Tag Archives: digital tools

5 Digital Predictions for Agents in 2019

The rapid technological evolution of the insurance industry will require independent agents to turbocharge their adoption of digital tools in 2019. Consumers have become accustomed to the convenience afforded by artificial intelligence (AI) when it comes to completing day-to-day transactions. Voice assistants allow people to ditch the keyboard and conduct searches by talking to devices. Chatbots enable customers to have personalized interactions tailored to fit their needs. This is the world in which agents are operating, and, to grow, they will have to leap forward and implement more of these technologies into their current offerings.

Here are five predictions that will have a big impact on agencies’ abilities to compete and grow in 2019:

1. Voice search will become more common for insurance.

The rapid adoption of smart devices powered by manufacturers like Google and Amazon are compelling consumers to speak to robots about their needs from their homes and offices and on the go. Insurance is no exception. Predictions indicate half of all searches will be conducted through voice-assisted technology in the near future. As more carriers index their local agents to work with voice services like Alexa and Siri, agencies must ensure that their websites and digital assets respond to advances in voice search. Content strategies will expand beyond conventional keyword campaigns and target phrases to sentences that mimic natural language used between two humans in conversation.

See also: Insurtech: Revolution, Evolution or Hype?  

2. Insurance agent bots will be humanized to create authentic interactions.

Insurance agencies must adopt technology solutions that move their client-focused insurance buying experiences to the online environment. With deep knowledge and expertise in developing personal connections with their customers, agents have the advantage over insurtechs that are limited to simple mono-line customer interactions. Through customizable communication enablers, including chatbots and smart forms driven by automation and artificial intelligence, agents will elevate the emotional intelligence of their websites, social media and emails to speak to the consumer authentically.

3. Google mobile first represents an important frontier for insurance products.

Google mobile-first indexing was formally launched in March 2018 and reinforced in September, which means websites will be indexed and ranked based on the mobile version of their content. Although desktops historically led the way for consumers to research and find products and services that met their needs, it is more critical than ever that agents have mobile responsive sites to not only grow but also maintain the highly coveted search engine real estate that they have worked for years to establish.

4. Texting will increasingly be used to connect with customers.

The rise of mobile users will have an effect on how agents communicate. Texting is a critical line of communication with millennials and will be the preferred method of contact for the next generation of insurance customers. For better effectiveness, texting tools are expected to be integrated with existing email and CRM systems, and innovations in rich communication services (RCS) promise to deliver better app integration, secure transactions and branding for businesses to text.

5. New micro-experiences will become the building blocks for digital expansion.

Agencies are differentiated by the niche markets they sell to and service better than their competitors. Investments in digital content campaigns and user interfaces that cater to specialized prospect and customer segments will rise in 2019. These micro-experiences will enable agencies to have access to a market with carriers, as well as the ability to quote, bind and service insurance online. Micro-experiences will typically focus on commercial lines and specialty insurance for niche markets, such as programs for craft breweries, energy contractors, concrete pumping or marijuana dispensaries, to name a few, and they will offer new opportunities for agencies to expand quickly with digital building blocks that can be easily integrated into existing business and workflows.

See also: Digital Survival Tools for Agents  

2019 will be the year where agents take significant technological leaps – from responsive mobile websites and texting with customers to humanized chatbots and the ability to search for products using voice commands. Agents will look for solutions that allow for the sharing of customer data, requiring platforms to become more open and work together to better them. The New Year will be the start of the next era of independent agents characterized by openness to new digital tools and rapid adoption of the latest technologies

How to Redesign Customer Experience

Humans have amazing capabilities and, even more, they can be amplified by the power of technology. When both are working in harmony, what was once impossible becomes possible. Technology is now the “X” factor that can help you become more efficient while more effectively serving your base. When it is intentionally aligned with human effort, technology acts a weapon you can wield to strengthen your organization, increase the ability of your team and delight your customers or members. Discovering this human/technology balance is a process we often walk our clients through; many of these clients are in the financial services space, which is an industry being transformed by technology as much as any. There will be winners and losers in the financial space and the defining variable will be how well you can learn to integrate humans and technology to deliver your business model. We call this integration Humalogy.

What is Humalogy?

