Tag Archives: crm

Bridging the Gap in Employee Benefits

Onboarding new groups remains an arduous, cumbersome part of the enrollment process for employee benefits insurers. While proposals are well-automated, and so is policy administration, between the two comes group onboarding. And that area has not been automated, leaving a gap that carriers fill with a hodgepodge of methods.

Complexity lies in the fact that each product—group medical, dental, life, vision and disability—requires different data to be collected. But the data gathered during the rating and proposal process isn’t sufficient. The employee’s gender, date of birth, zip code and perhaps salary aren’t enough to issue policies and pay claims.

Besides additional employee information, the insurer needs corporate information, such as affiliates, federal tax identification numbers and ERISA plan numbers. Many employers have multiple billing divisions that pay premiums separately. How to collect that information has plagued insurers for decades.

See also: 4 Key Elements for Onboarding Producers  

Two factors compound urgency. First, because about 80% of group plans renew on Jan. 1, insurers face a big crunch in the fall gathering data from paper forms, emails and the like. Additionally, employers—especially those sponsoring small and medium-sized groups—are changing insurers more often as they try to save every dollar on employee benefits. Groups of 50 to 200 lives often go out to bid annually.

Thus, the costs of onboarding a new client can no longer be amortized over five years. Carriers need more automated, cost-effective ways to onboard groups.

Some insurers have tried using CRM systems and other workarounds to improve efficiency. But those attempts have failed, and the process remains largely a manual one.

Enrollment solutions that address onboarding are, however, being developed. Successful vendors will have to provide the following:

Automated data capture. Manually entering information into the policy administration system results in missing data, errors and time-consuming back and forth. It can make onboarding a three-month process.

Effective importing tools will allow onboarding software to import and map data to system variables for seamless integration and efficiency. Additionally, the solution should include a support portal where human resources administrators can log on and enter data right into the system or use the import function to upload the entire groups.

Data integrity. Employee data must be correct and complete when entered. Built-in rules will enforce quality. For example, if a date of birth is missing or a year is entered incorrectly, the software will flag the error and require the user to fix it. This ensures data integrity and accurate rating.

Security. By eliminating manual data collection and handling, and using portals to enter and store employee information, the onboarding system can provide increased data security. It must comply with privacy regulations regarding personally identifiable information (PII), thereby ensuring a secure way to gather and store employee information.

Flexibility. Integrating onboarding closely with both proposal and policy systems is essential to efficient workflow. Tightly integrating it with your underwriting and proposal system will provide flexibility to easily navigate the sold-case process as changes in the group arise after the policy is sold but before the effective date.

See also: How Insurance and Blockchain Fit  

Onboarding software ultimately may help transform the entire policy lifecycle.

Digital Survival Tools for Agents

Whether the majority of your business is online or in-office, it is crucial for you to have the right tools to help you capitalize on the insurance market and get ahead of the competition in a changing landscape.

It does not matter what type of insurance you are selling, whether it’s employee benefits, life insurance, group insurance, voluntary benefits or property and casualty. While your role may not be directly affected by things like legacy system transformation, robotics and big data, there will be ripple effects. Besides obtaining new clients, presenting renewals and marketing, changes in regulation and advances in technology are all things that agents will have to contend with.

Here are three elements that savvy agents and brokers will want to consider.

Multi-generational marketing

Global populations are now categorized (albeit loosely) into four categories: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Although Baby Boomers are still the largest population, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts Millennials will outnumber Boomers by 2019.

These differentiated markets make targeting sales much more difficult. Fortunately, there are online tools that can support you. The trick here is diversifying your presence. Ensure that you have a presence on multiple channels so that you are able to meet your customers where they are.

See also: 10 Essential Actions for Digital Success  

Update your agency website with a live chat feature, and ensure it is easy to contact you online. Examine whether it makes sense to use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. If you do, you’ll need a strong content strategy that provides real value to pull in visiting prospects.

Don’t just surf the web, observe the web. Set up Google alerts and analytics and Hootsuite streams to follow partners and competitors. Watching for trends will keep you ahead of the game.

Administration tools

A strong agency management system can provide you with everything you need to support your customer lifecycle. When looking for the right one for you, think about CRM and marketing automation. Determine what will make it easier for you to track leads, nurture prospects, close deals and obtain commissions.

Once you’ve sold a policy, a high-quality microphone and webcam will enhance consistent communication with customers remotely on Skype, WebEx, GooglePlus Hangouts or even Facebook.

Get comfortable with automation

As you get comfortable with a new and diversified way of connecting with your customers, you’ll want to consider that insurance carriers are doing the same thing. Accenture’s Technology Vision 2018 report revealed 82% of insurance carriers agreed that their organizations must innovate faster just to stay competitive.

In a world where customers are shopping around for options and prices all the time, retention itself becomes a valuable commodity. Help carriers help you by learning what tools their new systems have to offer so you tap into all the resources available.

