Insurance Agents Have 99 Problems but Tech Ain’t One
I fell face first into my insurance career. It required a lot of on-the-job learning from insurance veterans. It required specific skills to understand the insurance industry and be a successful insurance professional. Step forward over 20-something years and I reflect back on the days of paper files, handwritten notes, paper messages from the front desk, with no email to communicate. How did we conduct business without email? Today you search these three words: digital, disruption, insurance. It is overwhelming to say the least. Digital disruption is not a new topic, but it does require pushing the repeat button like I do for my favorite music artist. Technology continues to advance quickly, and the insurance industry continues to keep chasing it, trying so hard to compete side by side with technology–huffing and puffing for the last 20 years. From huge lengthy investments and time to implement massive systems to cutting off all investments in technology because they failed miserably, it has been an exhausting race and the insurance industry is not giving up.
Technology increases productivity
I have met many insurance agents over the years, and they echo the same pain points as insurance companies: The lack of technology to perform their job was frustrating and that it later resulted in the inability to retain talent. Independent insurance agents must adopt the latest technology to improve the way they work, from gathering information quickly to meeting customer expectations and analyzing business trends. The adoption of technology by insurance agents is on an upward trend it is still not enough. According to a recent survey by Providence Bank Agency Finance, 86% of insurance agents agree digital technology is vital in helping their insurance agency grow. What used to be a significant investment is no longer a barrier for transformation, due in part to low code/no code technology platforms from InsurTechs. The ability to purchase software on a subscription basis gives the insurance agent flexibility to determine, after a period of time, whether or not the investment makes sense. Trust me, the availability of systems and platforms is overwhelming, but it is worthwhile for any organization in need of change.
Robots are not that scary!
Insurance technology, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), is not going to replace the human but, in fact, help the human. Stop spending time on mundane administrative tasks when machine learning and artificial intelligence can ingest information, extract, and provide relevant information to conduct business. Insurance agents want to meet the needs of their clients by selling and negotiating insurance. The benefits include streamlining data workflows and processes that are accurate and consistent. And the biggest improvement is the ability to manage clients more efficiently, mitigate risk, and increase profit.
What consumers want
Consumers demand technology that is quick and easy to use. They demand access to information quickly, usually from their smartphone. Long gone are the days of the insurance ID card, writing checks for premium, or calling in to submit a claim. The new tech-savvy entrants have played a significant role over the last several years for the insurance industry from pricing, underwriting and claims. Initially, the insurance industry was skeptical when technology was able to make predictions, automate processes, or make automatic decisions along workflows. The keen focus on the customer journey includes technology advancements that are welcomed with big open arms as the industry takes advantage of key partnerships to create superior customer service through digital transformation.
COVID-19 forced change
It does bear repeating that COVID-19 forced insurance organizations to adopt innovation. Not only were people working from home, but technology enabled the ability to conduct business virtually. This quick change created improvements in business from an operational perspective to increased revenue. According to the 2020 Applied Systems Digital Agency Report, consisting of approximately 700 independent insurance agencies across the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland found that good technology strategies and implementation of technology tools boosted their ROI and increased revenue. Even small interim investments in technology will provide more opportunities for more technology innovation over time that continue to return positive ROI.
Future of the insurance agent
The role of the insurance agent in the future will be very different. Technology tools will be heavily relied upon to increase productivity and manage clients. That allows agents to offer more types of insurance products. These tools will assist agents to optimize operational tasks. AI-enabled platforms will create deals so that the agent can handle more clients. Customer interactions will be flexible with a mix of in-person, virtual and digital that will still allow for strong working relationships between technology and insurance agents. Top these technology advancements off with an insurance agent with excellent people skills and product knowledge, and it adds up to business success and happy clients.
Ursula Merten, a member of the North America leadership team at omni:us is responsible for driving business in the North American insurance market. Prior to her role at omni:us, she was director of internal audit at AIG where she was responsible for managing teams of auditors on a global basis. She has spent the last 20 years in the insurance industry helping insurance leaders solve their operational problems. She brings a broad perspective of experience that includes various positions from insurer, broker, TPA, internal auditer, and consultant.
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