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March 17, 2021

Lessons on Reaching Customers Remotely

Summary:

Tech companies have mastered digital communication because they have always sold products and services to customers remotely.

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Although insurers have readily adopted technologies to serve their customers, they’ve been less enthusiastic about using the same technologies to support their employees. Perhaps that’s one reason only 4% of millennials in 2018 showed an interest in working in insurance and 28% of financial services employees expected to leave their employers within five years.

To remedy this talent problem, there’s been a call for insurance companies to adjust their organizational structures, give young talent greater flexibility and improve their work cultures. If collective calls for change were the push, then the pandemic was the shove. Practically overnight, insurance companies had to adopt tech solutions for their employees and agents to maintain business continuity without being in the office or visiting prospects and clients. One recent survey reports that 60% of insurance professionals who responded have been working from home 100% of the time during the pandemic.

It’s clear that the insurance industry may not return to “normal” for the foreseeable future. When the first wave of the pandemic hit, companies learned to use tech to facilitate business. Now, the challenge will be adopting tools and practices that balance the best of technology without losing the one-to-one connectivity that’s the industry’s lifeblood.

Social Media and the Future of Work for Insurance Companies

The insurance industry’s evolution may have been slow until recently, but the industry hasn’t been stagnant. Most companies have shifted toward providing more customer-centric experiences.

Some have leveraged artificial intelligence to deploy more personalized services, such as using chatbots to answer inquiries or process claims. These solutions can serve as a framework for using even more advanced technologies. For instance, casualty companies are using IoT-connected sensors, real-time satellite information and unmanned aerial vehicles to assess accidents and natural disasters with unprecedented speed and efficiency.

No matter how useful these solutions may be, however, they cannot replace the human connection, an essential element in insurance. In my view, success with technology starts with taking the authenticity of relationships to digital channels, social media being chief among them. Here’s why:

1. Social media helps maintain smooth, consistent communication.

Communication skills have always separated the underperformers from the superstars, and, in insurance, effective and proactive customer communication is king. In fact, a survey from Collinson showed that two-thirds of customers want further communication from their insurance providers, and three-quarters would like to receive product and benefits recommendations. Yet most insurance companies reach out only for transactional matters like policy updates (67%) and renewal notices (79%).

The tech industry has mastered digital communication because tech companies have always sold products and services to customers remotely. Now, it’s time for the insurance industry to adopt a similar communication style, and social media is the medium of choice. This is especially true now that American adults are using social media more frequently. Insurance companies must prioritize consistent, engaging social media communication with prospects and customers to future-proof their businesses.

See also: Insurance Tips for the Remote Workforce

2. Social media allows agents to connect with customers from anywhere.

Many tech companies were already experimenting with remote work before COVID-19. Twitter, for example, was testing ways to create a decentralized digital workforce. Now, more are pledging to embrace remote work permanently

While a permanently digital workforce might not suit insurance companies as well, there is still a lesson to be learned: The impacts of the pandemic have launched us into a lasting transition to the future of work. As agents turn to social media as a new way to connect with their customer base without the opportunity to meet face-to-face, they’re discovering that no other marketing channel can come close to replicating the two-way dialogue of face-to-face conversations. The benefit of connecting with customers from anywhere at any time won’t be lost once agents can meet with clients in person again. Social media outreach and engagement should continue alongside traditional communication tactics as an efficient way to form connections.

3. Social media amplifies the voice of your best brand ambassadors.

Tech companies have understood for years that people trust other humans over brands and companies. It’s no wonder tech influencers on social media can gain millions of followers. Insurance companies should take note and put real people behind the face of the brand to build trust.

An insurance carrier’s agents have, arguably, the most intimate knowledge of the company’s culture, service offerings and customer needs, so the marketing team would be wise to tap this organic source of advocacy. Empower agents to use social media on behalf of the brand, whether that means posting branded content to humanize the brand, sharing educational articles for customers and prospects or simply answering questions and concerns directly.

Don’t forget to arm them with the right tools and content to represent your brand properly. As digital natives enter the industry, they’ll want access to resources to help them succeed and organizations that will offer egalitarian structures. Social selling gives each agent a voice and flattens the organizational structure. However, as agents have greater geographic flexibility, it’s important to manage social media activity for compliance and brand continuity.

Insurance companies rely on genuine connections and risk management expertise daily, but the workforce won’t be back in the office anytime soon. With digital transformation already underway in the industry and the astronomical growth of social media use among adults, it’ll be easier for them to find their footing in the future of work.

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About the Author

Gregory Bailey is president and CPO at Denim Social. He was licensed to sell insurance at the age of 20, continued as an agent in the industry for the next nine years and then stepped into the corporate world of insurance.

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