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July 23, 2020

4 Keys to Agency Modernization

Summary:

Agencies must modernize to survive, but where do you start? Here are four guideposts that can help.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

Digital transformation has been a strategic goal across the insurance industry for years, and, thanks to  recent events, there’s never been a better time to make it an urgent priority. With both customers and agents shifting toward digital tools for nearly every need over the last few months, independent agencies are starting to fully recognize the potential of modernization to improve efficiency, service and profitability. 

In fact, new evidence shows agencies that adopt a suite of best-practice technologies in four key areas of modernization see up to 3X higher revenue growth compared with the industry average. That represents a huge potential for even the smallest independent agencies to increase profitability, expand to new markets and services and re-invest in agency growth.

See also: The Rules of Digital Transformation

For agencies that are ready to make the move but are unsure where to start, here are four areas of agency modernization that should be your first priorities:

1. Delivering a modern digital experience for clients. There’s an app for everything these days, and consumers have come to expect the convenience, 24/7 access and self-service capabilities that digital options provide. Agencies that offer online and mobile app access to policy data, transactions, documents and more can give their customers the timely, streamlined experience they expect when it fits their schedule—without having to wait until business hours or playing phone tag with the agent. 

Even better, aside from making your customers’ life easier with digital access, you can make your job easier, too. Providing a DIY service eliminates the time your agents have to spend mailing policy ID cards, processing payments and performing other routine tasks. This gives them more time to spend working directly with clients providing consultation and risk advisory services. 

2. Efficient agency management. Most agencies have an agency management system (AMS), but are you fully taking advantage of it? Many don’t keep up with training on new features or get new agents formally trained on their platform of record, instead taking a learn-while-doing approach. That means you could be missing out on some of the most valuable efficiency and productivity tools available. 

Meanwhile, there are also some great workflow automation and document management systems that can help to further streamline processes and improve client service. Tools like automated carrier downloads and multi-carrier submissions processes can substantially improve agent productivity, once again freeing them to spend more time working directly with clients.

3. Streamlined market connectivity. One of the challenges agencies face in delivering the best service to clients is a lack of real-time data on carrier appetite, pricing and efficient submissions. As the market shows signs of hardening and prices start inching up, your clients may begin shopping around. Agencies that can reach out to more markets faster to get the best coverage options for the best price will win their business.

Tools like comparative rating and electronic submissions platforms allow agencies to streamline the process of gathering client information and get that data to underwriters faster. For example, instead of separate individual submissions, an agent could input all the data about a new client once and get results back from multiple carriers at once. And with more efficient systems for submitting risks, agents can quickly identify which carriers have an appetite for that business and secure the best protection for their clients.

4. Unlock the power of data. Individually, many agencies are likely sitting on an untapped treasure trove of data, and the industry as a whole has been slow to leverage data analytics to drive business growth. There have been a number of hurdles to bringing data and analytics into daily agency business practices, including:

  • Unstructured data trapped in PDF documents,
  • The lack of a standardized data model for the industry,
  • Little investment in analytics resources, and 
  • A fear that “data science” will get in the way of the personal touch the insurance industry is built around

But recently we’ve seen substantial progress in overcoming these challenges, including technologies that put cross-sell and upsell opportunities directly in front of agents within the tools they already use every day. By incorporating user-friendly data analytics into your agency workflows, agents can quickly act on opportunities to grow sales, prevent churn and deliver better, more insightful service to clients.

See also: Strategic Planning in the COVID-19 Era

With agency consolidation, market evolution and increasing client and employee expectations, independent agencies are feeling the pressure to change. But an ever-broadening field of technology options can make the process feel daunting and overwhelming. Starting with these four key areas of modernization and focusing on integrated solutions that work together, you can chart a course to a more service-oriented, productive and profitable agency.

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About the Author

James Thom leads Vertafore’s corporate development team and guides the company’s relationship with other insurtech companies through their Orange Partner Program.

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