Why More Agencies Need to Embrace Mobile Solutions

It’s no surprise that 92% of millennials own a smartphone, according to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center.

But did you know that 85% of Gen Xers and 67% of baby boomers own a smartphone, too? Mobile is no longer a generational trend—it’s an established human preference, regardless of age or location.

Why, then, do only 45% of independent agencies offer their staffs mobile access to management system information, according to the 2018 Applied Digital Agency Report?

Michael Howe, senior vice president, product management at Applied Systems, believes “agencies only recently crossed an invisible threshold where they’re just now getting comfortable with mobile.”

And they’re right on time, because for today’s employees, mobile access to important agency data is not just a perk—it’s mandatory.

“Imagine I’m an agency employee who’s out meeting with a customer, and the customer asks me, ‘Hey, what’s the status of my claim?’” Howe points out. “If I say, ‘Uh, well, I don’t know—let me see if I can call someone back at the agency,’ or ‘Let me check on that tomorrow when I’m back in the office and I’ll get back to you,’ that’s a bad answer from a customer service perspective.”

If, by contrast, that same employee has access to the customer’s information right on their mobile device, “that not only helps the employee be more efficient—it also shows up as better service for the customer,” Howe explains.

In addition to mobile connectivity for staff, customer-facing technology is an equally crucial part of the mobile equation. But only 24% of agencies offer mobile apps and only 18% offer self-service portals to clients, according to Applied’s research.

Why the low adoption? “Some agents may fear that somehow their value as an agent is going to be diminished if they relinquish that human touch,” Howe says. “But that’s faulty logic. There are times when your customers prefer to interact with your agency in different ways. It doesn’t make one better or worse—it just means you’re better off if you give your customers a choice.”

Imagine your insured needs to update the address on their account. “As a customer, it can be a bit frustrating if you make me call you during office hours. I would prefer to take care of it on the spot while I’m on the subway in the morning when it just crosses my mind,” Howe points out. “If you give me the app to let me do that myself, I actually think better of you as my agent because you provided a convenient service for me.”

Meanwhile, when you’re not responding to requests for auto ID cards, you have more time to focus on all the activities that actually add value to the customer relationship: “advice, counsel, and expertise around coverages and carriers,” Howe says. “Mobile doesn’t threaten or replace the agency’s value—it actually makes it stronger.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.