In today’s increasingly digital society, insurance agencies are under enormous pressure to elevate their customer experience and client engagement strategies. The premise is simple. Thanks to the easy connectivity and instant gratification delivered by online retail giants like Apple and Amazon, as well as the superior digital service provided by banking institutions, travel agencies and other commercial services, consumers now expect insurance agencies to provide the same instant, digital access to information and services.
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Fortunately, insurance agencies are generally tuned into this trend. More and more agencies are using insurance technology to improve client engagement and deliver value-added services to customers, while also increasing their operational efficiencies. Some are now using technology to automate lower value, routine interactions - like getting insurance cards, getting certificates of insurance, and updating policyholder information – in order to deliver more value through higher impact interactions and advisory services.
“Fundamentally, insurance agencies have to be able to deliver their core value proposition in a digital world,” commented Shaun McNeill, vice president of sales at EZLynx, a provider of comparative rater software and agency management systems (AMS) for insurance agencies. “Customers are starting to expect more digital engagement from their agencies, beyond the traditional brick and mortar services that they’ve always provided. They want to be able to access their policy information, get an ID card, or make a claim from their mobile phones, without having to call the agency and talk to a customer service representative.”
Advances in automation are beneficial for client engagement. For example, some agencies are using artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chat bots to communicate with clients, collect information and then advise about the most suitable action, whether that’s self-serving via an agency portal or speaking directly to an advisor. Today, that AI technology is able to field basic inquiries without human involvement, opening up more time for agents to focus on higher-value tasks.
“There’s a lot of interaction that can be had at the individual customer level that looks, feels and acts like an active relationship, but it isn’t actually dependent upon a human for delivery,” McNeill told Insurance Business. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of that over time – and the more, the better, in my opinion, because then agents can really focus on their core advisory role.”
Different lines of business require different strategies from a digital engagement perspective. In personal lines home and auto insurance, for example, digital engagement has to start at the beginning of the transaction, McNeill stressed. Today, people can go online and get an auto insurance quote within minutes and without any significant effort. Insurtechs, in competition with the more traditional agencies, have captured customers by garnering activity through website interactions with dynamic user-interfaces, through search engine optimization, and through channel marketing. As such, consumers now expect the same insurance shopping and quoting opportunities through traditional agency websites.
“Agencies have to keep that digital engagement going through the servicing phase,” McNeill added. “How easy is it for consumers to get information back and forth? How easy is it for a consumer to get a quote without being subject to an inquisition? Is your agency leveraging third-party data to augment and verify information? These are all questions agencies need to consider today. Availability is also key. Consumers want to be able to interact with their agency whenever they need to and with as little resistance as possible.”
In the commercial lines space, the industry has long been trying to introduce tech-driven efficiencies. Tools like commercial lines comparative raters have been around for a long time, but it still takes a lot of work for agencies to build a complete inventory with carriers, backed by a quick and meaningful data exchange. According to McNeill, there’s a lot more that can be done in terms of real-time communication between agencies and carriers in the commercial lines space in order to help agencies move towards a similar customer engagement cadence that they’ve reached in personal lines.
“The first thing agencies must do if they want to enhance their client engagement strategies is ensure they have the appropriate data,” said McNeill. “Almost everybody has a mobile phone number today. Are you collecting that information as part of your regular interaction with the customer? Is it in your database, your management system, and your CRM? Every time you’re interacting with the customer, are you informing them that you have a client portal and are you encouraging them to visit it to get information? Are you putting up artificial barriers to that more enhanced, digital interaction because of your own bias, or are you trying to change the expectations and behavior of your customers in how they interact with you?
“Are you doing meaningful things with your website, with your social media, and with your communication at renewal? Are you just throwing out a quote, or are you sharing valuable information about what’s influencing that quote? For example, if carriers take rate in a particular state because of past wildfire losses, agencies should communicate that and be an educational resource for their clients. This elevates the value of the agency, beyond just a place where people go to transact business. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that agencies can pick in order to start the process. And then, as their delivery of services starts to evolve, it will start to snowball because customers will ask for more.”