Humalogy is the integration of technology and human effort to improve processes and offer a positive and meaningful impact on an organization. That’s only when Humalogy is properly balanced. Understanding the Humalogy balance is critical because if left unbalanced it can be expensive to an organization, highly infuriating to customers or both. The balance you find will enable you to do some magical things. Here are just a few examples:

See Also: Tips on Improving Customer Experience

  • Increase your individual, team and organizational effectiveness and capacity through lean processes and efficiency
  • Increase the quantity of potential and current customers that you are able to effectively reach with your messaging
  • Create an environment of profit amplification by both reducing costs through automation while shaping a better customer experience through the use of digital tools
  • Implement customer service enhancements through technology-enabled convenience such as self-service
  • Enable people in your organization to be more productive and satisfied in their role, because technology has freed their time to accomplish tasks that humans do well while avoiding mundane, automated assignments. Simply, they’re able to focus on the satisfying, cerebral aspects of their careers.

The Humalogy Scale

We have developed the Humalogy scale to measure the balance of human and technology effort. We use this scale with our clients, many in the risk insurance space. Some processes lean heavily on humans (H5 on the Humalogy scale), and others primarily rely on technology (T5). Zero is an equal balance of effort from both humans and technology. What is important to recognize is that there is no “universally correct” balance. The proper balance for any space is the balance that yields you the highest level of efficiency combined with the best possible customer or member experience.

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For example, H5 would be an insurance agent traveling to an accident and manually filling out a claim. Moving across the scale, we find a claimant snapping a picture of the accident using a smartphone and then filing a claim using a mobile app and receiving payment through direct deposit. This requires much less human effort and so is high on the T-side of the scale.

By defining where these processes are on the Humalogy Scale, it becomes easier to determine where to apply technology to drive efficiency, scalability or repetition. At the same time, in our technology-augmented world, we need to be conscious that some processes can be improved by adding the human elements that supply empathy, innovation and build trust.

Tasks more suited for human work involve rational processing of information, deep thinking, social and emotional intelligence and those tasks that require creativity, intuition and improvisation. Meanwhile, tasks more suited for computers are those that execute rules or processes, involve repetition or mechanization, require big data analysis or are too dangerous or too large or small for a human to accomplish.

Finding Humalogy Balance

Humalogy is important because when you apply this process to your business, it becomes a lens that can help you improve customer service while creating a lean organization that lowers costs.

Have you taken inventory of the technology expectations of your members? No industry is exempt from the evolving expectations of constituents who want access to services easily and instantly. Self-service is how industries are meeting the customer where they are — customers are now equipped to complete tasks that once required a service representative, often from their personal tablet or smartphone. Defining which processes you can automate and provide self-service using technology will help satisfy your customers and endear them to you.

On the other hand, the wrong Humalogy balance can result in poor customer service and a loss of loyalty. If your approach to Humalogy is not planned, often what may have been calculated for good can result in catastrophe. How many times have you felt alienated as a customer because a service provider tipped its Humalogy scale and traded personal touch for an automated call center? If someone wants to speak to a human representative, it is important to offer the opportunity.

Humalogy is a tool that can be considered in a number of functional areas. The two primary ways we apply Humalogy in the risk insurance space is through lean and relationship journey mapping.

Humalogy-Based Lean to Strengthen Process Efficiency

Humalogy-based lean is designed to help organizations improve their back office processes so that they’re more efficient. Some companies follow Lean Six Sigma practices that have emerged from years of optimizing physical and manufacturing processes. These methods are powerful and effective but can be very narrowly focused on the process. At other times, this approach may improve the human parts of the process but fall short when it comes to implementing technology. On the other end of the spectrum, aggressive automation efforts driven by technologists may miss important nuances that may be better handled by humans. In the worst case, a technology-centric approach can result in automating broken processes.

How do you get, and stay, on the right path so that you both improve your processes and automate appropriately? We recommend applying a Humalogy lens that lets you examine a process from some distinct angles:

  • It lets us decide if a process involves a greater emphasis on human effort or technology effort. This helps us understand which processes are too heavily human and in need of automation.
  • It helps determine which processes we should immediately devote attention to improving. We are able to prioritize more effectively.
  • It acts as a reminder that a solution isn’t always a technology solution. Often with processes, a greater human involvement is necessary to help a process run more effectively.
  • When we analyze processes, we are forced to diagram those processes to understand what is happening at each step. This gives deeper insight into how technology may be used to transform a process.

While Humalogy-based lean can help you improve back-office processes, studying Humalogy from the perspective of your customers will help improve their experience. This is accomplished by mapping the relationship journey.

