Is Your Agency’s Customer Experience at Risk with Paper Payments?

It’s Friday at 4:00 and you just ordered takeout from your favorite restaurant. Ideally, the ordering process was quick and easy, because your payment information was already in the system. Now, imagine instead that the restaurant would not accept your credit card and insisted you write a check.  Chances are you would look for another restaurant—not because you wanted to, but because this request made paying for your food such a hassle. 

You deserve a simple user experience (UX). And so do your insureds.

Here are 5 realities of today’s payment environment and why it’s important to offer digital payments instead of checks only. (Hint: it’s mostly about improving the customer experience, but also benefits your agency directly.) 

1) Catch a Rising Wave
The Federal Reserve has been tracking payment trends since 2001. Their most recent report states that debit and credit card payments have increased by 8.9%, while paper check usage has decreased by 7.2%. There’s no doubt which way the trend is heading.

2) Your Clients are Getting Younger
Think of the business owners you serve. Are they mostly 50+? 40-50 or 30’s? Under 30? These generations have very different payment preferences. And guess what? Checks are not the top choice of any group. Even the middle-aged Generation X are credit card-centric. Millennials and Gen Z consumers expect digital choices and the ability to pay from anywhere, anytime.

3) Checks are Expensive
Take a look at our blog post on the hidden costs of paper checks. Here’s a quick takeaway: Processing a check costs a business 10 times more than an ACH transfer, and receiving a check costs your agency five times more than an ACH payment. 
Contrary to paper checks, credit cards can actually benefit everyone involved in the payment process. Individuals (including business owners) often earn rewards for paying by credit card, and you can pass the processing fee on to the client using our payment platform. They are happy to pay it, because they are just happy to have the digital payment option—and the extra points can’t hurt!

4) Who’s Serving Whom?
We’re not avoiding the truth; people still do write checksbut it doesn’t mean they want to. It’s because some small businesses (including insurance agencies) are stuck in an old fashioned payment rut. Don’t be that small business! Be the agency that caters to your clients, or risk losing them to one that does.

5) Offer Instant Gratification
Insureds like to trace large payments. Checks are slow. They write and send (or hand deliver) the check, wait for you to deposit it, then wait for it to clear the bank. When submitting digital payments, a payment is confirmed immediately with an auto-populated confirmation, and typically an emailed receipt. ePayPolicy offers the same experience. Since our portal connects to most agency management systems, there’s automated documentation there, too.

 

Give the People What They Want
Insureds want and deserve superior service, and you want to offer it. That includes payment options that deliver convenience, speed, simplicity, and security. By accepting only checks, you’re denying clients all five benefits. You’re putting “that’s how we’ve always done it” ahead of the reality of your clients’ payment needs. Offering digital payments shows you’re serious about serving all your client groups, and technologically ready for tomorrow’s digital-only expectations. 

How Much Are Paper Checks Costing Your Agency?

In your office, do you send coworkers letters instead of emails? Do you hand-write invitations to meetings and deliver them to everyone’s desk? Do you post physical to-do lists on everyone’s office door? Then why would someone hand-write and mail paper checks?

How Much Are Checks Costing Your Insurance Agency? 
In the digital age, people avoid paper materials due to the inefficiencies. Physical transactions waste time and money, create the possibility for confusion, and are an unnecessary use of resources. Now, 80% of businesses are seeking ways to convert paper checks into digital payments. 

So, are paper checks outdated? Yes. In fact, it’s possible for banks to consider them “stale” after only a few months. The Federal Reserve Study estimated 28 billion checks were processed in 2009 with a decline of 1.2 billion every year since. At this rate, they estimate paper checks will become extinct by 2026. 

While the need for paper checks is shrinking, the cost is not. In a study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, $7.78 was the average cost of a paper check, while Bank of America reports a cost of $4 – $20 factoring in mailing and processing. Bottomline showed processing a check costs a business ten times more than an ACH transfer, and receiving a check costs five times more than an ACH payment. That’s a lot of money being spent on receiving money. 

