While tech innovation is quickly transforming how people buy insurance, most innovation is focused on direct-to-consumer (DTC). Yet the majority of P&C insurance sales still happen through an agent. Our own research indicates that while 80% of consumers do not trust insurance carriers, they do trust agents, and, for this reason, still prefer to buy insurance through an agent, rather than online. If these numbers are any indication, insurance agents are not going away yet.
Still, the process of buying insurance through an agent–for customers, carriers and agents alike–remains cumbersome, with long lapse times, large margins of error and a lot of paperwork. These problems are deciding factors in why agents and customers choose to bring their business elsewhere and can lead to millions of dollars of lost premiums for carriers and a general distrust among agents and customers.
Focusing on improving the agent-driven sales process is a win-win-win–for customers, agents and carriers. Below are a few simple ways that carriers can incorporate agents into their customer experience strategy.
1. Ensure accurate quotes Carriers must do everything they can to ensure that quotes are as accurate as possible and issued without rework. Quote inaccuracy leads to a breakdown of trust on all sides, causing both consumers and agents to lose trust in carriers, creating friction within the quoting process and extending and convoluting the sale. By exposing risk ratings, ordering reports early and ensuring that the level of accuracy is the same between comp-raters and proprietary systems, carriers can speed the sales process and, through transparency, create trust between agents and consumers.
See also: The New Agent-Customer Relationship
2. Align technology with agent needs, your rules and ACORD standards Ensuring that, as a carrier, you understand the information, systems and tools agents need to service customers and that agents understand your rules can help eliminate unnecessary confusion on both sides of the sales process. Sales enablement tools and SaaS technology that are designed using contextual research on agents' real selling processes help greatly. Make sure your technology accurately represents your rules and that it is transparent to the agent. Moreover, ensuring that any technology you implement is aligned with ACORD standards will create consistency between your technology and other systems agents are used to, further eliminating barriers. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to use your systems so they can go about their jobs.
3. Make servicing and claims as transparent as possible When hailing an Uber with your phone, you know exactly where it is on the map, what it looks like, who the driver is and when it is arriving, to the minute. Agents and customers want similar transparency into what is going on with applications and with claims. Invest in the technology needed to service the customer efficiently and fairly and inform the agent of what’s happening with the customer. Agents appreciate knowing key actions like a late payment or claim so they can manage expectations with the customer.
4. Bring agents along the journey of global transformation initiatives Digital transformation in insurance is about more than just technology. It’s about creating a better experience for everyone and developing the processes and the technology needed to support it. Digitizing business as usual is not the solution. Rather, invest in deep user research and involving all the players involved in an experience to develop the best possible solution for the customer, the carrier and the agent. As you are developing new sales enablement technology, share plans and get feedback from agents on in-progress work. This will not only provide you with valuable feedback but can convert agents into your initiative’s most powerful marketing tool with their colleagues and customers.
See also: How to Enhance Customer Service
According to a survey of 5,000 independent agents, 99.5% of insurance agents say that ease of doing business is critical in choosing which carrier gets their business. Being easy to do business with goes a long way to support agents in their relationship with customers. Agents know when your quotes are not accurate and are frustrated by manual corrections. They will do whatever they can to shield their customers from those frustrations, and sometimes that means choosing a different carrier for their customer’s business. As carriers plan their global transformation initiatives, considering independent agents as a critical kind of user–as critical as, say, a customer–can provide an important competitive edge over other carriers, making them a carrier of choice for independent agents and the first carrier they go to when writing new business.