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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.

5 Technologies That Boost Engagement

Life, group and voluntary benefits insurance is one of the most competitive verticals in the financial services industry. Strong relationships with customers are crucial to competitive advantage.

Engaging customers is a proven way of enhancing relationships. Unfortunately, the insurance industry has one of the lowest rates of customer engagement. Too often, the only contact with the customer is the bill.

How can insurers improve engagement? Use these five technologies to enhance digital customer engagement.

Two-Way Communication Tools

Email, social media, wearables and chatbots allow insurance companies to optimize every customer interaction. For instance, insurers can partner with wearables manufacturers so that these tools can be used as digital modes of communication between insurers and digitally savvy consumers.

Wearables, for instance, can monitor a customer’s health and give insurers a chance to reward good behavior of their customers – creating opportunities for engagement. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to engage consumers on various insurance issues and as a way of getting customers’ feedback.

Big Data and Data Services

Insurance companies can use big data to find opportunities to add value to customers’ lives. The human touch is still important, but a computer is much better at searching through huge amounts of data in real time.

Incorporating data-based services to provide the company with constant data streams from connected devices such as IoT and wearables is crucial. This data can be turned into insights that help improve customers’ daily lives, boosting customer engagement.

See also: Seriously? Artificial Intelligence?  

Artificial Intelligence

Worldwide data production runs around 44 trillion gigabytes a year. One gigabyte alone is equal to about a 30-foot shelf of books, and insurers (along with the rest of us) are suffering from data overload. Often, customers have to wait on the phone while insurance employees sort through data.

AI can help solve this overload. It can assist insurance companies in cleansing large volumes of data and offer accurate predictions of customers’ expectations. It can provide customers with realistic ideas of what the future will hold, helping them make better decisions for themselves and their families. In addition to dealing with all the data, AI can handle customer service with chatbots, as well, automating and increasing customer engagement in entirely new ways.

Analytics

AI helps insurance companies comb through large amounts of data to predict exactly what customers want. But this is not the end of the story. Insurance companies need to find actionable insights from the information provided by AI.

This is where analytics tools come into play. Robust analytics programs (based in data science) can be used to study customers’ past data, research potential trends and evaluate the effects that certain decisions might have on consumers. Many are looking at predictive analytics related to claims patterns, benefit design and profitability.

Analytical tools such as Google analytics and Woopra (a real-time customer analytics service) can help insurers gain more knowledge about customers, which can then be used to inform strategies for customer engagement. Analytical tools can help insurers to create an all-inclusive road map that will help them improve and manage their customers’ entire lifecycles.

Web-Based Self-Service

More and more insurance consumers expect to be able to monitor the status of their claims and manage their policies themselves online. Studies show that 38% of insurance consumers prefer web-based self-services and strongly feel that these platforms have shifted from “nice-to-have” to “must-have” options.

Web-based self-service improves engagement with customers. They give customers the freedom of choosing their preferred ways of making basic changes to their accounts, finding answers, refining service flexibility and improving customer experience.

The future is now

Customer engagement is becoming an increasingly important part of insurance. Enhancing rich, digital customer experiences through strategic engagement offers great opportunities, especially for insurers that are looking to cross-sell and up-sell their existing clients. Insurance customers are more and more willing to shift their loyalty to insurance providers that guarantee customers communication through digital channels and devices of their choosing.

See also: How Technology Drives a ‘New Normal’  

They are looking for insurers that are able to interact and offer informed conversation that relates to their individual needs, desires and relationships. It is therefore important that insurers cultivate proper digital ways to engage their customers. Without these customer-focused technological trends, any insurance company risks losing a big chunk of market share.

How Basis for Buying Decisions Is Changing

Building a business around speed and convenience is nothing new. Fast food drive-thrus, cell phones and FedEx overnight delivery services were just some of the predecessors to today’s Ubers, apps and same-day Amazon orders. But in most of these cases, purchase decisions were based upon simple factors — “I’m hungry,” or “We need delivery of a legal document,” or “Of course it would be nice to be able to make a call from my car.”

There were other services for which people understood that immediacy wasn’t an option. Many financial decisions took time. If you wanted to earn a little extra interest by using a certificate of deposit instead of savings, you would have to wait months or years for maturity. Securing life insurance was a multi-week (sometimes multi-month) underwriting process. Applying for a home loan with multiple credit and background checks took time. For the most part, people accepted these elongated processes and delays with resigned and good-natured patience. This was life. Important decisions required time, not only in the preparation, but also in the education and execution. Two hours with a life insurance agent would allow you to learn about all of the products available and understand their complexity, and it would help the agent to fit products to your needs. You valued the time spent learning, understanding and choosing based on the trusted relationship with your agent.

The convergence of generational shifts and technological advancement created a new mindset that rewrote expectations and priorities for many. Patience is no longer always considered a virtue. Insurance relationships are no longer always valued. Time-crunched people seek time-saving services. Value is seen in immediacy, uniqueness and ease.

See also: Innovation: a Need for ‘Patient Urgency’  

Enter the new generation of insurance companies redefining the insurance engagement. Lemonade, TROV, Slice, Haven Life and others who are redefining speed and value to a new generation of buyers … are placing traditional, existing insurers on notice.  From purchasing a policy in less than 10 minutes to paying a claim in less than three seconds … speed and simplicity are the new competitive levers.

Out of necessity, this has changed an insurer’s view of competition. Insurers used to know their competitors. They understood their distinctive value propositions. They debated on what were the real product differentiators. Insurers understood the reach of their agents, their geographic limitations and the customer and agent loyalty they could count on because of their excellent service.

While all of these factors still guide insurance operations, the competitive landscape has shifted to different factors critical to acquiring and retaining customers. Insurers are feebly groping for just a tiny bit of space in consumer minds —enough to plant the seed of need and just a little more to water the plant into engagement and completing a transaction — because today’s consumer isn’t going to listen well enough to grasp distinctive details. He or she is looking for an easy and quick fit.

A 2015 study of Canadian consumers estimated that the average attention span had dropped to 8 seconds from 12 seconds in 2000, driven at least in part by consumers’ constant connections through digital devices.

Need. Purchase. Done. Happy.

A 2012 Pew survey of technology experts predicted what is now coming true, “the impact of networked living on today’s young will drive them to thirst for instant gratification, settle for quick choices and lack patience….trends are leading to a future in which most people are shallow consumers of information.”

Only five years later, insurers are feeling the impact.

A key reason many of the new, innovative companies are appealing to consumers and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is because they simplify and remove some of the cognitive effort required to make decisions about insurance. In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman described human decision making and thinking as a two-part system. Greatly simplified, System 1 thinking produces quick (i.e. instantaneous and sub-conscious) reflexive, automatic decisions based on instinct and past experiences. These are “gut” reactions. System 2 thinking is slow, deliberate, reason-based and requires cognitive effort.

In general, most of the decisions we make each day are through System 1, which can be both good and bad; good because it increases the speed and efficiency of decision making, and because in most instances the outcomes are acceptable. However, not all outcomes are good, and many could have been improved had System 2 thinking been engaged. The problem with System 2 is that it takes effort, and humans naturally try to minimize effort.

See also: Insurtech: Unstoppable Momentum  

So, a traditionally complex industry is intersecting with a cognitive culture that is mentally trying to simplify, reduce effort and be more intuitive. This has consequences for decisions throughout the customer’s journey with an insurance company. Good decisions about complex issues like insurance should be based on System 2 thinking. However, during the research and buying processes, the cognitive effort to do so can lead many people to choose other paths like seeking shortcuts to in-depth research and analysis or delaying a decision altogether.

In a recent report, Future Trends 2017: The Shift Gains Momentum, Majesco examined how impatience is driving a shift in behavior that is causing insurers to look at the anatomy of decisions. What behaviors are relevant to purchase? To renewals? To service? How can insurers still provide risk protection to individuals who won’t take the time to learn about complex products? We’ve drawn some of these insights out of the report for consideration here.

