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March 4, 2020

Killing Inefficiencies at Agencies

Summary:

Through three simple steps, a digitally enhanced insurance agency can modernize processes dreaded by agents and clients.

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

There’s a quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” While Ford was speaking about cars, there is still a lesson for the insurance industry. In an increasingly digital world, agencies and the insured don’t need to continue trying to improve outdated coverage processes just because they’ve been a cornerstone of the industry for the last century or more. Obsolete but convenient practices are costing both parties time and money.

The “horses” of the insurance industry are the paper and PDF forms still used to this day as the main means to complete the insurance application and renewal process. Confusing forms can take weeks or months to pass between agents and the insured before finally being completed correctly, wasting valuable time. In the worst-case scenario, incorrect forms are sent to market, resulting in incorrect coverage for the insured. 

Automation is the solution that the industry didn’t know it needed, but, for those who use it, there is no question of ever going back. With current technology, agents can provide their clients with digital forms that auto-populate duplicate answers, check in on the status of their client’s application and provide help, insight and advice in real time. Agents and the insured can become significantly more efficient.

Cost pressures will always be a factor for businesses across all industries, but long-term cost management is possible if insurance agencies reevaluate technological solutions in three simple areas:

1. Maintain Online Collaborative Systems

The current application and renewal process is unnecessarily complex and confusing. It includes dozens of forms and applications to manage, with many including repeat questions. Moving the renewal process into an easy-to-use online experience allows both agency staff and the insured to access information on their own, freeing up time to complete application and renewal forms at everyone’s convenience. 

An easy, central location cuts back on either party having to track down tangible papers or multiple PDF file forms across email and envelopes. A one-stop shop that works both ways can allow clients to complete forms, share documents, update information and more. Information flows seamlessly to agents, who can interact in real time. 

See also: How to Innovate With an Agency Partner  

Having both the agent and the insured work together within the same hub to complete the renewal process eliminates the inefficient back-and-forth across meetings, emails and phone calls.  

2. Use Digital Smart Forms

The current application and renewal process is plagued by mounds of paperwork that both the agent and insured must continually update and track. If one piece is missing, it’s time wasted for agency staff who must go back and forth with the client. This process leaves room for errors and omissions. Digital smart forms make all the hassle and lost time go away.

Smart forms and applications that live online include features such as automapping, which autopopulate common answers from one form to another. The need for insureds to constantly fill out the same data over and over again, from one year to the next, is eliminated. Smart online forms can also be customized by hiding certain questions that are not necessary for going to market, attaching comments within the forms to streamline communication and building in e-signatures to remove the need of printing, scanning, emailing and faxing.

Instead of a manual data swap susceptible to faulty procedures and a huge liability for mistakes, automation via smart forms provides a digital on-ramp that helps agencies achieve unparalleled workflow efficiencies and an exceptional customer experience.

3. Set Automated Reminders

Moving toward automation doesn’t necessarily mean applications and renewals are entirely hands-off. In fact, automation encourages opening communication channels between the agent and insured that would’ve been taken up by excessive administrative work. The insurer can provide notes, comments or tips within the application questions to help guide the insured through the process.

See also: Using Technology to Enhance Your Agency  

As application deadlines approach, it’s imperative to keep that communication open, especially by leveraging automated email reminders. Automated reminders can allow for a collaborative process while saving time. Such reminders can be sent at increasing intervals as the clock ticks down toward a deadline. Agents, instead of constantly drafting manual emails, have time to track follow-ups.

A digitally enhanced insurance agency takes a process dreaded by agents and clients and moves it into a modern landscape. If agency leaders take full advantage of automation technology, they can have a more effective agency.

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About the Author

Mike Furlong is CEO and co-founder of Indio Technologies, a software platform for commercial insurance brokers. He is an entrepreneur whose career spans finance and technology.

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