Industry Trends | Read Time: 8 Minutes

The Technology Behind Being a Digital Agency

May 9, 2019

By: Michael Howe

The Digital Age of Insurance is here. This means that agencies can no longer afford to remain un-automated and rely on manual processes or traditional methods of conducting business. Those who do run the risk of being surpassed by competitors. An eroding competitive position will harm all aspects of the business and even raise the risk of not surviving long term.

Consider Blockbuster. The company once had revenue of more than $4.8 billion. Despite a strong brand and market position, Blockbuster was put out of business by Netflix over the course of just a few short years primarily because Blockbuster did not evolve their operating model as the industry went through digital transformation. Instead, they undertook business decisions that emphasized short-term profitability while neglecting the broader transformation happening around them, a transformation that ultimately threatened their long-term survival. Blockbuster, which had studio relationships, content and a rich customer database, enjoyed an enviable position of strength in the market and, to the outside observer, seem well-positioned to continue as such. But, in neglecting the digital transformation, they allowed an opening.  Netflix, an upstart competitor at the time, embraced the transformation and quickly became the market leader. Blockbuster was no more, and it happened almost overnight.

History shows us that those who move swiftly to innovate, adopt technology and improve customer experience are the ones that thrive during digital transformation, enhancing revenue growth and profitability in the process. Digital transformation, when embraced as a core part of your overall business strategy, actually offers the promise of new ways to communicate to the market and strengthen your customer service. If that’s not enough to convince you of the impact that ignoring digital transformation can have on your business, read Technology Adoption: Risk or Reward? for more examples of how other industries have reacted to digital transformation.

I’ve heard many agency owners acknowledge that they need to transform their businesses but they haven’t started yet because the very thought seems too overwhelming. With more than 20 years of experience in the software industry, I know that technology investments can sometimes be viewed as risky – they cost money, involve process change, and require meticulous planning. However, digital technology provides agencies with an opportunity to perform better, move faster and drive even greater success. In fact, according to a Capgemini Consulting and MIT study titled The Digital Advantage: How Digital Leaders Outperform Their Peers in Every Industry, digitally transformed businesses realize significant economic benefits including revenue growth, profitability and market evaluation.

"Technology provides the very opportunity for brokers to reinvent themselves and get closer to the customer than they have ever been before."

Hammad Rafique

Managing Director
Accenture Insurance Practice

What a Digital Agency Is and Why You Should Become One

For those of you not yet on a path to digital transformation, I urge you seize this opportunity and decisively move to becoming a digital agency. A digital agency is defined as one that leverages:

  1. Digital automation within the agency to drive extreme efficiency
  2. Digital connectivity to policyholders to drive an enhanced customer experience
  3. Digital connectivity to insurers to drive efficient interactions

With these capabilities in place, digital agencies position themselves to generate significant business value in 5 key areas: Growth, Efficiency, Customer Satisfaction, Advice and Trust. If you want to learn more about these 5 key areas of business value and why becoming a digital agency matters, check out The 5 Whys of Becoming a Digital Agency post by Applied CEO Reid French.

For this post, I will focus on the “How” aspect of becoming a digital agency by recommending the types of technology needed to transform your agency and drive significant business value.

Technology Needed to Get Started

  1. Growth
    Digital agencies leverage a single management system to gain visibility across an entire book of business, delivering integrated capabilities to manage P&C, Benefits and Sales in a single application. Integrated and open architecture provides essential capabilities for each stakeholder within an agency to have the right information and products available to sell and serve customers. By utilizing a single management system that was designed from the ground up for the user experience and with integrated capabilities, digital agencies drive superior business growth.

    Example Technology: Sales Automation
    Automating sales operations in your management system allows your sales staff to easily view, monitor, track and forecast new and renewal business directly within the application, eliminating the need to invest time and expense in separate solutions. Having a single view of your prospects and customers within your management system ensures you offer complete coverage for all their insurance needs.
  1. Efficiency
    Digital agencies operate more efficiently by utilizing technology that enables staff to better manage customer relationships, sales opportunities, market access, financial accounting, reporting, business processes, and policy and benefits administration. This includes:
  • Streamlining business processes through automated, standardized management system workflows
  • Exchanging policy information with insurer partners via connected applications and APIs accessed from a single sign-on
  • Leveraging mobile technology to reduce time to service and sell accounts by eliminating manual, paper-driven processes, and expediting communication between clients, prospects, colleagues and staff

    Example Technology: Mobile
    Directly linking mobile apps to the management system empowers your staff with the information they need on the go, and gives them the ability to add prospects, create and manage activities, initiate a claim, and begin new sales opportunities while out in the field.
  1. Customer Satisfaction
    Digital agencies deliver superior customer service via self-service portals and mobile apps that provide policyholders with 24/7 access to insurance information. By offering multiple ways for consumers to interact with the business – whether it be in person, phone, online or mobile – digital agencies create happier customers, which ultimately drives business returns through enhanced retention and growth from new business.

    Example Technology: Customer Self-Service Portals and Mobile Apps
    Provide your clients the freedom to access insurance information, documents and online bill pay when and where they prefer via an online portal or mobile app that is customer branded to your agency. Offering customer self-service options strengthens your relationship with customers and saves money by shifting transactions historically provided by agency staff to self-service. Because of these efficiency gains, customer self-service often delivers a return on investment in less than a year.
  1. Advice
    Providing excellent advice to customers remains the core of any strong agency. Digital agencies can automatically find the best markets, as well as identify and highlight policy differences for new business and renewals, making them better risk advisors to both personal and commercial lines customers.

    Example Technology: Market Access
    Embedded Market Appetite enables you to have better-targeted marketing submissions via an agent-driven, real-time search engine for commercial insurance. Using this capability is easy, simply enter two fields to denote the specific type of commercial risk you are searching for and instantly receive a list of insurers most likely to have appetite for that risk and appropriate pricing.
  1. Trust
    Using cloud technology, a digital agency provides enhanced security, operations recovery and anytime, anywhere access during any disruptive event.

    Example Technology: Cloud
    The cloud offers your agency a flexible operating environment with scalability for business growth, stronger business continuity protection, increased mobile access to business information, and compliance related to data privacy regulations like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Hosting agency solutions in a cloud purpose-built for your independent insurance agency fosters client trust and peace of mind knowing that your data is secured, software is current and business is running smoothly 24/7.

The Time to Start Your Journey Is Now

The time for denying the Digital Age of Insurance is over. In fact, consider the transformation now underway as a new and exciting opportunity to make your business better. It’s time to start your journey towards becoming a digital agency. In doing so, you enhance your agency’s ability to meet the needs of the modern consumer and lay a foundation for continued success in the Digital Age of Insurance.

For additional insights on the value of being a digital agency and the types of technology needed to transform your business, watch The Value of Being a Digital Business on-demand webinar.


Michael Howe Headshot

Michael Howe

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. Howe began his career as a software engineer at Great-West Life Assurance, where he was responsible for developing custom-built Oracle applications. He holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Colorado Boulder, and a master's in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.