Definitive Guide To Growing Your Agency In A Technology Driven World
Things have changed a great deal since the year of 1861 when the first P&C company opened its doors in London to offer fire insurance. And while the nature of insurance itself is still much the same, the way your customers want to interact with their insurance products has changed radically just in the last few years. Insurance agencies that don’t provide the kind of digital experience customers have come to expect won’t survive in today’s digital world.
Insurers have been quick to jump on the digital bandwagon; in fact, ten of the 25 largest P&C insurers in the US invested in one or more tech start-ups between 2015 and 2017.
These insurers are aware that digital is here to stay and technology will be even more important to the entire insurance industry. In fact, EY Global Insurance predicts that the pace of disruption will accelerate substantially in the next decade:
The good news is that adopting this kind of technology can produce enormous rewards for insurance agencies. Not only do digital tools help attract and retain customers, but they can also save agents time by automating away their most tedious tasks. Here’s how you can turn disruption into a benefit instead of a liability by using it to catapult your agency into a far more competitive role.
- Digitize applications to save time for yourself and your customers
- Automate your onboarding experience and delight your customers from day one
- Use interactive forms to make your renewal time fast and easy
- Reduce your errors and omissions (E&O) exposure by automating data-entry processes
- Implement E-signatures to increase security and cut costs
- Leverage auto-formatted proposals to free up hours of time for your agency staff
- Show your customer how you’re adding value and price becomes a non-issue
Digitally enhanced smart applications and forms
Paper insurance applications are grossly outdated, and PDFs – with their limited editability and poor interaction options – are little better. That’s why more and more insurers and agencies are moving to “smart” digital applications.
Today’s customers prefer digital channels and have moved to embrace automation in every aspect of their lives. Just consider the popularity of tools like Siri and Alexa and the tremendous growth of IoT (Internet of Things) products in the average consumer home. Indeed, Cisco’s 2017 visual networking index forecast predicted that North Americans would have an average of thirteen networked devices per individual by 2021.
Not surprisingly, Bain’s 2017 Customer Behavior and Loyalty in Insurance survey found that digital access is extremely important to insurance customers.
A true digital insurance application platform is a blessing for agents as well as customers. It puts all your forms in one place and makes it easy to take customers through the application and renewal processes. Both insurers and insurance agencies can save significant time by digitizing and automating their processes, as one McKinsey study showed.
Millennials, who are poised to become the largest living generation in the next 10 years, are even more digital-focused than the average customer. The Millennial generation is the first to grow up using computers and eagerly adopted the Internet when it arrived early in their lives. For example, they’ve embraced social media to a much greater extent than previous generations:
Millennials also love to research and compare products and services online before committing to a purchase. Having a strong online presence can be a huge draw for customers from this generation. And once they buy a service product like insurance, they expect to be able to access and use it online.
In short, your customers will love a digital application experience because the forms are much faster and easier to fill out; and you’ll love the time you save through automating substantial parts of the process. All Spectrum Insurance has this to say about its experience with using Indio as a digital insurance application platform:
“Indio showed us we didn’t need to rely on PDFs and we could have clients complete online forms, which increase turnaround and productivity. They [clients] love it. Clients complete the application, sometimes within minutes. We don’t have to follow up so much… We’re spending more time interacting with prospects and clients instead of completing applications over the phone or in person. The result: we’re improving the quality of our client interactions.”
Automate your prospecting and onboarding
In a study of over 20,000 NPS (Net Promoter Score) responses, Rocket Referrals found that 81% of insurance customer defections were due not to price but to lack of communication. Customers are willing to pay more as long as they’re sure that they’re getting good value for their money. For example, the 2017 Bain survey found that insurance customers were willing to pay higher premiums in exchange for value-added “ecosystem services” like emergency service and expert advice.
Digitizing your insurance application process is a powerful way to improve your customers’ experience from day one. For example, Indio templates allow you to onboard new customers by sending them a single link. Customers can use this link to access, fill out, and submit an entire submission packet, including all applications and broker of record letters, without having to meet with an agent first.
Adrianne Peixotto is a partner and Director of Private Client Group at ProCo Insurance Services, an Acrisure Agency and sits on the Technology Board for Travelers Insurance. Peixotto also happens to be a big fan of Indio’s templates, saying that:
“It definitely is an efficiency driver within the agency from the standpoint of us being able to get the information to the client or prospects and to get it back in such a fast way… we had a report recently that I was looking at that we get applications back in less than five minutes from people.”
Digital questionnaires simplify the application process
Many agencies use questionnaires to capture general information from customers that can be repopulated across all other forms, applications, and ACORDs. The problem is that if you use paper forms or PDFs, you can’t easily transfer data from one document to another. That means that customers often need to fill in the exact same information multiple times and year-over-year.
Digital questionnaires not only streamline agency operations, they also deliver the kind of experience that customers increasingly demand. The information can be captured in a structured format that maps automatically to all other forms.
Better yet, when your customers are ready to renew, you can pre-populate their applications with last year’s data – and all your customers have to do is review the forms and make any necessary changes. Lynne Wallace, President and CEO of Vantreo, reported that “Indio has helped us streamline the application process across our agency and helped us win more business.”
Digital questionnaires can also make it easier for agents to cross-sell and upsell customers. Because information populates across forms, it takes relatively little effort for customers to provide the needed information for additional products recommended by their agents – which means they’re more likely to consider adding these products to their insurance packages.
