In recent years there has been an explosion of tech advancements that have the ability to make broking insurance easier, faster, and, therefore, more profitable.
But with so many different innovations, systems, and approaches available, the choice of what to invest in and how to apply it to your business can be overwhelming.
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That’s why we asked some experts to tell us what they think are the best things an agency can invest in to make business better. These are the things agencies should not being doing business without in today’s marketplace.
Laird Rixford, president of ITC, said a comparative rater for an agency’s website is the “must-have” in-house tech innovation.
“There have been comparative raters since the mid-1980s, so why is that a must-have now? When you look at insurtech, and the industry going forward, it’s about pricing, it’s about making sure you’re providing the right price and value for your consumer so they won’t feel like they have to continue to shop,” he explained. “They want to feel like they’ve received the right number of quotes, and they’ve been compared against multiple carriers.
“Traditionally, comparative raters have been focused on personal lines. But one of the newest movements is having comparative raters ... that do commercial lines.”
Rixford said the comparative raters should be available for agents to use, but should also be available on agency websites for customers to use on their own.
“According to a study by IVANS, comparative raters provide a more accurate quote, they allow [agents] to respond to a customer quickly, they allow them to quote more insurers per customer, and all of that ultimately drives them to the right price for the consumer,” he said.
“And making it available to the consumer on the website gives them the ability to quote and possibly even purchase that policy without ever having to speak to an agent. It gives the consumer the choice to transact business where, when, and however they want to – it’s meeting the needs of the consumer … that wants to buy online. That’s a growing segment of the market.”
Even with the ability for consumers to buy directly off an agency website, however, the agents can still generate their broking fees, Rixford said. Which makes it a win-win for agents and customers.
“Any competent comparative rater that you can place on your website, it has the ability for you to attach broker fees and to add on products … to make sure you’re monetizing that traffic on your website,” he explained.
Derek Armentrout, senior product manager at EZ Lynx, said agencies were making life more difficult for themselves by not using some sort of workflow automation system.
“There are a ton of different things that I would say are critical [for agencies to be employing], but I’ll focus on workflow automation,” he said. “Workflow automation is, to me, at the simple level, your system automatically sending out notifications, creating emails, creating tasks, registering notes – taking away some of the manual data entry you need to do.
“At a more advanced level, you can start to add in actual multi-step workflow processes, with custom actions. [You can, for example,] have policy trees within, where a policy gets renewed in one line of business, we want to route that to this department, this document, and file it in this directory, and send it over for billing.”
Armentrout said the most important consequences of a good workflow automation system are greater efficiencies and better task prioritization.
“As commission rates continue to get tighter you need to milk every dollar out of it as an independent agent,” he noted. “Being able to automate some of these things is really critical for being efficient.
“The thing for agencies to do is look at their processes and ask, ‘What do I have staff doing repeatable stuff that they do every day or every month … and how much of that can we automate?’ If they’re spending a couple of hours a day [doing those tasks], and now suddenly you can handle 90% of that automatically, that’s time every day you’ve just saved.”
Jerry Fox, principal of client market strategy at CoreLogic, said the one thing that too many agencies still aren’t up-to-date with is having a good user-friendly mobile enabled website.
There is a “sub-group out there,” he said, who maintain that they are “relationship” companies, and they actively avoid using technology to interact with customers, preferring solely face-to-face or phone interactions. But they’re living in the past, Fox said.
First and foremost, “you have to meet the customer’s needs.”
“In today’s market, many of [your] relations are built on electronic means,” he explained. “You need an enabled site that allows for two-way communication – and it has to be effective on a mobile device. Because if you’re doing anything today without [a mobile platform], that’s braindead.”
Too many agencies have bland, unimpressive, non-functioning websites.
“They’re brochures. They’re electronic brochures, that’s all they are,” Fox said. “The good news, in this industry, is there are opportunities out there to get your websites created and get the technology moving rather inexpensively.
“I don’t think the industry is doing enough to address the wants and needs of the consumer. We’re still dragging our feet, and usually dragging some kind of legacy technology with us.”
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