Let’s Talk About The Customer Experience
Customers crave flexibility, convenience, and speed. Paper checks cost them all three. They don’t want to reach for a checkbook, pen, envelope and stamp before running to the mailbox just to make a payment. The same Federal Reserve Study states paper check usage has decreased by 7.2%, and debit and credit card payments have increased by 8.9%.

We live in a world where there are online services for everything. Customers want and need, to be able to pay for their insurance from anywhere at any time. Slow payment systems like the paper check increase wait times and add the layer for human error to the process.

The Security Risks That Come with Paper Checks 
Paper checks increase the customers risk for fraud and identity theft. In its 2015 Deposit Account Fraud Survey, the American Bankers Association says that check fraud accounted for 32 percent of the industry’s $1.91 billion in losses in 2014. The sheer number of times a check must be passed from hand to hand while it is being processed means there is less and less security available. This also implies an increased risk for your agency to even receive the payments. 

The mail itself offers little security, and someone could easily steal the bank account and routing numbers for an account from a physical check. Your customers trust you with their largest assets and the safety of their banking information. Digital processing creates a secure environment to receive payments and keep accurate records while eliminating these risks.

The Environmental Impact
A growing consumer concern over the last decade has been the environment and our negative impact on it. Customers like to know the companies they do business with are green-conscious.

Take paper receipts for example. Have you noticed a trend of customers saying no to printed receipts and receiving them electronically? People view paper checks as equally not preferable. The check creation process involves water, gas, trees, and releases greenhouse gases. Once the check is processed, it will most likely end up in a landfill, adding to more waste. Moving to a greener, digital solution will not only create positive PR but will have a powerful effect on the environment. 


Have questions on how you can move away from paper checks? Reach out and schedule a demo to learn why ePayPolicy is the simplest solution for you to collect credit card and ACH payments for your insurance agency.

Studies used for this posting include…
The 2019 Federal Reserve Payments Study
2019 AFP Electronic Payments Survey
What is Check Fraud 

It's Time To Build Your Brand Persona!

Building a Brand Persona – Why Not Now?

It’s become a slow season for most businesses. This was unexpected, and probably not preferred, but there is a silver lining. During this period, you have the opportunity to sit and re-align on your company’s core values, and finally develop a persona that reflects them.

Don’t think a Brand Persona is Worth The Time? Think Again!

Smaller companies tend to skip this step in brand development, or at least never quite narrow it down. It benefits your customers to envision your company as a person or personality that is not only memorable, but exemplifies your company mission. And we all know that whatever benefits your customers, benefits your business.

A Brand Persona embodies what your company does and how you make your clients feel. Take Gordy Z for example. He’s our big green monster disrupting the way the insurance industry collects payments. He doesn’t like checks, and he likes to make himself known in big ways. For our users, he makes it clear that paper checks aren’t going to last and that we’re able to help them get noticed in big ways.

Where to Start When Designing your Brand Persona

Developing Gordy Z required many creative ideas, iterations, and input. As a young company in an industry not well-known (yet!) for allure or glamour, we wanted something that would stand out while still representing our mission and values. One concept included an astronaut, because we viewed digital payments as a new frontier to be explored. Another was the loyal “man’s best friend” since we want our clients to know they can rely on ePayPolicy.

Neither was a perfect fit. So we went back to our purpose, our original goal when we launched the company – to destroy the outdated payment methods for the insurance industry. There wasn’t anything like ePayPolicy and we were determined to be a monster of innovation. Out of this, Gordy Z was born. He now wreaks havoc on traditional ways agents collect payments.

Once we found the winning idea, we consulted with a designer to develop his look. Expanding on his personality alongside our team ensured he has the real heart of our company. Gordy is approachable, fast to react, and excited! Most importantly, he’s disrupting the norm and not dealing with paper checks when he knows there is a better solution out there.

Additional Benefits of Having a Brand Persona 

 Social Media Buzz Using your persona on social makes your company easy to identify, and ideally keeps them entertained as you create new and creative content.
 – Promotional Products – When we see a brand we like, we want everything we can get our hands on. Stickers, t-shirts, socks, you name it!
– Client Connection Let’s be honest, we love a unique, engaging brand. With your persona, clients can be “in” on the fun and feel like they are part of the team.

