With so much focus on the customer experience, we too often overlook a vital area in our own businesses: The agent experience.
- Agents are the unsung heroes in the insurance ecosystem
- Insurance agents face numerous digital and operational challenges that need carrier support
- Satisfied agents mean more business for insurance companies
- Supporting agents starts by putting an insurer in their shoes
- Most retail customers prefer buying policies from insurance agents
Most tech-savvy insurance companies believe the “customer is king” and invest in various digital experience solutions to satisfy them. These firms invest millions of dollars to create digital platforms to serve the proverbial “king customer.”
However, the “customer is king” mantra doesn’t answer this critical question: “If the customer is king, who’s the kingmaker?” Answering this question is vital because every king has a kingmaker. In our insurance context, the agent is the kingmaker because they create the customer. This missing link has made many insurance companies forget to prioritize their agents in their digital experience efforts.
Is the kingmaker link missing in your digitization efforts? We created this guide to help give your “kingmakers” their deserved place in your digital transformation plans. We’ll walk you through ten simple steps that help insurance companies achieve the perfect balance between “kings” and “kingmakers” in the digital experience.
We don’t dispute that technology is revolutionizing how insurers do business. The market offers many innovative solutions that enable carriers to optimize digital platforms for increased sales. However, many retail policyholders still prefer buying through agents. The truth is that tech will not eliminate agents; it will only enhance their performance.
It’s no wonder research shows that most property and casualty insurance sales still go through agents: 80% of insurance customers say they trust agents and prefer buying through them rather than insurance companies.
The above figures and facts cement one lasting reality: Agents are indispensable players in the insurance industry. Therefore, prioritizing their experience in your digital transformation is one way of sharpening your competitive advantage. Eventually, these invaluable allies benefit you and your customers by:
- Promoting and selling your insurance products
- Gladly and soundly advising your end customers
- Supporting your end customers
- Monitoring all insurance claims to ensure they’re settled for you and your consumers
- Performing administrative tasks, such as renewing policies and maintaining consumer records
- Helping you achieve your sales targets faster, more efficiently, and more affordably
Now, are such allies worth all your investment? Yes, they are. They deserve a better digital experience as you transform your platforms for enhanced performance.
We established that agents are every insurer’s priceless assets. So, it’s critical to understand and address their challenges. The coronavirus onset disrupted how many businesses operate. Reduced face-to-face contact diverted customer and prospect traffic to online platforms, making them more inclined to shop online than ever.
This economic disruption also affected thousands of independent insurance agents. It’s no wonder that Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America’s research reveals that nearly 50% of agencies lost revenue. Also, 46% of correspondents attributed their losses to COVID-19 because most of their clients are small businesses that Coronavirus adversely affected. Many small enterprises reduced or even canceled their policies to survive, negatively impacting insurance agents.
So, what should insurance companies do to help their agents during this difficult period? They should support them because, in so doing, they support themselves. Insurers have to support their agents by empowering them to flourish where their customers migrated to — online.
Another survey of 5,000 independent agents disclosed that 99.5% of them say the ease of doing business with a carrier influences their carrier choice. This element should awaken insurance firms to invest in digital solutions that make it easier for agents to thrive online.
Your agents’ indispensable place in your business success ecosystem and their current headaches are a public secret. How you deal with these headaches is the real challenge. Fortunately, the challenges are surmountable if you establish a deep digital bond with your resellers.
Let’s briefly examine how improving your agents’ digital experience benefits them. Your tech-savvy agents will smile all the way to the bank and keep you closer because:
- Research shows that high digital tech adopters grow by at least 12%, 60 times faster than their slow-adopting counterparts.
- Digitally enhanced agents enjoy growth irrespective of their size, geographical locations, or focus.
- They reach a larger audience.
- Adoptive agents enjoy increased geographical coverage beyond their cities and counties to other states.
- These agents widen their customer catchment bases.
Implement these ten steps and watch your agents accelerate your company to greater profitability and growth.
Your agents are your second-most important partners for accelerating business success. They deserve the best experience when dealing with you. If you give them the best experience, they will offer your end customers the same benefit. Ensure that all the online and offline portals through which agents interact with you are easy to use.
Your website, online forms, and agent support systems must be convenient so agents don’t waste time trying to reach you. These digital platforms should promote transparency and ease of access to any information or resource your resellers need to up their game. Don’t forget to personalize the systems to allow your agents to serve customers faster and more efficiently.
Don’t forget that the customer is king and the agent the kingmaker. That means that if the kingmaker isn’t working efficiently in a digital ecosystem, you won’t get sales from them. So, use AI-powered communication systems to perform automatic checks when your agents’ licenses are almost expiring. You may utilize the same tools to send automatic reminders or inform them regarding fresh educational materials to advance agent performance. Updating and informing your agents this way enhances their digital experience.