Do your insurance companies offer broker portals? Do they offer online quoting capability for immediate results? Can you generate a proposal or immediately sell a policy? Can you offer that functionality on your own website? The carriers that invest in your success by improving sales, underwriting and admin functions for quicker turnarounds and smooth renewals are doing themselves a favor, too.

See also: Agents Must Become ‘Discussion Partners’  

Think strategy

As you determine the best way to move forward, sit down with others on your team, start a Google doc and plan your strategy for the year ahead. As Yogi Berra wisely said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

What free tools will you use? Which ones will you invest money in? How will you track progress to determine ROI? What tools are working for you?

The best agents and brokers will be nimble enough to exploit the tools available to them and prepare for new ones as they arrive. The sooner you start, the more likely you’ll find yourself ahead of the digital curve.

Why AI-Assisted Selling Is the Future

Sales is changing. That’s a fact.

If your agency is still picking up the phone and hoping for the best, things probably aren’t going to turn out the way you imagined.

The real future of insurance lies in leveraging the power of smart technology to streamline the sales process, increase conversions and have more productive agents and brokers.

Sounds like a dream for your business, right?

Every agent and broker wants to be able to sell more efficiently, hitting the right customers with the best products for their needs, and not waste time. Operating this way lets sales professionals shine and provides excellent customer service — something consumers expect today.

So how do you get there?

One way is through the right CRM system. These systems work in three main areas, which we’re going to cover in this post:

  1. Offering sales insights
  2. Boosting productivity
  3. Providing flexibility during the sales processes

Smarter Sales Via AI-Powered Sales Insights

Consumers today expect a lot more from brokers and agents than ever before. It’s not enough to provide some information and call it a day.

Nope, consumers can get that part done on their own. Thanks to the internet, most consumers have already spent some time researching online and finding the basics. Now, what they are interested in is getting deeper insight and information from sales professionals.

Consumers want to know how a particular product is going to affect their business, where they will be able to see value in their investment and if customer service will continue after purchase.

See also: Strategist’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence  

The salespeople who are getting the best results are those who have seen this shift and have adjusted their approach to leads with this in mind. In fact, after analyzing almost 1 million sales calls, Gong Labs found the best performing “superstar” sales representatives talk about business and value 52% more than their peers.

That focus from merely highlighting features to deeply providing value on how a product or service can help their business can make all the difference when it comes to closing deals.

One area that is helping to drive this shift toward discussing the business and value is through sales insights. Tools today can use AI, predictive analytics and automated insights to offer agents and brokers data from lead scoring to opportunities for cross-selling and upselling customers.

Plus, integrated platforms allow for workflows to be managed across one system, removing back office backlogs and data silos that can get in the way of closing deals. Now, an agent can look at leads and use a data-driven approach to determine which are most likely to close, maximizing their potential.

Faster Sales Via Productivity-Boosting Features

When it comes to sales, downtime is not a good thing. After all, being as productive as possible accelerates the process of closing deals.

And yet, a study by Salesforce found only 36% of the average salesperson’s week is spent selling.

As you can see from the chart, the majority of the time gets dedicated to administrative tasks, service tasks, meetings and traveling.

This is not a sustainable formula for the future of insurance agents and brokers (or sales in general).

The best agents and brokers are also the most productive. They keep track of their leads and customers and are quick to spot any potential issues, such as deals that are slowing down. They also know when to suggest action.

No, this isn’t a unique gift; instead, top brokers and agents know how to analyze the data by utilizing the right tools. Here’s where actionable intelligence can help streamline processes and boost productivity, providing sales professionals with the information they need to prioritize the most promising opportunities.

CRMs that utilize actionable intelligence and workflow automation can update and append activity records and call notes, automatically update the sales pipeline and even configure real-time prices and quotes for customers.

Timeliness matters. After all, in a survey from Demand Gen, 72% of respondents said the timeliness of a vendor’s response to a quote was very important. When brokers and agents can come back with accurate quotes generated with a few clicks within minutes, it makes a big impression on leads and a huge difference in close rates.

More Flexible Sales Processes

It’s rare to find two different insurance businesses that sell in the same way. Companies have their own processes, methods and even brand culture that differentiates one from another, especially when it comes to sales.

With that being said, flexibility in the sales process is essential. A management system that is too rigid can hinder the opportunities for some brokers and agents while having zero focus on the workflow and see a dramatic increase in employee turnover. Both need to be avoided at all costs.

Here’s where introducing a new management system that offers data-driven insights can help provide the flexibility needed without the potential for critical data to slip through the cracks. Automated systems pull data from every corner of the platform consistently and in real time, giving brokers and agents access to lead scores, upsell and cross-sell potential, red flag issues and retention rates.

All of this information can be used in many ways.

