ITL FOCUS: Agents & Brokers - Insurance Thought Leadership

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March 31, 2021

ITL FOCUS: Agents & Brokers

Summary:

ITL FOCUS is a monthly initiative featuring meaningful topics as they relate to innovation in the risk management and insurance industries.

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APRIL 2021 FOCUS OF THE MONTH
Agents and Brokers


FROM THE EDITOR

Mark Twain reportedly once responded to a rumor of a serious illness by saying, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Insurance agents and brokers could have said the same thing over the past decade and will likely be parrying those rumors for years to come.

Exaggeration about death is actually quite common in a world going digital. Look back at the 1970s, when ATMs were being introduced and see the predictions of the demise of bank branches — then go to your nearest city corner or strip mall and have a chuckle with the bank tellers there. Look at all the predictions in the 1990s and 2000s about the demise of travel agents, whose job requires a small fraction of the advice that insurance agents provide. Then realize that there are still 80,000 travel agents in the U.S.


History shows that jobs tend to evolve, rather than disappear. In the case of insurance agents, much of the administrative work will, in fact, go away. AI will allow for auto-fill in forms; clients will enter information directly into computer systems; chatbots will handle routine inquiries about the status of claims and payments; etc.


But the change does mean that agents must move up the food chain, taking on more important advisory roles now that they’re freed from much of the drudgery. Digitization also increasingly means that agents must deliver the kind of smooth, easy interactions that Amazon and other Big Techs provide. (“I have to fax you a form? What’s a fax?”)


Not every agent will migrate easily into the ever-more-digital world, but those who do will find the work more rewarding, both for themselves and for their ever-more-loyal clients.


– Paul Carroll, ITL’s Editor-in-Chief


6 QUESTIONS FOR TONY CALDWELL

We posed six questions to Tony Caldwell, a mentor to independent agencies who has written a number of articles for us on how agencies must adapt.

Let’s start with a general question that has puzzled me. The need for change by agents seems to be well-established by now, but many aren’t adapting. Why is that?


Business owners, in general, who have historically successful business models are typically reluctant to change. They may hope change won’t be necessary and, in some cases, plan to escape the need to change by retiring. With that said, however, I think the biggest reason agents are not adapting is because they don’t know how to do it, and so are overwhelmed by what they perceive as a difficult process. This isn’t unusual, but can be fatal.


The biggest change facing agency owners is increased customer expectations for speed, timeliness and improved experience. As they seek to meet customer expectations, agencies are now competing with innovators in every industry — though many do not realize this. As customers increasingly expect more, and others use technology to deliver services at lower cost, the danger for those who are late, or never adapt, may be that they have become boiled frogs.



WHAT TO WATCH

3 Tips for Increasing Customer Engagement

Customers are rushing to embrace the digital space. Is your business prepared?
Even before the pandemic, insurance customers were moving to digital channels and demanding the kind of smooth experience they get with Google and Amazon. With customers demanding new types of interactions and agencies and companies needing to increase leads in a world that’s gone from face-to-face to zoom, technology doesn’t have to be intimidating. Watch this complimentary webinar and learn more about your customers’ expectations, digital communication channels and how you can expand the way you connect.


WHAT TO READ

Does Pandemic Signal the End of Agents?

There will always be a need for intermediaries who deeply understand customer needs and can create that right combination of coverages.

 

The New Mantra for Agencies

Insurance agencies will need to innovate over the next decade to be nimbler and more cost-efficient than ever before.

 

Trusted Adviser? No, Be a Go-To Adviser

Is earning trust brag-worthy? Isn’t trust the minimum for an adviser-client relationship? The real goal should be achieving “go-to” status.

 

What 2020 Taught Us on Selling Insurance

Insurance policies that are sold online need to be packaged and priced differently than those that rely on face-to-face sales.

 

Of Independent Agents, Heirloom Tomatoes

Direct vs agency is a silly fight. Neither channel maps cleanly to customer preferences. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

 

For Agents, COVID Means Digital or Bust

Survival in the era of COVID-19 will be determined by the independent agent’s ability to implement digitization.

 



WHO TO KNOW

Get to know this month’s FOCUS article authors:


Mark Breading


Tony Caldwell


Tal Daskal


Bill Suneson


Kate Terry


Kevin Trokey


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