There was a time, not so long ago, when the mantra of the insurance experts was disintermediation. Agents and brokers? Let's get rid of them. But agents and brokers not only survived; they're thriving, to the extent that a successful insurtech like Clearcover has someone—that would be you—focused on nurturing relations with them. Could you start us off with a bit of perspective on Clearcover's thinking?
Yes, many thought that agents would be old news pretty soon, and the pandemic probably heightened that belief, but we don't think that's the case. That's why we launched the independent agent channel starting in 2019.
There are some customers who have strong digital desires but who rely on agents for their insurance needs, and we need to make sure we're paying attention to those people. Agents have such a plethora of knowledge, not only about insurance, obviously, but also about customer expectations. We want to ensure that they can continue doing what they’re doing by embracing technology that we can bring them.
What does that technology look like?
D2C [direct-to-consumer] companies brag about how quickly you can quote and bind by yourself online, while talking about how you may wait on hold for an agent, or your producer is out of the office and you wind up in a long, drawn-out process. We feel like we have the responsibility to help speed up this process for agents so they're just as competitive as if their customers were going to D2C. And our AI makes decisions in a tenth of a second on whether a customer is a good fit for our products.
There's also the nitty gritty stuff in the agency. It's important that we're integrated with the agency’s CRM [customer relationship management], so information is being transferred from our database to theirs. We also, in general, need to help agencies speed up their processes so they can keep up with customers' expectations.
How far along do you think you are in the process? And what would be the next step or two that you could take to make the life of an agent easier?
More and more agents are hearing the term "embedded insurance," and we want to help agents make sure they can participate. We want to provide them with the APIs [application programming interfaces] or QR codes so they can tie into referral networks and make it easy for customers to click on a link and get a quote. We're hearing a lot about embedded insurance.
We also need to help agents adapt to new technology. At the end of 2021, we did a survey of agents—they weren't necessarily Clearcover agents—and found that 90% said they had to change their technology practices to keep up during the pandemic. Okay, that's not too surprising. But 67% said they still lacked confidence in their ability to keep up with technology. That was really surprising to me, because they had just gone a year and a half fully living in a techie, probably virtual environment.
When we have one-on-one conversations with agencies, we try to give them confidence, and we talk them through how things work in the background, to remove any concerns. For instance, we push hard to make sure customers download the mobile app, where you can digitally sign your documents. And I think some agents worry: What happens when a customer downloads the Clearcover app? Do I lose some control over the customer’s experience and their insurance journey? So, we assure agents that we’re only going to feed, positively, into the journey.
We also educate agents. My favorite example about the power of a mobile app is a personal one. I just had to update my banking information with another carrier I will not name. They sent me a secure PDF that I could use to provide the information, which they would then put into their system. That made me wildly uncomfortable. And we know from our own research that a big reason that customers want to download the mobile app is just to put in their own banking information.
With a mobile app, documents are sent to the customer’s email. That's one less thing for the agent to worry about. And now we have a permanent digital file of it. The mobile app also means they're already equipped with the ability to submit a claim and with the ability to update certain things about their policy on a Saturday morning when maybe the agency isn't able to.
Are there other technologies that you think are especially important that you're going to lean into?
We've been using AI since 2020 to help agents find quality long-term prospects by predicting if a customer is a good fit for them and us.
We've also focused a lot on speeding the claims process, so agents can instead direct their attention to generating more business in their agency. Like a lot of carriers, we have a lot of data on claims, so we determine if one is eligible for an expedited payment. We've paid a claim in as little as seven minutes from the time we received it.
How about digital payments?
Yes. And here's a cool thing: We now offer Uber credits to eligible customers if they don't need a rental car right away. I, myself, am currently in a rental car because of a claim that happened in April, and the parts just now came in. So, I would be a good case: You could give me the Uber credits in April, but I'm not going to use them until August.
Last question: What would you say most makes Clearcover stand out from your competition?
I think ease-of-use is where we have a leg up, especially if we have an agency that's particularly passionate about us.>
I'm a big fan of ease-of-use. Good luck, and thanks for taking the time.
Kaitlyn Taylor is the director of agency accounts at Clearcover, the tech-driven car insurance company. She currently oversees the distribution of Clearcover's product through Clearcover's growing independent agency channel.