Humalogy to Improve Customer Experience

Relationship journey mapping involves walking alongside your customers as they engage with your organization. We develop a subset of very targeted groups based on individual personas. In this process, we analyze together each critical stage of your customer or member journey and evaluate the touch points where you have the opportunity to engage directly with these personas. The goal of journey mapping is to maximize each opportunity and design the best possible experience for each customer.

See Also: Keen Insights on Customer Experience

The consideration of Humalogy is an important component of our journey mapping process. As you consider each of the personas who interact with your organization, you will also consider their proclivity to use technology at each stage. Would he want you to deliver all correspondence electronically? Would she be more willing to read a print newsletter you’ve sent her in the mail, or would an email with the information that you wish to present her suffice. Is he more likely to use a desktop computer or a smartphone? Would she be interested in a mobile application or online portal? Journey mapping allows you to consider the needs of each individual and then discover ways to satisfy those needs.

Developing and using proper journey maps allow you to create a one-to-one experience for each of your customers. You will understand how to provide positive engagements that they will likely choose to discuss with their networks. In short, you can increase your value to your customers, and that’s really what it’s all about.

Technology is already transforming your life and your industry. Technology can also, in an incredible way, transform your organization, everything from your day-to-day operations to the way you engage your customers.

4 Myths About Independent Agents

While speaking at an insurance conference recently, I shared examples of how e-signatures are transformative because the technology now makes it possible to fully digitize the insurance sales and service process. “Imagine if tomorrow all your printers and filing cabinets disappeared,” I offered. Afterward, an agent approached me and said, “I don’t get what the big deal is with electronic signatures, anyway. My customers want to sit down with me and have me walk them through their policy.”

This isn’t the first time I have been challenged in this way. Evidently, some agents in the audience were left with the impression that digitization would replace personal service – an outdated fear among some seasoned insurance agents. This misconception often holds agents back from offering the best possible customer experience and become a roadblock to increasing their business.

Historically, the insurance business has been a personal one. Producers knew their customers well; knew their families, their businesses, their tolerance for risk. The entrance of direct writers onto the insurance scene has, indeed, removed some of that intimacy. But for independent agents, adding a modern, e-signing option to the buying experience doesn’t quash their personal touch.

Let’s debunk the four most common myths among independent agents:

Myth #1   Digital means “self-serve”

The goal of automation is not to remove human interaction; the goal is to provide a more efficient, error-free customer experience. E-signatures have been adopted across all channels in insurance, from remote call centers to face-to-face client meetings. Regardless of channel, we are still seeing customers continue to call advisers and meet with their agents; but at signature time, there is no printing, just an email invite with a link to e-sign.

Myth #2   Technology detracts from quality of service

Some agents believe that technology detracts from the quality, consultative and personalized service upon which they have built their business. The adoption of digital processes does not dilute the continuing value that independent agents provide; it simply modernizes the administration of paperwork. In fact, the time saved managing paperwork will be more time agents can spend offering specialized expertise. Trusted advice will continue to play an important role in the industry.

Myth #3   Consumers aren’t ready

This is simply not true. We track client preferences for e-signature automation across many mediated and unmediated channels. Mediated is when the client’s transaction is guided by a representative, offering the option for e-signature at the time of signing. Unmediated is when the consumer is online, in a self-serve situation.

In unmediated transactions, where e-signatures are offered 100% of the time, rather than being offered at the discretion of a sales agent, it is common to see adoption rates of more than 95% for e-signatures. Consumers are indeed ready and opting for the convenience and immediacy that e-signatures provide.

Myth #4   Digital signatures are risky

The fact is, electronic signatures are more secure than wet signatures. The identity of the signer – and the intent to sign – can both be authenticated and upheld in a court of law. Digitized audit trails of e-signing mean you not only get a log of document-level activity during the signing process, but everything the signer experiences during the signing ceremony can be captured, accessed and replayed as proof of signing.

Doing Digital Right

Independent agents who embrace digital upgrades to their processes will realize five key benefits:

  1. Improved customer experience: personalized yet modern nets better customer retention.
  2. Automated, expedited business process: requires less time to execute necessary paperwork.
  3. Efficiency: less time managing paperwork and fixing errors.
  4. Cost savings, by eliminating paper and having more time to spend with clients.
  5. Fewer errors, leading to less errors and omissions risk.

One of the most important benefits of modernizing business systems is the ability to attract clients. As generations shift, underinsured Millennials will open market opportunities. Progressive, independent agents will be viewed as service providers who have kept current with the times – yet still offer industry expertise with personalized attention.

