How far has agency-focused technology actually come?

How far has agency-focused technology actually come? | Insurance Business

How far has agency-focused technology actually come?

The insurance technology space might be filled to the brim with investments and start-ups, but not all insurance companies are seeing an equal number of solutions coming their way. Insurance agencies, for example, likely don’t see as many tech solutions aimed at their business processes as carriers, wholesalers, and MGAs do ­­– but that’s OK, says one expert.

“If you look at the industry, you have what is essentially a four-legged stool. You have your agents and brokers who represent the distribution (depending on the carrier) and are selling the products. They’re also the ones that own the relationship with the consumer,” said Becky Schroeder, chief marketing officer at Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC). “Then you have your carriers and they’re the ones who fulfil that product and provide that coverage. They’re the ones that in the event of a claim work through the whole process with the consumer, so they’re the ones that actually control the price and the product.”

There are also vendors, like ITC, and insurtechs that provide technology to either agents or carriers, or in some cases both, to help them run more efficiently and provide a good experience for their consumers. Finally, the fourth leg is the consumer themselves.

“Really, with the agents and brokers, I think there’s not as much insurtech focus on them because of where they’re focused in the industry, whereas carriers have a lot of back office processes they have to run so technology has a much bigger and deeper impact there than it does on the agency side,” said Schroeder.

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That doesn’t mean that agencies have nothing to implement when it comes to technology capabilities. Insurance applications, for instance, are one innovation that agents can offer their clients.

“Apps connect to their management system, so the consumer can, on the app, pull up their policy and start that process while interacting with their agent,” explained Schroeder, adding that portals and live quoting on agency websites are other useful innovations that agents are using to help consumers have the experience they want. Automated marketing platforms are another useful tool for agencies, as are solutions that allow them to communicate with customers automatically over email, text message, or phone, depending on clients’ preferences.

Then there’s ITC’s own newly launched platform, the updated TurboRater for Websites.

“We completely redesigned the consumer rating solution that agents can plug into their website. That is a completely different workflow than what had been on the market before,” said Schroeder.

No matter what tech tools agencies want to implement, agency leaders first need to make time to analyze where plug-ins and solutions would be the best fit. Something to avoid: buying technology blindly without first doing this kind of analysis.

“It’s a boring process and nobody likes it because it takes a lot of thought and planning and not answering the phone or email, and just sitting down with a pen and paper or a giant whiteboard and walking through the steps of every touchpoint a consumer has with your agency,” Schroeder told Insurance Business. “What does that whole process look like from the moment they contact you for that first quote through to selling the first policy the first time, to renewing a policy, to adding an additional policy, to if they decide to leave your agency? What are those touch points and what is the customer experience? Then, look for where there are opportunities to use technology and make it better.

“It’s definitely a lot of work and it’s intimidating because it’s not something that you’re going to see a return on immediately, and you’re not going to have the answers immediately. But knowing exactly what that looks like from the consumer [perspective] is going to be so helpful.”