With margins compressing as marketing, selling and servicing insurance become more competitive, independent agents and carriers need to develop new strategies to help each other.
Independent agents and their carriers are like waiters and chefs at a restaurant. They have different jobs but need each other to operate successfully.
With margins compressing as marketing, selling and servicing insurance become more competitive, independent agents and carriers need to develop new strategies to help each other. Carriers have provided agents with marketing resources for a long time, but the flyers, static web content and generic social media campaigns provided will no longer be enough to help agents bring in the business their carriers seek.
Here is an independent agent's technology wish list:
1) Provide instant quoting in personal lines. Speed to quote and issue isn't a new concern for agents or carriers. But quoting still isn't fast enough. Most personal insurance carriers can easily work with comparative raters, but bridging and other issues slow down the process and add complexity and cost.
A handful of carriers have figured out how to write profitable home and auto coverage with little more than an address. This kind of speed allows agents to spend time building relationships instead of quoting.
2) Arm agents with enriched prospect data. Carriers have been generating “hit lists" forever. But in today's data-rich environment, these lists are as crude as a blacksmith's forge. Technology exists for these prospecting lists to detail data points necessary to provide a quote in small commercial or elsewhere, an estimated premium, and a competitive comparison.
Many carriers are using similar technology for their own processes. This advanced knowledge combined with traditional sales skills would serve as a superpower for many agents in the marketplace.
3) Get on board with commercial lines comparative raters and prioritize tech budgets to make them work well. Some carriers worry they could lose market share with commercial lines comparative raters, concerned that the tools fail to highlight their “uniqueness." This demonstrates a fundamental distrust of their agents. Meanwhile, other carriers just haven't prioritized adopting these tools into their tech budgets.
However, agents need these tools to save time, preserve margins and focus on relationship-building instead of wasting time tracking down quotes. Speed has never been more critical for insurance sales and few tools offer more promising return on investment than comparative rating tools.
4) Use artificial intelligence to coach agency staff in real time. Many carrier executives have told me agents can receive more competitive quotes depending on how that agent uses their system. Why not install AI in the quoting system to provide real-time coaching during the rating process? As talent turnover within agencies accelerates over the next few years, this could be a game-changer.
5) Collaborate with data. Carriers download huge amounts of data into agents' management systems today. Why not collaborate with agencies to tap into their data and provide automated account rounding, marketing, quoting and closing?
The expression “data is everything" is said so often today that it's in danger of becoming trite. The opportunities for agents to sell more, better and faster through data aggregation and analytics tools are clear. The problem is not the availability of these tools, it's scale and affordability. Those are problems that carriers can solve.
Tony Caldwell is an author, speaker and mentor who has helped independent agents create over 250 independent insurance agencies. Learn more by visiting his website.