For one thing, insurers clearly recognize that the trends affecting them are far broader and bigger than the insurance industry. Businesses and startups across all industries are capitalizing on the lucrative opportunity afforded by meeting the ever-increasing demands for speed and simplicity made possible by technology and re-imagined business processes. Amazon Prime, Netflix, Spotify, Uber/Lyft, ApplePay/Samsung Pay, Rocket Mortgage (Quicken Loans), Twitter, Instagram and other technology-based businesses represent contemporary offerings that have simplified the customer journey.

Retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, Staples, Amazon and even eBay are testing same-day delivery for items ordered online. Simplifying a customer’s entire journey with a company by making it “easy to do business with” is more critical than ever for insurers.

What is the good news in the world of impatience? Insurers are quickly finding ways to counter the disparity between the need for speed and the need for good decisions. They are also using a bit of psychology to positively influence decisions, and they are buying back some brain space with techniques that both inform and engage.

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at these techniques as well as product adaptation, framework preparation and planning for transformation that will meet the demand for quick decisions. For more in-depth information on behavioral insurance impact, download the Future Trends 2017 report today.

Dear Insurtech, It’s Not You, It’s Me

Dear Insurtech,

It was nice getting to know you in 2016. You served your purpose, but now it’s time for RiskGenius to move on. It’s time for me to move on.

There were a series of events that helped me realize that you, insurtech, and me, well, we can’t really be friends anymore.

I can’t be conference guy 

Recently, I was in San Francisco meeting with some insurance professionals who are plugged into the insurtech scene. One of them brought up a recent insurtech conference and commented, “You are everywhere, Chris!”

I shuddered. I have never wanted to be “conference guy,” but I got sucked into being just that this year, and there are way too many insurtech conferences.

Little comes out of insurtech events 

I often attended insurtech events this year and wondered at the end, “What will come out of that?” And very little developed. As the year progressed, it started to dawn on me what was going on. And then, finally, everything crystalized after one phone call on Dec. 13.

A wonderful insurance professional called to let me know he was leaving his firm at the end of the year because he was frustrated by the lack of engagement by his firm with insurtech companies.

See also: The Future of Insurance Is Insurtech   

It hit me: Insurance companies are simply trying to understand what the heck it is we insurtech companies are doing. Often, there are no real plans for insurance companies to actually engage with insurtech companies.

I need to focus on the doing, not the talking 

This year, we have found a tremendous partner in an insurance carrier that I hope to tell you about soon. There are also pockets of people focused on insurance technology innovation — but I need to find these people because they often aren’t at the conferences, or aren’t on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Some of the best events I attended were intimate gatherings. Insurance Thought Leadership invited me to a cyber insurance conference I loved. Marsh invited me to an executive retreat that was incredibly insightful. And an insurance carrier allowed us to participate in an innovation challenge with internal employees that changed the trajectory of our company. But none of these three events focused solely on “insurtech.”

RiskGenius is ready

As I look toward 2017, I am going to remove both myself and RiskGenius from the insurtech scene. Instead, we are going to be actively seeking out those partners that can use our software right now. It’s no longer about tinkering and building algorithms; RiskGenius is weaponized and ready to go.

Two areas have emerged where RiskGenius fits perfectly.

First, RiskGenius is primed for policy automation.

We can take an entire library of policies, show you similarities and differences and then serve up the correct policy based on what the user needs.

See also: 4 Marketing Lessons for Insurtechs  

Second, RiskGenius analytics has people really excited.

We are now able to take an insurance policy that a user provides us and compare it with all the policies we have previously collected and stored. Soon, I will write about how we have evaluated more than 400 cyber insurance policies.

This is awkward, insurtech. But we can’t be a “thing” anymore. I’m sorry — it’s not you, it’s me (and RiskGenius). We want more for our future.

Thanks for the memories,

Chris Cheatham

CEO, RiskGenius

4 Ways Social Media Can Win a Promotion

Social media has become part of our daily lives, and most of us would be lying if we said we only checked our various feeds once a day. In fact, 98% of internet users spend time on social networks, according to a comScore study. Social networking has changed how we get our news, interact with companies and brands and keep in touch with friends and co-workers.

But many insurance professionals view social media as a distraction or a fun break, especially when it intersects with their professional lives. They’ll check Facebook during lunch or scroll through their Twitter feed while waiting for a conference call to start when they could be using that online downtime to jumpstart their careers. In fact, only 21% of millennials say they’re using social networks for professional reasons more than they did in the past. In failing to use social networking to its fullest career-boosting benefits, insurance pros are missing significant professional opportunities — and they’re simply being left out of the conversation.
Research shows that people use social media for 10 broad reasons, ranging from the somewhat professional (sharing information) to the decidedly leisurely (just killing time). While it may be more fun to share that cat video or like all your friends’ baby pictures, engaging with other insurance professionals, using social networks as news aggregators and providing value to your followers, can have a much greater impact on your life.
Let’s dig a little deeper into four specific ways insurance professionals can leverage social media to fast-track their careers.
1. Share knowledge
Research has shown that collaboration, especially when it involves individuals from a variety of disciplines, is one of the most effective ways to drive innovative ideas and solutions. Social media creates countless opportunities for one-on-one collaboration with some of the top minds in the industry. It also gives you the chance to establish yourself as a thought leader on a specific industry topic. Whether it’s a specialized coverage type or a particularly tricky step in the sales process, find the niche you spend a lot of time researching and share your results over your social networks. It’s an effective way to set yourself apart from job applicants or show your current employer that you’re ready to take on new challenges.
Finding the right Facebook and LinkedIn groups or Twitter hashtags are great ways to share knowledge, but there are even more niche insurance websites that offer their own opportunities to share knowledge with other industry professionals, such as sending out a quick, informal survey.
2. Engage in knowledge
Social networks also offer an opportunity to bounce ideas off people outside of the traditional insurance industry. Have a question about ridesharing services? Tweet an Uber driver. Have a tech question before a presentation? Tweet a self-proclaimed PowerPoint expert. The opportunities for finding — and providing — knowledge are only limited by the time you can commit to engaging through social networks.
Niche industry networks can provide a huge opportunity to learn from your peers’ experiences. Trying to get the skinny on that tough CPCU course? Some of the most common user-started threads in The Community relate to study advice for #CPCU exams. Industry professionals love helping others in the same boat they’re in, so don’t be afraid to post your question, no matter how specific or broad.
3. Gain knowledge
You don’t need to personally connect with every insurance thought leader to reap the benefits of social media. Perhaps the most straightforward way is to use it to stay current on emerging industry news and trends. Discussions about some of the most cutting-edge industry topics, such as drones and big data, are happening on social media, especially Twitter.
Facebook’s recent news that people are sharing 21% less personal information than in the past may not be great for Facebook’s stock, but it reveals an interesting trend: People are using Facebook to share news more than ever, providing users with an opportunity to use Facebook like a customized news aggregator. Staying on top of trends is a great way to learn how to prioritize designations to pursue and decide what new opportunities to seek as the industry changes. Being able to speak knowledgeably about emerging industry topics comes in handy during a job interview or networking event, too.
4. Network your knowledge
All these methods for engaging on social media can ultimately add to an increased ability to network, either directly or indirectly. Celebrities may need handlers and gatekeepers to oversee their social media accounts, but few insurance pros have others to manage their social media presence. Some of the top minds in the field are available for networking and sharing ideas — and most of them encourage it.
If you’re engaging with industry leaders and positioning yourself as an expert in various topics, it only makes sense that career opportunities will follow — just make sure your social media presence doesn’t contain anything too controversial or unprofessional. If you’re up to date on the emerging trends in the industry, you’ll be more prepared to chew the fat at the next conference or speak knowledgeably about a particular topic at a coming job interview.
The key is to make the most of the networking opportunities that come out of your social media efforts. If you meet someone online, keep an eye out for opportunities to meet in person and to develop the relationship further. If you meet someone in person, make a note to connect on social media. Every new connection could be a job opportunity or career advancement waiting to happen.
Have you used social networking to advance your career? Chime in with a comment below.