The data can be used to populate customizable forms and reports, which can provide leads with policy details, for example. Plus, information is accessible by agents and brokers as well as the back office and management, removing bottlenecks in the system and allowing the necessary parties to get involved at a moment’s notice to move a lead through the pipeline or save a sale.

See also: The Most Important (and Overlooked) Tech  

Flexibility also matters when it comes to customer service. Here is where smart CRM systems can make a massive impact. Studies have shown that companies embracing technology such as predictive analytics see much better results on everything from customer lifetime value to average profit margin per customer.

Numbers like these are essential when you consider that customer retention and upselling to existing customers are some of the best ways to increase revenue.

Having flexibility in the sales process, thanks to better systems and data, can not only convert new customers but keep existing customers happy and coming back for more.

The Bottom Line

The future of insurance is here, and it rests with automation, predictive analytics and AI-powered tools.

The sales professionals who are ready to go all in on it are those who are poised to fully take advantage of the potential and benefits not only offered to them but to their customers, as well.

The Insurer of the Future – Part 5

The previous articles in this series can be found here.

The Insurer of the Future will be class-leading in customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing.

CRM was always a challenge in the past because, unlike banks and retailers, insurers had only small numbers of interactions with their end customers. That made it hard to gather data on the customers’ needs and wants, and limited the ability to build relationships.

See also: The New Agent-Customer Relationship  

But the Insurer of the Future has access to enormous quantities of data about its customers, available from a wide range of external sources. So it ports this data into its own systems, fueling more powerful and accurate analytics. It uses the insights gleaned to reach out to customers — not just to sell them products but to provide genuine value-adds.

Providing value adds to customers, free of charge, enhances customer relationships. So when the Insurer of the Future makes an occasional offer to a customer, it’s the right offer, at the right time, through the channel and device of the customer’s choice. As a result of the Insurer of the Future’s expertise, the customer is significantly more likely to buy.

Compared with its predecessors, the Insurer of the Future has a loyal customer base — driving lower lapse/churn rates, a greater share of wallet and higher Net Promoter Scores.

Roadblocks to Good Customer Relations

For many small to medium-sized insurance carriers, government risk pools and captives, providing personalized customer service continues to be a priority. If your organization or your partners leverage digital technologies, you may have customers who expect that personal touch across channels.

For these carriers, having a solid client relationship management (CRM) strategy is a priority. And while in theory a strategy is a great start, execution on that strategy often hits a couple of roadblocks, especially when it comes to finding the right technology to organize and standardize records related to better management of customer service, marketing and sales. After all, customer data is a lifeline to success for any business, but not having all of your customer data in one easily accessible place is usually a challenge faced by insurers that are on a growth path.

See also: Yes, Personalize — but Get it Right!  

This is complicated when insurers’ functional business units operate in silo fashion. For example, consider this workflow scenario: If underwriting can’t access a policyholder’s payment history or other financial records held in accounting, underwriting must email the accounting department to obtain it. Meanwhile, the customer, impatient for his quote, calls the carrier and is connected to a customer service representative who should be able to view all customer transactions, interactions, renewals, cancellations and other changes being made to the policyholder record, yet is unable to view data that reflects any issues that would affect the underwriter’s delays.

Another roadblock relates to a common complaint among small to medium-sized insurers with limited or frozen budgets—the feeling by employees (users) of having to “do more with less.” Here we have a difficult and potentially negative cycle: If the insurer is operating with outdated technologies and processes and its spreadsheets and email platforms are overwhelmed by a growing customer database, the employee is unable to meet the customer’s needs and, over time, experiences burnout. The customer, meanwhile, is already shopping for another insurance carrier.

For companies responding to these challenges by moving beyond a customer service excellence strategy and on to actual execution of a solution, an integrated CRM system is the next logical step.

This type of technology puts the company in control—and requires rethinking of existing processes and creating process efficiencies. The inclusion of collaboration tools in the CRM help make this task possible, and creates a “team” effect even with the smallest of customer service departments.

By their nature, CRM systems are rules-based, so customer data and records can be made available to the employee who needs it, when they need it. For example, consider the importance of receiving an automated alert of policyholder suspension, which triggers an audit trail, or the ability to build out custom fields to include additional categories, contact types based on demographics, channel partner status and more.

The CRM should automate contacts, quotes, sales, tasks, calendar scheduling and more. But remember, this data automation doesn’t take place in a vacuum; it needs to be insurer-driven and should map to the policyholder’s unique requirements. It also should map to the distribution channel’s requirements, yet another source of critical customer data and the key to a better understanding of the policyholder’s existing status and changing needs.

See also: Distribution: About To Get Personal  

Let’s face it, digital technologies are with us to stay and can provide a powerful means to interact with a growing customer base. For small to mid-sized insurers on a budget, an integrated CRM system—once only an expensive pipe dream—today can be a reality. As your company grows and you have more policyholders than you can relate to personally, a CRM system makes it possible to “keep it personal” while providing superior customer service.