Technology Will Accelerate Distribution Channels for Insurers
Ron Berg | August 03, 2015
From all sides, we hear a great debate about how fast technology options are emerging versus the pace of technology adoption of the independent agency distribution channel. Make no mistake: Technology evolution will only accelerate in the next five years.
But at its core, the independent insurance agency distribution channel has always been, and continues to be, about the relationship. The primary change is how that relationship is best served. Our customers expect and demand solutions that deliver information, products, and services in an experience that makes their life easy, combined with providing security and peace of mind. Never have there been more opportunities for the independent agent distribution to show their value over direct writers.
In the next five years, the distribution channel will see the emergence and adoption of more driver-assisted and driverless personal and delivery vehicles; drone craft used not only for package delivery but also claims assessment, telematics and usage-based insurance moving from plug-in modules out to our smart phones and in-dash car platforms.
We'll see more use of 3-D printers to generate replacement automobile and home materials, and the ability to access a world of intelligence and analytics to make better business decisions. Most or all of these services will impact the relationship between carriers and agents in some form.
But how does the independent agency distribution stay relevant? By understanding and responding to the changing needs of their customers. The shift of leveraging the customer relationship has moved to robust agency website functionality, search engine optimization, mobile/adaptable agency websites, the ability to obtain quotes from the agency website, using e-signature to allow customers to complete documents, active engagement on social platforms, and proactive agency services.
All of this sounds like a lot—and taken as a whole it is—but the independent agent and broker can win in their markets by breaking down their current strategy and comparing it to the sales and service expectations of their prospects and existing customers.
One method agents and brokers can use to simplify their strategic roadmap is to look at the lifecycle of their customer—from the point a consumer becomes aware they have an insurance need, through their online research, the customer policy purchase process, and their renewal experience. Looking at each of these phases individually allows agency leadership to easily and accurately identify the steps they need to take that meet their customers' connection preferences.
Along with all the planning and implementation come benefits. What doesn't get focused on as often are the potential time, keystroke, and efficiency savings that are realized when implementing many of the technologies—including e-signature—providing customer policy access via an agency portal, real time rating, and download.
Independent insurance carriers and vendors are focused on staying current with emerging technologies, and have long-range strategic roadmaps to accomplish this. Agents and brokers have strategic growth plans, but a clear technology roadmap needs to be a part of this.
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