Coronavirus shutdowns emphasize agencies' need for digital tools

Expert outlines the ways that agencies can meet consumer demands during this time

Coronavirus shutdowns emphasize agencies' need for digital tools


By Alicja Grzadkowska

Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, online traffic to insurance agency websites has been creeping upwards, according to weather reports on the state of insurance rating from Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC).

The trend of consumers seeking insurance online underscores the importance of agencies providing digital services during the current crisis – for both customers and the success of their own businesses.

“Providing a digital experience to consumers is critical for survival because from what we’re seeing in our data, the agencies that provide that digital service are able to keep servicing their current clients while also continuing to capture the consumers who are shopping for insurance right now,” said Becky Schroeder, chief marketing officer at ITC.

On the other hand, the agencies that do not have digital tools in place are starting to fall behind because people can’t stop by a physical agency office to get a quote. Customers might also not be calling as often as they were before the pandemic because these agencies might not have a website or social media presence that allows people to check them out online before contacting them.

“Consumers may still call an agency, but before they call they’re going to start their search online to see who to call, if they don’t already have an agent, or to find out what number to call their agent at,” explained Schroeder. “That was true before this pandemic, but it’s even more true right now.”

A website can also provide answers to many questions a consumer might have and is available to them 24/7. For many people who are currently working from home and are juggling work responsibilities with potentially looking after their kids, the ability for an agency to provide resources to consumers outside of normal business hours is key since the eight hours a day an agency might be open could already be occupied with other responsibilities. 

Automated email marketing can also give an agency a leg up since it provides a follow-up touch point for a prospect if the agent is too distracted with their kids at home and misses the reminder.

“That can help fill the gaps that might be happening right now,” explained Schroeder, noting that rating portals are other important digital tools agents can introduce. “Having that actual live rate on the website when a customer is there and engaged is super important because if they have to wait for a call to answer even more questions before they get their quote, more than likely you’ve lost them.”

More broadly, using digital tools can help agencies stay in touch with clients during a stressful and anxiety-ridden time. For example, agencies that put on live events regularly can pivot them online and host a digital event using video conferencing tools, such as Zoom, Facebook Live or GoToMeeting. It’s a great way to get people together during a time when they might not be able to attend in-person events, says Schroeder.

While the coronavirus doesn’t have many upsides, agents can look at this as an opportunity to use any downtime they might have (since insurance quoting levels are below average right now) to survey the various digital tools that are available to them and take stock of which ones are the best fits for their business.

“There are the agencies who have said, ‘Yes, I want to look into adding this tool. I understand it’s important, but I just don’t have the time right now,’” said Schroeder. “Now, they’re not as busy … so if you’ve been meaning to add to your technology toolbox or replace a tool because it’s not the right fit anymore, now is the golden opportunity [to do so]. You might find that there are some special deals in place that you can take advantage of and, with more time on your hands, you are able to do your due diligence and evaluate the tools that are out there so you find the best tool for your agency.”

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