“All business models must now rely heavily on digital tools; it’s what consumers want. What’s so exciting, however, is that consumers also hunger for a trusted adviser relationship with their insurance agent. Independent agents who marry the two will be big winners in the years ahead. That’s an opportunity direct writers can’t fully execute,” says Ron Berg, executive director, Agents Council for Technology.

Become a Brand Behemoth — Locally

Suppose you walked into a store to look for a new television. If the store only carried one brand, would you shop there? Of course not, but that’s just what today’s insurance behemoths want you to do when you buy insurance.

With an abundance of information just a few key strokes away, today’s consumers demand choice. From automobiles to zucchini, consumers do research online before they make a purchase. Today’s policyholders no longer accept a single company quote. It’s hard to satisfy this consumer demand if you’re an agent who can only offer one product. It’s why the era of the captive agent is coming to an end. Only independent agencies that “meet” their customers online by leveraging their customers’ desire for information and choice will succeed.

The rise of digital media—the web, social media, the smartphone and other mobile devices—has leveled the playing field and even tilted it toward independents. Independent agents can now compete against the industry’s brand behemoths by making their brand even more powerful in their area. They can become local brand behemoths.

Digital tools enable you to provide a better experience to existing clients. Online lead generation allows you to more efficiently find new clients.

Improving customer experience

In a commoditized industry like insurance, the only way you can differentiate yourself is to provide excellent customer service. In the digital age, that means providing your customers with the opportunity to interact with your agency whenever and however they want. From policy changes to evidence of insurance, customers today would rather do things themselves online than have to wait to call your office when it’s open.

One of the most surprising things is how much people love self-service. Surveys show that companies of all types, including insurers, consistently get better service scores when they let consumers manage their account themselves.

Does your website allow customers to make policy changes, track their claim, get a quote or review their policy limits? Consumer tastes also require that your website be mobile-compatible. The smartphone has replaced the computer as the device of choice for consumers. A mobile-compatible site must be clean, because smartphone screens are small. Users must be able to navigate and read your site quickly on a smartphone. Is your company’s website easy to use on a smartphone?

Your website can’t be static and one-dimensional. People don’t want to read gobs of copy online. Your site should give visitors interactive experiences. For instance, display the icons of the companies you represent instead of listing them.

Attracting new customers

Use online resources to expand the reach of your marketing efforts.

LinkedIn provides a great example. Start by identifying people on LinkedIn whom you are connected to indirectly (i.e. through an existing contact but not directly) or are members of the same business group as you. These are your LinkedIn prospects. Next, go through your existing business network and identify a service provider like an accountant, photographer or other small-business owner. Ask if they would be willing to provide a discount to customers you refer to them. If they agree, send an email to your prospects identified from LinkedIn letting them know they can receive a discount. This creates a win-win for both of you.

Here’s a real-life example: I received an email from an executive coach introducing herself and offering me a 75% discount on professional executive photographs. All I had to do was contact the photographer, mention the promotion and schedule a time for my photo shoot. At the end of the email, the executive coach asked me to add her to my network on LinkedIn. While I didn’t need a professional photo taken, I was intrigued by this online joint venture.

It turns out that one of the executive coach’s referral sources is a professional photographer, and they created a photo day for the executive coach’s clients and prospects. The photographer could give a deep discount because he only had to set up once for all of the photos that day.

Thirty people set up appointments. Existing customers of the executive coach were impressed with the value she brought in addition to her coaching. Prospects were introduced to the executive coach in a positive way – you just saved me a lot of money and introduced me to a quality photographer. The executive coach attended the whole day and used the time in between photo shoots to introduce herself or reacquaint herself with past clients. It was a win-win situation for both the coach and the photographer.

Digital giveaways

No one gets excited about a birthday card from his agent. Instead, how about giving away a mobile app so your business can stay top of mind? An app that gets your name on a client's phone is a great way to stay in touch—and provide something of real value.

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more….

You need to be on social media. Although engaging with social media takes time, what you learn online provides you with valuable customer insights. It’s like getting the questions to a test in advance. You have a real advantage.

Social media isn’t just about following people. Post or tweet information about how to prepare for catastrophes unique to your area so people can prepare for them. The more you engage digitally, the more relevant you become online.

You’re probably thinking: “I don’t have time for this!” You’re right! Find someone who uses these tools everyday – a student or a young person in your office and put that person in charge.

All the pieces have fallen in place for independent agents. Seize the digital moment now and prosper!