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3 Ways to Realize the Value of Digital Investments

Before buying new software or testing out new tactics, independent agents need to understand their needs. Here are three ways to evaluate your agency to prioritize the digital investments that deliver the most value.
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3 ways to realize the value of digital investments

Every agency is on its own unique digital journey. Some are many years into their transformation, while others are new to exploring different tools and tactics.

No matter where an agency stands, there is one reality that all agencies need to reconcile with: Digital is an investment. It requires capital. It requires time. It requires ongoing attention.

A recent Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance research report—“Rise of the Digital Insurance Agency"—assessed more than 20 digital capabilities, identifying seven that were highly correlated with revenue growth. Those capabilities span from fundamentals like agency social media pages to modernizations, such as self-service portals, all the way to high-investment innovations like chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI). They offer a view into what tools provide true business value and a framework for which capabilities agencies need to be considering at various stages of their transformation journey.

But before buying up new software or testing out new tactics, independent agents and brokers need to understand their needs. Here are three ways to evaluate your agency and ensure you are prioritizing the digital investments that deliver the greatest business value: 

1) Outline strategic goals. Highly digital agencies see revenue growth 60% higher than their less-digital counterparts, according to the Liberty Mutual and Safeco research. While that tells us that simply being more digital can bolster the bottom line, it doesn't tell us which tools are best for what kind of business.

Every agency is unique, with a unique vision and value proposition. Whether it's a short-term ambition, such as freeing up more time for producers to actually produce, or a longer-term strategic goal, such as building greater trust and awareness in your local community, your digital investments should map directly back to the larger vision. By outlining strategic business goals, you can begin to build a digital roadmap that creates impact. 

2) Listen to customers. Just as every agency has a unique set of business goals, every customer base is also unique. Agencies can learn a lot from best practices across the industry, but the greatest lessons will come straight from the source.

If you are willing to listen, customers will tell you what they need. Many are eager to answer surveys and provide feedback when asked directly. Others you can learn from by following the data and analyzing how they interact with your business: How did they find out about you? When do they call versus email? What types of customers tend to stick around long term? 

Ultimately, insurance is a relationship business and digital should be prioritized in a way that keeps customers at the center.

3) Audit culture and capacity. Digital is just as much of a talent and culture transformation as it is a technology transformation. Any digital investment needs to be paired with the time and resources necessary for capacity building and cultural shifts. Team members will require a mix of formal training, informal learnings, and time for testing and optimization, balanced out by a concerted effort to integrate the new tool or tactic into current workflows.

While digital can and should save your agency time and resources in the long-term, it is important to also make space for the initial lift, ongoing upkeep and cultural shifts required to get the most out of your investments. Your team only has so much capacity and your priorities should reflect that. 

The great thing about strategic investments is that they should deliver returns. Digital is the same: Prioritize the right tools, dedicate the time and resources, and soon it will pay dividends.

Tyler Asher is president of independent agent distribution at Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance.