In my previous post, we examined the insurance agent’s surprising resilience to predictions of their immediate death, which date back at least 25 years. In summary, the news of the agent’s death has been greatly exaggerated. Agents control about 80% of the homeowners market and 65% of the private car market today as most customers still prefer to do business with agents.
So since they are not going anywhere, it is natural to ask: how can carriers and agents work better together to serve customers and drive growth?
Carriers have made significant investments in digital sales and service capabilities, clouds, CRM systems and artificial intelligence-driven chat to reduce the cost of complaints and service. But I think there is still a lot of room for improvement when it comes to using technology to improve agent capacity to drive sales growth and deliver a better customer experience. Ignoring this can not only miss opportunities but also create risks.
For example, we have seen operators launch initiatives to direct all customer service calls through central service centers. Agents still sell the policies, but when the customer needs help afterwards, they are directed away from the agent and towards an automated service system instead of connecting to the agent or agency staff that they already know and trust.
Programs like this both remove one of the agent̵7;s greatest strengths and risk alienating customers who prefer to talk to their local agent. Successful agents use service opportunities to strengthen relationships and drive cross-selling. Approaches like the disintermediate agent have the potential to negatively impact both sales and retention.
This is not to say that call centers, digital self-service or chat technology should not be used, but rather that customers should be able to choose how they want to get involved.
Catalytic collaboration through technology
I see three distinct areas where carriers can use technology to work with agents to improve the agent’s performance, the carrier’s performance, and the carrier’s value proposition to the agent.
Most agents do not have the scale to consistently and successfully use techniques such as artificial intelligence or crawlers in their marketing efforts. But carriers do! Carriers also have access to huge amounts of data, both internal and external, which they can break to gain practical insights.
For example, does a current customer buy prams? This can be an opportunity for a life insurance discussion. Do they look at real estate ads or mortgage rates? They are likely to either refinance their home or look for a new one. Conversation ads on social media can be used to generate leads when a prospect is actively looking and therefore most likely buys insurance. Announcing an agent in real time when events like these occur creates win-win scenarios for agents, carriers and customers.
With the help of artificial intelligence and speech recognition, carriers can take advantage of the expertise of their best sales agents and provide scripts, objections and second best deals to all agents – on their computer screens – when they have sales conversations.
There are many opportunities for collaboration here. Examples include technology that allows a customer to have a chat or call option from a robust affiliate site; integrate self-service and citation capabilities from an agent website with messages sent to an agent for follow-up after a customer-initiated action; and options for booking an appointment with an agent or agent staff digitally. These features should be available on both the agent’s website and the operator’s website. Carriers should embed an agent somewhere in each customer service loop, as consumer preferences vary from transaction to transaction.
These are just a few examples of how carriers and agents can work together for mutual benefit right now. If you are interested in learning more, keep an eye out for an upcoming white paper on the subject from me and my colleagues. I will write about this when it is released.
In the meantime, I would like to connect and answer all the questions you have about today’s insurance landscape. I can be reached here.
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