4 Ways to Help Get Completed Insurance Applications Back the First Time
How many times have you received an insurance application ready for market the first time it’s sent from one of your clients? The answer is probably not often.
The amount of tasks and questions that the insured has to complete within the application process, as well as the time spent going back and forth with the agency, usually means that applications are not complete the first time. The agent must then send the application back to the insured for corrections, delaying the time it takes the agency to actually send the application to the carrier and receive a quote.
There’s a better solution. Using customer-facing technologies like smart forms, autofill, and e-signatures, plus implementing a system to manage files, you can spend less time gathering information and go to market faster.
Below are four ways to help your clients send complete applications quickly and easily:
1. Use digital “smart” forms
Multiple non-applicable questions result in forms not being complete the first time.
Traditional paper and PDF forms are lengthy, time-consuming to fill out, and typically include multiple questions and sections that aren’t even relevant for certain clients to go to market.
Not surprisingly, the amount of information on these forms can cause the insured to overlook or skip applicable questions. Or the insured becomes confused about irrelevant questions and unsure which sections to actually fill out. They then contact the agency via phone or email to find the answers — a time-consuming, tedious process for both the insured and the agent. Both scenarios typically result in incomplete applications the first go-round.
Take your applications into the 21st century with smart forms. Rather than the insured having to print and fill out by hand, smart forms are automated, interactive, and make questions/sections less confusing for the insured, resulting in more complete applications. Features can include required questions, hiding sections/questions, and leaving comments/directions.
Require certain questions
You as the agent are looking to get just the necessary information from the insured — the information that you know they need to go to market. With smart forms, mark questions that you have to have — in other words, make certain questions a requirement. The insured can’t click submit until all required questions are complete, which forces them to fill out the information you need.
As a result, when the form is actually submitted to the agent, the chances of it being filled out correctly and ready for market the first time are high.
Prevent your clients from filling out an entire 15-page form when you know only 70% of the form is required. Hide non-applicable sections/questions completely with a smart form, so the insured never even see them during the application process.
Eliminating piles of questions make forms less confusing for the insured. You also don’t have to answer the insured’s questions about sections that aren’t relevant for going to market. The application is thus completed quickly and correctly.
Questions or required parts of a form will sometimes still be confusing for the insured. For example, should the insured provide major details on the question about business activities or will one sentence suffice? As we have already laid out, confusion is the enemy of an application being completed the first time.
To combat this problem, proactively address certain questions that you believe the insured will get stuck on and add helpful tips and directions. For example, leave a comment on the business activity question to “Please provide as much detail as possible.” This strategy makes it easier for the insured to answer questions on their own the first time. And hopefully, if they do come to a question that would traditionally cause them to stop and email/call the agent, they already have the right information to continue forward to complete the application.
2. Incorporate automapping of data
Having the insured continually fill out the same information can quickly become a customer-experience nightmare. Basic information such as First Name, Mailing Address, and Web Address are common fields that must be filled out over and over again across forms. It’s an inefficient process and frustrating for the insured.
Because of the amount of information, there is the chance of inaccuracy (or that the insured will miss a field/question altogether). The agent then has to contact the insured and ask them to fill in the information and send back again.
Common fields across forms that the insured continually have to refill.
Fortunately, automapping offers a solution to both redundancy and the possibility of inaccurate information.
Automapping means that when the insured types out basic information on one form, the information auto-populates the same fields across multiple forms. The benefits are numerous, especially for receiving complete applications. Automapping of data reduces keystrokes for the insured, and renewal forms are automatically auto-populated with last year’s data. Data is also standardized across forms.
- Reduced Keystrokes. As common answers are auto-populated across forms, fewer keystrokes are required by the insured, and it’s a more efficient use of time. Insureds don’t miss sections or questions as often and are returning submission packets fully completed the first time around.
- Renewal Forms Auto-Populated with Last Year’s Data. The insured no longer has to re-fill renewal applications with last year’s information. The insured is saved a significant amount of time by not having to rekey data into blank forms every single year.
- Standardized Data: When data is collected and sent back in a standard format, the agent has peace of mind. Information is clean, and errors such as inconsistent use of abbreviations and spelling mistakes are less likely.
3. Offer real-time updates to Schedule Workbooks
For many insureds, important business data (e.g. exposure data), is organized across spreadsheets. These sheets (e.g., SOVs, Certificate Holder lists, Vehicle lists, etc.) can contain a large amount of data and are typically stored as offline files. The files are sent back and forth between the agent and insured via email.
Once the files are received via email, the insured has to review each item in the spreadsheet lists to either update or delete. These spreadsheets are then sent back to the agent who has to carefully go through each cell and compare it to last year’s spreadsheets to find and annotate changes. A major possibility is inaccurate or missed information as the agent compares spreadsheets cell by cell. This increases the risk of E&O exposure for an agency.
Avoid the risk. Store these spreadsheets in a central, secure online location that everyone, including agency staff and insureds, can log into, access, and update in real-time.
Lists like “Drivers,” “Vehicles,” and “Officers” are all easily accessible in an online portal. The insured can click on each list to see what information needs updating from last year and what should stay the same. An itemized list of all the changes made by the insured is available to the agent. As the insured makes changes to their Schedule Workbook data, agents no longer have to painstakingly compare the data cell by cell. Instead, the agent can easily review the itemized list.
For example, the agent might notice that the insured has removed “Frank” from the driver list or that “Sarah” has been added. Having an itemized list to see what changes were made by the insured makes everything quicker to check and send to the carrier, as well as ensures that information is accurate and up-to-date.
In addition, a secure online portal makes it easier for businesses to update information in real-time and throughout the year (a major benefit for renewal applications). Since everything is online, the business owner (insured) can log into their portal at any point, make a change to their Schedule Workbook data and the agent will be notified in real-time. Both the agent and insured can track changes during the year and ensure that changes to the data aren’t forgotten during the renewal period.
By combining real-time updates with assigning and requiring smart form questions, clients are able to log in at any time and work on the same document. Any changes they make are in real-time so that again, they’re not taking a file, working on it, saving/sending it to other people, waiting, etc. Applications are more complete and accurate as a result.
4. Use e-signatures
The traditional signing process within applications is extremely slow. It requires the insured to download, print, sign, scan, upload, fax, email, or snail mail all of the forms that need signing for the application or renewal process.
Some forms require multiple signatures within a company, which takes time to pass around. If one signature is missed, the frustrating process starts all over again.
E-signatures make the signing process easier and more efficient. By having e-signatures built right within a smart form, insureds are able to sign immediately at the end of the forms, and you increase the chances of having a higher application completion rate the first time.
When the insured reaches the signature field, she can choose to either draw her own signature or select from standard signatures. The form is then complete without any of the dreaded printing/scanning/emailing that paper and PDF documents require.
Still not convinced? According to a report by Agents Council For Technology (ACT), Signature Failure Rates dropped from 50-55% down to 1.69% (a fulfillment rate of 98.31%) after companies began incorporating e-signatures. 90% of clients actually signed within the first 48 hours. E-signatures are a simple but effective strategy for successful application completion.
Make the process easier for the insured
Reduce the amount of work that the insured has to do as well as unnecessary interactions with you, the agent. Use the features discussed above to complement each other to ensure that the insured can fill out forms quickly, accurately, and without having to consistently ask the agent questions about the process.
The benefits are twofold. Not only is the customer experience with the application process significantly improved, but as applications are delivered to the agent complete the first time, the time to market is sped up, and quotes are delivered to the customer faster.