Indio not only comes preloaded with a database of 3,000+ digitally enhanced “smart” applications and forms, but it also allows agencies to create custom forms that work the same way. Kapnick Insurance Group used Indio’s platform to turn their agency’s proprietary questionnaires into digital forms. The information in those questionnaires is now captured in a structured format that maps to all other forms, applications, and ACORDs within the Indio platform. As Amy Wilson, Marketing Associate Manager` of Kapnick Insurance Group put it,
“We were very excited to be able to use Indio to have it be a digital experience for the client. We’re using it for all of our commercial clients. We’ve received lots of feedback… ‘Hey, this is really good, this is so much more efficient.’”
Use renewal verification software to reduce E&O exposure
According to Insurance Journal, one in seven insurance agents will be subjected to a lawsuit at some point in their careers. And 81% of E&O most likely involves Producers, CSRs, and Account Managers since they’re capturing, inputting, and rekeying the most data. Reducing your risk of errors and omissions can do a great deal to help keep you out of court.
Digitizing your insurance application process can significantly reduce your E&O exposure. Since the customers fill out their own forms and questionnaires within the digital platform, the onus of filling them out correctly is on the customer rather than on you – an excellent way to avoid E&O problems. Renewal time is particularly dangerous from an E&O perspective. 25% of E&O claims are related to renewal transactions, so it’s important to leverage software that reduces the risk of human error.
For example, Indio’s renewal verification software minimizes data-entry error and puts the onus for reviewing and updating renewal data on the client. The Indio platform auto-populates a client’s information from the previous year at renewal time, so customers don’t have to rekey all the same information they entered last year. Clients simply approve any information that hasn’t changed (by checking an approve button) and making edits to anything that has changed. Whenever a particular field is edited or marked as approved, the activity is logged by Indio and timestamped.
Erwin Insurance Agency greatly appreciates how much Indio reduces their E&O exposure. Managing Principal Judson Norton puts it,
“Think about the things that can happen when you’re asking questions on the phone. You hear a ‘nine’ when they really said ‘five.’ Well, now you’ve shifted the responsibility and, while there still can be typos, it’s no longer a matter of miscommunicating, or perhaps, misunderstanding an accent.”
Embrace E-Signatures for all documents
E-signatures make it possible to do business online, and all types of contracts, big and small, are now being processed digitally. The ESIGN Act of 2000 made electronic signatures legally equivalent to pen and ink ones. These signatures make it possible for documents to exist solely in digital form, which saves considerable time for both parties and makes it easy to track and store documents for recording keeping purposes. It’s no wonder that Inc. Magazine recommends that businesses adopt e-signatures.
Companies in all industries have adopted e- signatures to move their customers towards a truly digital experience. Banks rely on e-signatures to make it possible to open new accounts without having to make the trek to an actual branch. Employers use e-signatures to simplify the process of creating employment contracts with remote workers. Even the IRS has adopted e-signatures so that taxpayers can file returns electronically. All in all, 77% of consumers have digitally signed at least three forms over the past three years.
Moving the signature step of the application online does the following:
- Speeds up the process – no need to print, sign with a pen, scan, fax, or airmail forms
- Makes it easier to store, track and retrieve documents
- Allows agencies to “go paperless”
- Reduces the risk of fraud by using a signing credential and digital timestamp to verify the signer’s identity and authority to sign
- Shows that the agency is embracing technology, thinking about the future, and staying up with the times
By leveraging a full e-signature tool like Indio’s as part of your digital insurance application package, you create one location for tracking, completing, and signing all insurance documents. Records are stored within the platform and are easy to find and retrieve as needed.
Move to an auto-generated proposal software
Creating and formatting proposals for clients can take an insane amount of time. In order to craft a reasonable proposal, agency staff must gather client information from a multitude of sources – agency management systems, spreadsheets, PDFs, Word documents, and so on. Once they have the necessary information, they’ll often need to spend hours re-keying and formatting data into a new, visually appealing proposal document.
By using an auto-generated proposal software like Indio’s, you can automatically populate client information and other data into professional-looking, agency-branded proposal templates. An auto-generated proposal software platform:
- Frees up hours of time, which allows agency staff to put more time into working with existing clients and growing the business
- Provide a well-polished, agency branded proposal to your customers
- Greatly reduces the risk of data-entry errors and other E&O concerns
Educate your customers
If you don’t add value, expect your customers to think of your services as a commodity, meaning something that’s identical no matter who you buy it from. In that mindset, customers often focus on price as the only important differentiator.
If your customers knew all the work you put in behind the scenes to get them the best insurance packages at the best rates, they’d be far less likely to drop you the second they find insurance elsewhere at a slightly better price. That’s why it’s important to educate your customers about what goes into assembling those application packages that you present them every year at renewal time.
One easy way to prove your value is to take on a consulting role with your customers, particularly with new customers. Ask questions that show your expertise and explain briefly what you’ll do with the information they give you. By positioning yourself as an insurance expert rather than an insurance salesperson, you’ll be proving that you can add value above and beyond just signing a customer up for insurance products.
Jude Fenz, Executive Account Manager at Heffernan Insurance, finds that Indio can improve customer experience by facilitating communication. She explains,
“Here at Heffernan we’re always looking for ways to provide excellent customer service, and what I have found with Indio is that it’s not only a bridge for us to reach our customers, but it’s a bridge for them to come back and reach us for an interactive experience.”
Digital is the key to agency growth
Going digital and automating the insurance application and renewal processes will save time (for you and for your customers) and improve your overall customer experience. A recent Forbes article pointed out that “Automation provides brands more time and resources to provide high-quality, lasting customer experiences instead of draining their time on simple interactions that can easily be taken care of by machines.”
As Brent Rineck, CIO of The ABD Insurance Team puts it,
“Indio has helped bring our agency into the 21st century. Our clients frequently bring up how much they love new digital applications and our producers/account executives can focus more on their expertise.”