It takes a little work but establishing a brand persona is the perfect way to bring your team together, have some fun, and create a little excitement in and around your company. Check out this article to dive further into developing your own Brand Persona

Your Time is Valuable: Maximize Growth and Boost Profits for your Independent Agency

Understanding The Opportunity Cost Across Your Agency

As an independent agent, your time can be rather divided. Between processing claims, building new business and nurturing your current clientele – there is little time to grow.. 

How are you spending your time?

When hiring support staff isn’t an option, you might have to buckle down and wear a few necessary but non-revenue-building hats. From prospecting to invoicing and everything in-between, you are down in the trenches, doing it all. 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there, and by the end of the week you have 5+ hours spent on… not growing your business. What if you could have those hours back?

Achieve Sustainable Growth

You may have considered investing in some InsurTech solutions such as a digital payment processor to speed up your receivables, but are hesitant. The upfront cost seemed too high at first, but have you crunched the numbers, determined the value of your time, and compared them apple to apples? You might find that the cost-benefits far outweigh the initial expense.
If you are still accepting paper checks, chasing payments, physically making deposits and reconciling your accounts, you are leaving money on the table. You might be saving $20 a month, but when you look at the opportunity cost to you and your team, it just doesn’t add up.

What is Your Time Worth?

Those tasks need to get done, and that’s a fact. However, assigning a specific value to your time can clearly show the ROI from a variety of InsurTech solutions.

If you streamline your workflows and automate repetitive processes—like accepting manual payments—you can allocate those hours towards more profitable activities that will grow your customer base and send value to the bottom line.

Here are examples of profitable activities you’ll have time for:
 – Build and expand your business
 – Deliver top-quality customer service
Offer convenience and expedience
 – Gain insight and improve your company’s operations

And here are examples of the extra benefits you’ll reap:
Reduce the time you spend on mundane tasks
–  Reduce missed payments
– Streamline and simplify accounting processes
– Eliminate data entry and accounting errors
– Automate payments and improve cash flow

Dreams Do Come True

You might be thinking that it sounds too easy, and in a way, you’re right. You’d be giving up a lot of inefficient busy work and giving yourself the luxury of time; time you can now use to improve the value of your business.

And the cost? Insignificant in comparison. Though your investment will rise a bit, the gains in revenue will more than makeup for it. 

It’s 2020. Time to grow and adapt to modern conveniences, time to strategize and invest in your agency. When you’re ready, ePayPolicy is here to help with payment gateway solutions to support your growth. Reach out today to schedule a demo.

Going Remote? Actions For Your Insurance Agency to Take Right Now!

The foreseeable future includes social distancing, remote workforces, and grocery stores that feel apocalyptic. But it also provides the chance to build a stable business structure where your team feels prepared for productivity from anywhere.  As an organization who made the “work from home” transition seamless for our entire team, we wanted to reveal the tips and tricks that allowed our company to feel good about remote work. We narrowed down five key activities an agency should implement to be successful during a pandemic. *Note, these tips work anytime and help your business perform better in general! It is just especially important to apply these activities now.

Make sure your internal team can communicate

It’s about efficiency AND effectiveness here. Relying only on email – or worse, thinking text/calls will suffice – isn’t going to cut it. We recommend using a free platform like Slack to communicate across the agency. 

Provide clear project management outlines

Working together while you are miles apart isn’t impossible, it just requires a little more outlining. Using Trello, Asana, or another project management platform makes goals, steps, and accomplishments clear for the entire agency. 

Set up a video conferencing system!

This one stands VITAL because it’s as close as you’re going to get to your coworkers while working remote. Typical, in-person meetings reveal short attention spans, which are worse across a computer screen. Everyone in the agency assembles as present as possible for virtual meetings, and that means turning on your webcams and showing face. Lots of good and affordable options out there!

Provide digital payment options for your clients

Your insureds still need to make payments, and coming into an office of people appears the current worst option. Allowing your clients to make digital payments is as vital as communicating with them online. 