Lastly, build digital ecosystems make it easier for these valuable partners to comply. For example, your onboarding system should help new agents reach compliance quickly and start selling immediately. The digital platforms have to make it convenient for them to receive the green light to start selling. Otherwise, red tape will drive them straight into your competitors’ bosom.
Payment is a critical insurance component. Creating optimized, omnichannel payment options is an essential way to boost your agents’ digital experience. You have to provide numerous ways to receive bills and pay premiums. Multiple payment options increase your online adoption rates, enhancing everyone’s experience — agents and customers. Eventually, your agents will:
- Not suffer payment delinquency
- Reduce their billing-related calls to your main offices
- Not crumble under policy terminations
- Have more time to focus on sales
However, optimize all your payment channels for satisfactory results. For example, they should allow your end-users to start payments on desktop and finish them later on mobile appliances. There should be no difference in their ease of use across these options.
Still on payment issues, set up AI-enabled payment reminders. Otherwise, your agents may crash under avoidable policy cancellations and delayed payments. Most Americans live in the fast lane that makes them forget to do many things. No wonder reminder apps are all over the market that help people remember to do what they should do.
Therefore, support your agents’ payment systems with automatic reminders to help consumers pay promptly. Remember to diversify these digital reminders to include voicemail, text, and email channels. These personalized payment reminders should be detailed to include due dates, amounts due, and policy type. The reminders also ought to update customers on any changes made to their policies. Results? An improved end-user experience that directly motivates your agents, and in turn, rewards you with more sales.
Understanding your agents’ diverse roles and relationships is essential for enhancing their experience in a digital ecosystem. It’s vital to understand that independent agents have multiple relationships they manage, including your competitors. Understand their complex nature to make it more convenient for them to deal with your company.
Further, these agents handle multiple clients directly — yours and your competitors’. Understand them so it becomes easy to know when these relationships change and how the changes affect your collaboration.
Align all your digital platforms to be agent-friendly and focused the same way you do for your customers. Take time to understand the tools your insurance agents require for digital experience optimization. This way, it will be easier for them to serve your shared clients. Design your sales and process-enabling technologies using contextual research on your agents’ actual selling processes.
Additionally, help your agents to understand your digital engagement rules to avoid confusion and straining your partnership. Make sure they know these rules from a process and sales perspective. Don’t forget to design your agent-facing digital solutions to comply with other systems and technologies they are familiar with and use.
This will help you eliminate barriers and create consistency between your technologies and the other systems insurance agents use. Keep in mind that your digital experience has to enable your agents to continue with their business more efficiently.
All your insurance agents are business people. Thus, compensation is a critical component your digital experience should address. It’s not strange to see disputes arise between carriers and independent agents. Thus, carriers should clearly spell out how they will handle these cases before getting new agents onboard. Technology alone without harmonious relationships won’t motivate your agents to sell more. It’s up to you to help them understand these conflict-resolution mechanisms early. Also, stick to these structures when compensation disputes arise.
These mechanisms should remain in place and keep improving gradually. Avoid overly complex compensation plans to avoid demoralization. Remember, compensation policies assist you in managing your agents’ lifecycles and improving their overall experience on your digital platform. Eventually, you will distinguish your company from the competition, making you an attractive carrier for independent insurance agents to work with.
You should enhance your independent agents’ digital experience by ensuring you never leave them behind. Always bring these vital collaborators onboard whenever you intend to introduce a new technology that promotes their performance. Don’t forget to update them on time whenever you wish to upgrade existing customer- and agent-facing digital experience solutions.
How do you move in tandem with your agents? By always involving them before any innovation or updates that affect their dealings with you or customers. Research their needs to understand them and make your agents feel they also own envisioned solutions. Don’t forget to get their views, suggestions, and feedback before launching new platforms. This will help them feel a part of your company and become more vocal promoters of it.
Claim payment is a make-or-break component in any insurance company. Create transparency in all your agent-facing claims solutions. The digital platforms should clearly inform your agents on claims and application processes or progress. For example, if a claim or payment might be delayed due to unavoidable reasons, the systems should promptly inform your agents. This timely and transparent update will help your agents manage customer expectations.
Lastly, don’t let the flame of engagement die. Fanning this blaze through regular and meaningful communication boosts your agents’ loyalty in the digital and physical world. Remember, hi-tech systems aren’t ends in themselves; they’re tools for improving your agents’ experience. Aim to personalize every experience based on how customers interact with your agents.
Should we say more? We would have loved to, but we have said enough, at least for now. The ball is in your court to contact us to equip you with digital experience solutions that will help your agents experience everything we’ve discussed.