Overcoming the Challenges of Digital Implementation at Insurance Agencies
by Ryan Martin
Digital integration is a vital part of agency management, but many agency managers and owners feel overwhelmed by the challenge. Increasingly, customers expect seamless, immediate communication and outreach from agents. Agents are also expected to be advisors capable of guiding them, understanding their unique risks, and proposing appropriate solutions. Additionally, customers want agents to respect their time by connecting on their schedules and having their needs met promptly.
Considering the numerous options available in the marketplace today, choosing the correct solutions for successful integration is a daunting task. Once selections are made, however, the existing skill level and training of staff members can significantly affect efficiency during the implementation and productivity during the on-boarding process. While working with numerous agencies across the country, I have found that the agencies and brokers who select the right products and bring in the appropriate assistance to handle skill gaps and work overflow have the smoothest transitions and the most positive outcomes.
Productivity tools can be broken down into two categories – front-office and back-office. Your front office tools will be client-facing and provide self-service capabilities. Giving clients the ability to “self-serve” will enable them to communicate when it is most convenient for their schedules. Adding a chatbot or email platform that is integrated into your agency’s website or mobile app facilitates this need. Some products can notify clients when new documents or correspondence are ready to be retrieved. Integrating these two features reduces the amount of time your staff needs to spend interfacing directly with clients and allows clients the ability to communicate and retrieve information from your office seamlessly and in real time.
Back-office tools are staff-facing and provide quick access to the information an employee needs to ensure maximum efficiency. In the back-office environment, working with client management platforms that offer in-depth reporting provides multiple benefits. Not only is data easily retrieved for agency analytics, but it also quickly identifies gaps in client coverage and provides potential coverage remedies. Some systems allow the creation of marketing letters to specifically address the needs of a client when coverage types are missing and automatically generate that communication on an ad hoc or continuous marketing campaign. Additionally, when working directly with clients, these platforms allow your staff to quickly and seamlessly identify the information your clients require, reducing the amount of time it takes to service their needs.
Providing these services helps solidify your role as a trusted advisor, increasing the likelihood they will purchase more coverage from your agency to help you retain their business. Having well-developed, multi-coverage accounts will also assist you with client retention and agency profitability. Historical industry data indicates that having at least three lines of business with a client significantly increases the likelihood you will retain the account and be the first contact when additional coverages are needed. Finally, rounding out and growing your portfolio with existing clients is less expensive than buying leads and cold-calling prospects, and has a much higher success rate.
Changing your agency management software or implementing a new document management or claims management product is a huge undertaking. It can take significant time and takes you and your staff away from normal activities. Training on the new products alone typically consumes multiple days, during which normal business activities still need to be completed. While you are working to integrate new tools and processes, you need to find ways to get back as much time as possible. One easy, cost-effective way to do that is to get assistance from an insurance-savvy vendor for repetitive, yet time-consuming, tasks. Functions like issuing a certificate of insurance, checking documents for accuracy, creating invoices, following up with adjusters, entering migration data, and other tasks can often be completed by a services partner for a relatively low cost. This allows you to recapture time that can be spent focusing on the larger integration of the new products and improving the overall policyholder experience.
Another option to recapture time is through the utilization of call center services. These resources can be engaged during specific times of the day, like during staff training on new products, or used over extended periods, like employee onboarding. Call centers can also serve as a critical capacity expander when spikes in policyholder contacts take place, such as following a disaster. Leveraging call centers when internal staff is occupied or over capacity positively affects the policyholder experience and offers your staff support during stressful periods.
Digital integration can also increase organizational efficiency during policy issuance and renewal. By outsourcing policy checking to a vendor, your staff can focus on the customer experience and further develop client relationships. This service can be provided once policies are issued, or at any other point in the issuance process, be it comparing applications to quotes, quotes to binders, binders to policies, or policies to data found in your agency management system. With the right vendor, outsourcing your policy checking can even reduce your agency’s errors and omissions (E&O) exposures.
While implementing a new agency management platform, or other software solution, is likely to be part of a long-term plan, outsourcing the processing of back-end work can be done immediately. Outsourcing work while adopting new agency processes will allow your agency to operate more efficiently during the transition. And, once the implementation of the new platform is complete, the agreement can be modified or terminated as needed. Keeping the contract in place, however, may allow your staff to adjust focus moving forward. With digital implementations the capacity for work increases. Rather than hiring new employees to fulfill increased capacity, continuing to outsource certain processes empowers current staff to have more time to build relationships while maintaining lower overhead and employment costs.
With your staff now focused on client relationships and experiences rather than repetitive processing work, the agency focus can more easily shift to rounding out current accounts, asking for referrals, and following up with new prospects. You may also find there are other areas in your agency where outsourcing can achieve additional operational effectiveness and efficiency, ultimately leading to increased revenue and profit margins. Working with a trusted partner (like Xceedance) can provide your organization with digital-first services and solutions for all areas of insurance operations.
Ryan Martin is AVP – on-demand services at Xceedance.