As independent insurance agencies become more digital, they expect their insurer partners to provide digital services that increase ease of doing business while providing access to the best products – and pricing – for their clients.
Those insurers who support their agents’ digital strategies will stand to reap the rewards of building stronger relationships with the right agents that will drive profitable premium growth.
“Technology isn’t replacing our relationships, it’s enhancing them by allowing us to better serve our customers.”
Matt Simon, Vice President at leading digital agency Hill & Hamilton, sat down with us to discuss what it means to be a digital agency and how insurers can better support their digital businesses.
IVANS Communications: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Matt. To start off our discussion, can you explain why your agency and other agencies are going digital?
Simon: In today’s insurance market, agencies are moving at a faster pace and cannot afford to be bogged down by manual processes and paperwork. Our agency was experiencing inefficiencies with manual, day-to-day tasks that prompted us to search for technology to enable flexibility and automation throughout. I believe that implementing a digital agency strategy goes hand-in-hand with our core value of being a trusted advisor. I’ve heard from both agents and insurers that they are worried technology will replace the relationships they have. But technology isn’t replacing our relationships, it’s enhancing them by allowing us to better serve our customers.
IVANS Communications: How does technology drive success at your agency?
Simon: Technology has impacted our agency in three areas:
- First, it enables us to retain our existing clients and positions us to win new business that we may not have had an opportunity to win before. Today’s consumers expect omnichannel service in real time via whatever channel they choose – be it in person, phone, web and mobile apps. By delivering the excellent customer experiences our clients expect, both physical and digital, we solidify our customer relationships, which ultimately drives business returns through enhanced retention.
- Technology also allows us to attract and retain top talent. Just like consumers, the next generation workforce expects instant access to information, both in the office and while on the road or at home. By providing the best software tools to our team, we experience higher retention and easier recruitment.
- Before we went digital, our agents had to be in the office to complete tasks or provide customer service. Now, our agents have the ability to work on the go and are not bogged down by paper-based transactions. The greater efficiency that technology affords has had a significant impact on our bottom line.
IVANS Communications: Now that we’ve explained why agencies are going digital, let’s discuss what digital agencies look for in an insurer partner.
Simon: Agents are increasingly valuing ease of doing business over anything else when evaluating their insurer partnerships. We conduct business with many insurer partners. The ability to have information delivered directly to our management system versus visiting countless different insurer portals results in significant time savings. Automated workflows and faster insurer communications enables us to deliver better service throughout the insurance lifecycle.
IVANS Communications: How can insurers better support their agency partners?
Simon: When evaluating our insurer partners, we see three core areas as critically important in the success of these relationships:
- Greater visibility into their latest appetite and product details
- Access to quote and rate details in real time
- Continuous access to the latest policy information
IVANS Communications: Let’s take this one step at a time. Can you explain what the market search process is like for your agency and how insurers can better support you?
Simon: Many insurers communicate their appetite to us via phone or in person. The problem with this is that they only have the conversation with one person in our agency, so it then becomes that person’s responsibility to make sure everyone else in our office gets this information. The second problem is that by the time we hang up the phone or the insurer leaves our office, the information is already outdated. Technology streamlines these one-one-one conversations to provide the most up-to-date appetite information that is accessible by everyone in our agency. To ensure continuous product visibility, insurers need to market directly to agencies via tools that integrate into our daily workflows.
IVANS Communications: Next, let’s talk about the quoting process. How do agents want to receive quotes?
Simon: We prefer to work directly from our agency management system verses portals or comparative raters and I’ve talked to other agents who agree. The ability for us to receive proposals directly through our management system reduces duplicate keystrokes and saves us an enormous amount of time. By eliminating the need to log into multiple insurer portals, we are able to respond to clients more quickly and easily. For insurers, automating quotes instantly to agencies’ systems reduces overhead costs and time spent managing insurer portals, and ensures constant product visibility.
IVANS Communications: Lastly, let’s examine how download is changing the way agents interact with insurers. Can you explain the process agencies must go through to get physical documents from insurers into the agency management system without download services like eDocs and Messages download?
Simon: When insurers don’t offer eDocs and Messages download, our associates have to manually print, sort, file and scan all of the policy documents. This a very time-consuming and costly process that prevents us from having access to the latest policy information. To keep up with consumer demand for instant service, we need continuous access to the latest policy information directly within our daily management system workflows. Implementation of eDocs and Messages download eliminates paper-based transactions related to policy details and documentation to save both agencies and insurers a significant amount of time and money.
IVANS Communications: To conclude our discussion, can you touch on why insurers should support digital agencies?
Simon: As agencies continue to become more digital, they expect insurers to provide and support these digital services. Those insurers and MGAs who support their agents’ digital strategies stand to reap the rewards of building stronger relationships with the right agents that will drive profitable premium growth. Those who continue to rely on the “way things have always been done,” will begin to miss out on new agency opportunities and could even run the risk of straining current agency relationships.