 real time rates through SinglePoint. > More carriers, including Commerce, One Beacon, Safety, and Travelers, will go to real-time rating for MA Auto business in the fall of Still others will plug in early next year. > WinRater/SinglePoint will soon support real-time rating for homeowners business. We expect to roll this out early > Real-time submitting of new business apps (SinglePoint s other great feature) is running well for over 12 MA Auto and Home carriers. Agents have submitted over 100,000 Apps through SinglePoint since the start of the year. We expect that by the end of 2010, most (but not all) carriers will switch to real time rating. Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future WinRater will be considered a hybrid system. Some carrier rates will be manufactured by Boston Software and others will be supported by real-time rating. Agents and agency staff will have to get used to working within this hybrid environment. Rest assured, we here at Boston Software will be doing everything possible to make rating accurate, easy, and efficient. 7

9 M Y T H S Myths that cause agents to underutilize comparative rating So why are agents so readily giving up their competitive advantage their ability to shop multiple carriers? We don t have all the answers, but here are some ideas we d like to bounce off you: Myth 1 Agents and CSRs have too much work to do on any given day and believe they simply can t spend minutes generating comparative quotes for an insured. Reality: It does NOT take minutes to generate a comparative auto quote in WinRater/ SinglePoint. Assuming you have some familiarity with WinRater and you have the risk data at hand, the average time to get a quote should be about five minutes. Myth 2 Customers will not tolerate waiting a long time while the CSR rekeys data or tries to build comparative quotes. Reality: They shouldn t have to wait long. If it takes more than five minutes to work up a quote the CSR is not properly trained or perhaps is in the wrong position in the agency. Rating requires a smart, meticulous worker with better than average keyboarding, communication and analytic skills. Agency principals should make it top priority to deploy their best-suited workers to the quoting department. Getting an accurate, sellable policy premium for new or rounded business is one of the most important and revenue-generating functions an agency can perform. Don t leave it to just anyone. The more practice your staff has with multi-carrier quoting, the faster and better they ll get. Myth 3 You must go to a carrier web site to make sure the quote is accurate. Reality: There is no reason to re-key all the quote data on the carrier site to double-check WinRater. The manufactured rates in WinRater are accurate (please call me directly if you feel otherwise!) proven everyday in hundreds and hundreds of MA agencies. But now with SinglePoint real-time rating, you can generate the quote directly from the carrier rating engine, which should ease your mind. Moreover, with SinglePoint real-time submitting, you can instantly transfer all the quoting data from WinRater to the carrier web site. This eliminates the re-keying of the data and allows you to double-check the quote if you need to. Myth 4 Customers just want a quick quote the lowest price, fast. Reality: Customers appreciate it when you give them a bit more of your time. It s like going to the doctor. You wouldn t like it if your doctor did a physical in five minutes. You wouldn t trust the results. Just because some people purchase cheap auto insurance from Progressive and GEICO, doesn t mean everyone does. Most people want advice. When you use comparative rating to show 8

10 customers that you re shopping for them, they re more likely to forget about trying to save a few bucks online. When you take the time to truly understand their risks or put together a package that combines auto insurance with a good deal on their home insurance, you can compete with anyone. Myth 5 The existing automated workflow for quoting and submission will never meet agent needs. Reality: The current workflow isn t perfect. But it s improving all the time. And by working with us, your carriers, and insurance industry groups, you can be part of the solution. 9

11 S U C C E S S Success formula for 2009 and beyond You may not have asked, but I couldn t resist offering some advice to help your agency stay competitive and to help move our industry forward: > Learn how to do comparative auto rating efficiently and make sure your staff consistently shows clients and prospects comparative rates. Comparative rating should be a standard part of your agency practice. > Have the right person produce comparative rates and make sure they get the proper training. You don t have to be a computer genius to produce quotes from multiple carriers, but it does take some skill and training. And the right attitude. Someone who s only interested in the easiest way out isn t the right person for the job. The responsibility for comparative rating responsibility should not be seen as a drag, but an opportunity! > Stay educated about technology. There is no getting around the fact that technology changes very quickly. You have to invest your time and money or suffer the consequences. Read the insurance trades. Attend agent-association meetings. Update your hardware and software. Etc. > Let us and your carriers know how we can improve your workflow. Your suggestions and needs drive the automation workflow. Don t leave your success to others. > Use SinglePoint real-time features! Sure, these features are significant time-savers and proven efficiency tools. But, just as importantly, they represent months of hard work and effort by your carrier(s) and vendor(s) to simplify your workflow. Now it s your responsibility to use them. After all, if you don t, they will most likely go away. Agree with my comments? Disagree? I hope you found this special report to be informative, worthwhile reading. I d love to hear what you think. After all, a healthy exchange of ideas and perspectives is always a good thing. Charlie Walsh

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