Communicate with your clients online

Speaking of communicating with your clients online, social media recently developed into our primary form of socializing. You MUST use this opportunity to connect, and trust us, it’s easier to expand updates on social platforms than to set up email marketing. These activities demonstrate quick fixes with lasting results, and some exist as free solutions! Don’t settle on just surviving when you could be thriving. Use this time to invest in your organization and build a sustainable business, no matter what comes your way.

Complete Guide to Employee Appreciation

How do you build a strong company culture? Two simple words: Thank you.
Appreciation comes in many forms other than that little phrase, but expressing even the smallest form of appreciation to your team cannot be overstated. ePayPolicy has developed a culture of energized teamwork and productive growth. Our focus remains on our clients but it’s imperative to build a strong foundation at the core of our company.

For us, it starts at the top. Our co-founders Todd and Milan are motivated, interactive, and always seek better relationships with the team. These genuine actions promote a positive environment where the team can grow and develop.

After this leadership develops a driven mentality in their employees, they act on it. If you’re constantly asking “How can I encourage?” people will thrive because of you. Setting and achieving goals doesn’t always have to come from management, sometimes it’s inspired by management. 

People aren’t strictly motivated by raises or bonuses anymore. We are motivated by the chance to grow, to move up and take on more responsibility. ePayPolicy utilizes this by providing more autonomy to team members as a subtle but meaningful form of appreciation. Just imagine how wonderful it would feel to hear, “You’ve done a great job and we’ve noticed. We’ll let you take it from here.”

We’re sure you’ve heard the phrase “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” The same could be said in the corporate world. When people are excited to come to work, motivated by their peers and opportunities, they produce better results. 

Simplicity is best. So thank you, ePayPolicy team – for supporting, teaching, loving, inspiring, and collaborating so well with each other.

P.S. – Small gifts are an easy win for clients and employees to feel appreciated. When onboarding new team members, we love to give out welcome packages with our branded swag!

Selecting the Best Payment Processing Integration for Your Management System

When it comes to managing your agency bill payments, simplicity and affordability are essential. Some agencies (probably you!) need a payment solution that can integrate seamlessly with your existing management system to further streamline your accounting.
Beyond integration, the digital payment processor you choose should meet two other requirements: easy to use and simple to deploy. It should also offer a user-friendly interface so your employees and customers have a smooth experience.

Choices, Choices, Choices

The first step in choosing a payment processing integration is to define the features that you need. Not all payment integrations do the same thing – not all are created equal.
Be sure the payment processor you choose clearly defines and outlines how and what the integration does. More importantly, you should be aware of what it does not do. Features and functions can differ from management system to management system.

Management System Integrations

Digital payment processing should make your life easy and a great integration should make it even easier. Ideally, this means the integration should be seamless with your agency management system. ePayPolicy integrates with a variety of management systems, including AMS360 Powered by Vertafore, Applied CSR24, Novieda, and many more. 
Integration with your management system saves your team time and reduces errors, giving you and your employees more time to spend on the important things – like nurturing relationships with your insureds. With the right digital payment processor, invoices are sent on schedule and payments collected on time, improving cash flow and driving value to the bottom line. 
Unlike many other digital payment processors, ePayPolicy focuses exclusively on the insurance sector, so our features and interfaces are designed for you the independent agent.

Identifying the Best Payment Processing Integrations

There are two overarching benefits that the best integrations will have.
        1) Improve Productivity
        2) Drive Customer Success

A good integration will access the data in your management system and provide invoicing features that can help not only your teams but also your clients. For example, being able to send an invoice directly from your management system saves time, reduces data entry errors and creates an easy process for your payers.

Specific features and benefits could include:
      – Automated payment reminders
      – Pre-populated fields
      – CRM (client contacts) connectivity
      – Invoice selection
      – A single view of client history and transactions
      – Partial and multiple invoice payment options

All of these features are possible, as long as the data is available in your management system.

Always Make Sure You Have a Stand-Alone Solution

In case of technical difficulties with your management system, you’ll want to make sure that you can digitally process payments via a stand-alone solution. This approach ensures that you don’t miss any payments should anything happen.

A stand-alone solution also supports a remote workforce, allowing your employees to access the system anytime and from any device. ePayPolicy operates fully integrated or as a stand-alone application, giving you the ultimate flexibility to adjust to your preferences or business needs.
Additionally, ePayPolicy is secure (PCI level 1) and fully compliant with international data security frameworks, giving your customers the peace of mind they need to commit to you. Schedule a demo today or reach out directly to learn more about how our AMS integrations can help your agency today. 

The Future Generation Of FinTech

We had the pleasure of working with a group of students from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas during their recent fall semester as part of their Financial Technology (FinTech) Practicum Course. The undergraduate students were provided with a hands-on learning opportunity working with local Fintech companies in Austin that are driven by Ernst & Young. The purpose of the program was for the students to provide problem-solving solutions for the current and future needs of the company they selected. At the conclusion of the semester, the students presented their findings and provided actionable steps for implementation. The students were not the only ones who benefitted from this, however. ePayPolicy also received insights on a variety of topics such as Google’s latest SEO algorithm, a complete chatbot analysis across the industry, and a detailed market research report on areas and verticals to explore / expand in 2020. When the students weren’t working on these projects they were helping with small tasks around the office and finding solutions for minor problems affecting the ePayPolicy team. Working with these students was an amazing opportunity and we were humbled to be selected by them and EY. We look forward to continuing to contribute to this program in the months to come and appreciate the effort given from the future generation of FinTech.

Going Beyond The Terms and Services For Your Clients

Your Clients Mean the World to You and Your Agency, Be Sure They Know It!

As we approach the holiday season take the time to identify your key clients and reach out to them with a handwritten note, letting them know how much you value their business and relationship. Taking five to ten minutes and collecting your thoughts can pay significant dividends for your agency and adds another differentiator to your business.   Even if you don’t have the resources to fully apply The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes) to your client base select your top five and go from there. To make your gesture even more impactful, start sending notes outside the regular holiday season. The reason for this is that it’s unexpected and will catch the attention of your insureds and not get lost in the holiday shuffle. 

Want To Track Those Efforts?

For those that want to track their ROI it can be as easy or as complex as they would like. A good place to start is recording the clients that are receiving personal notes in a CRM and compare their engagement with your agency (renewals,m social posts, industry events, referrals) with those that aren’t receiving any personal messaging. As you get more creative with your nurturing strategy be sure to record your activities in detail, this will help build a strong baseline of your efforts and allow you to optimize your strategy in 2020.    As you continue to invest in client-facing services such as chatbots, app portals, and digital payments don’t forget to invest in your relationship with your clients.

The Real Value Of An Instagram Like For Your Agency

If No One Can See My Likes… Does My Content Really Count?

Last week Instagram announced that they would be getting rid of the “likes” feature on the app for users in the U.S, in other words no one will be able to see how many likes your posts get. However, you will still be able to view the like count within your own account. This may not come as a huge surprise since Instagram started testing out this change back in July in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand. This update will begin as a test to some users in the U.S this week before the change becomes more permanent. 
So what’s the deal, Instagram? What’s so wrong with those little hearts? Instagram CEO, Adam Mosseri said the reason behind this big change is, “about creating a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.” This update will serve as a way for users to concentrate on the posts and interacting with the app rather than just focusing on the amount of “likes” their post may garner. 
It seems Instagram’s reasoning behind this change is pretty valid and may prove to be beneficial to its users, but what will this mean for your marketing efforts for your insurance agency? Well, that depends on your social strategy.  Many companies and brands who want to work with influencers use the number of likes from posts to determine if they have enough “influence” with their audience. The update to remove likes will now require more work from the company or brand’s side to look further into whether an influencer is worth the investment. However, like most insurance agencies if you don’t rely on influencers and are providing great content get ready to roll up your sleeves.

It’s Time To Get To Work!

If you want your content to stay in your followers’ feed, this update will challenge your content strategy (and all Instagram content producers for that matter) to create quality content that does not rely on the “group influence effect” to receive engagement. Your content will need to capture and keep your followers’ attention and focus on the point you’re trying to convey.
If you’ve been waiting to up your Instagram game and really display your creativity, now is a perfect time! No more “like” comparison, it will be a level playing field for everyone on Instagram.