The Connected Business of Insurance
July 16, 2015
In the not too distant past, consumers went to independent agents for all of their insurance needs – whether simple or complex – because insurance was often an elusive concept to the man on the street. At the same time, insurance coverage was considered something everyone must have so when insurance-related questions came up, many consumers’ initial instinct was, “I have to talk to my agent.”
Over the past few years, this paradigm has shifted toward consumers being much more willing and able to build an understanding of their needs. This trend is broadly seen across nearly every industry and is accelerating in Insurance. While the trusted relationship with an agent is often still crucial, insurance consumers today are researching, purchasing and interacting with the insurance industry in new ways, and increasingly on their own terms. In working with agencies and end consumers around the industry, we think the shifting behavior of consumers can be summarized in two key ways:
- The Knowledgeable Consumer
This consumer actively researches insurance online and consults their peer network prior to purchasing policies – either online or in person. How can you quickly and effectively service this consumer before they research other options or take their business elsewhere?
- The Always-On Consumer
This consumer wants information anytime, anywhere via any device be it smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. This consumer doesn’t want to stop by your office for an auto ID card or certificate of insurance. How can you give them access to their insurance information when and where they want it?
One thing these two types of consumers have in common is the expectation for instant access to information and we see this expectation playing out in insurance: consumers expect similar servicing from their insurance agent or broker. From an agent’s perspective, providing a mechanism for online service allows for an improved experience by allowing consumers the flexibility to interact you’re your agency when and how they want. And while there may still be a window of opportunity for this to be considered as a differentiator for the agency, the day is approaching where nearly every consumer will expect and demand it of the agency. Consumers that don’t have this immediate accessibility and flexibility will take their business elsewhere. Further, by pushing common transactions online, agencies can free up resources to focus on higher value service interactions with consumers.
Of course, as seen across nearly every industry, advanced technology can and should be a key elements of the agency strategy to meet these business objectives and the evolving expectations of insurance consumers. Agencies and brokerages are able to become more productive with relative ease thanks to enhanced data, mobility, better communication, and increased adoption of third-party apps and other tools.
As an agency considers their business strategy, I’ll suggest there are three key considerations when it comes to the role technology solutions can play:
1. Standardize and Dissect Your Data
First, ensure data accuracy within the agency management system and in workflows:
- Standardized Workflows
To the extent it makes sense for your business, workflow consistency can yield real productivity gains and help capture comprehensive and better customer risk and demographic information your agency can use to better market, account round and engage customers. By leveraging standardized workflows, agency owners are ensuring data entry is consistent across an agency – regardless of location. Additionally, standardized workflows reduce the number of workarounds conducted by staff – increasing productivity at the outset and reducing any potential time spent rectifying workarounds at the back-end. The end result will be improved quality and completeness of the underlying data.
- Business Intelligence
Over time, agencies and brokerages generate an immense amount of data – yet it can be difficult to access, analyze and understand that data and meaningful ways. Business intelligence (BI) solutions are one way to help turn all of that data in to information. For example, principles can identify which of their producers are using their time most efficiently and driving the most revenue for the business. Principals can also evaluate how effectively their business is cross-selling and quickly identify new market opportunities. While traditional reporting can take hours if not days, BI solutions present your information in immediate and visual ways that drive new insights, enabling you to make more effective decisions to improve productivity and business growth.
2. Think Easy Access
- Mobile Technology
New mobile technology affords producers all of the benefits associated with management system access within an office, without having the producer tethered to a desk. This allows them to be more productive and to respond to clients and prospects more quickly and in the manner current and prospective customers want and expect. For smaller agencies, where employees wear multiple different hats within the organization, giving your employees access to tools when they’re away from the office is critical.
- Online Access
Consider how your business can leverage the cloud to drive productivity gains. The ability for service staff to work from home via the cloud, when needed, supports work-life balance and allows business to go on regardless of unexpected events.
3. Time Is Money
- Paper No More
Evaluate ways to become an all-digital agency and eliminate paper. Agencies and brokerages should leverage electronic signature and delivery of client documents, which reduces the time and expense of mailing paper copies.
- Carrier Information Exchange
Productivity gains have increased over the years as carriers improved their interface and as agencies better understood how and where to enter data in carrier systems. The vast majority of agencies use personal lines policy detail download to reduce rekeying of data, saving, on average, 81 minutes a day per employee. In addition to download, using real-time for service and rating saves agency employees up to an hour per day. Policy download yields daily time-savings of nearly an hour and a half per department employee for personal lines and nearly an hour for commercial lines. Take the time to automate communications with your carrier on the front end to save more time over the long term.
- Online Client Self-Service
As mentioned earlier, today’s insurance consumer increasingly expects information anytime, anywhere. Agencies need to provide clients the ability to access policy and billing information on their terms, which helps strengthen relationships, ensures high retention rates and drives revenue gains. Self-service functionality can increase staff productivity and decrease costs in commercial lines, as well as personal.
Technology will allow you to work faster and, in-turn, will redefine the products and services you offer to your clients. While working faster is one thing, using technology to provide mobile access, enhanced communication and streamlined procedures to more quickly serve clients will also drive new business and customer retention.
Michael Howe, senior vice president of product management, is responsible for the strategic direction of the Applied product portfolio. Howe joined Applied in 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in enterprise software. He formerly served as senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management at Aptean, a global provider of industry-focused enterprise software. Prior to Aptean, Howe held senior executive management positions at SAP and other leading software companies.