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Digital is Here to Stay: 3 Ways Agents Can Embrace It

Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and digital transformation is critical to keeping pace. Here are three ways agents can think more digitally to prepare for this changing tide.
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“Digital is no longer a nice-to-have, it's a must."

These words ring even more true today than when I first wrote them back in April. Seven months later and I am more confident than ever that digital is the future of the independent agent channel.

Customer expectations are changing rapidly, and digital transformation is critical to keeping pace. Adding new tools, adopting new platforms and making incremental improvements are all valuable steps agents can take to become more digital.

But the most important change agents need to make is a change of mindset. Digital is here to stay.

Independent agents can no longer rely on the same business practices and expect to continue thriving when digital has permeated into every aspect of consumers' lives. Modern buyers aren't just measuring their experience against what another agent can offer, but against every other exceptional digital experience they have with other brands. 

Digital transformation is as much of a mindset shift as it is a strategy or action plan. Here are three ways agents can think more digitally to prepare for the changing tides of customer expectations:

1) Data is more than a proof point, it's a guide. Every agency has a treasure trove of data to pull from. The challenge is in how to find the right data, interpret it, and make sound business decisions based on that interpretation.

Raution Jaiswal, co-founder and CEO of InsuredMine, said it best: “Used well, data becomes insight."

Data should be used as more than just proof points, or a simple stat that you point to that says this particular action or campaign was successful. Data should guide all decision-making, from lead generation to customer retention. It should also be an iterative process, one that allows your business to grow and evolve as you gain more insights into what's working, and perhaps more importantly, what's not.

2) Investing in customer experience will pay dividends. A vast majority—84%—of customers now say the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services, according to the Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report.

This trend is a positive one for independent agents. Unlike any other distribution model, independent agents offer the ease, choice and advice customers need to make smart insurance decisions. This value proposition means independent agents are well-positioned to continue winning in the marketplace, but it also showcases how valuable investing in the customer experience can be.

Agents need to think like the customer and understand the journey they take when interacting with your business. This can help you identify the areas that are causing friction and where you can invest in technology to create ease.

3) Automation is your friend, but personalization wins business. Automation is incredibly important to the success of any agency marketer. It creates efficiency and gives marketers a foundation to optimize efforts and track metrics. When used to its fullest potential, automation also helps agencies move from a one-size-fits-all approach to one built on personalization.

Persona building is a popular way to craft a personalization strategy, but personalization is really just the process of identifying and segmenting your best-fit customers, and then finding the right messages and channels to attract similar customers. It should seep into all aspects of your marketing strategy across paid, earned and owned, and will ultimately allow your agency to win more business with fewer resources.

On their own, each of these three concepts—data, customer experience and personalization—are all impactful digital strategies. And when you bring them together, they make up the foundation of digital transformation that allows agents to attract great customers, build stronger relationships and continue thriving well into the future. 

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

These insights were inspired by stories digitally savvy agents told as part of a new e-book from Agent for the Future. Learn more by downloading Digital, Accelerated Vol 2: The Expert Guide for Independent Agents today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020