Many insurance carriers are armed with a multitude of technical expertise and love nothing more than sharing that knowledge with their independent agents. Other carriers may have a great deal of talent, but are less willing to share it with agents who they may or may not look on as partners.
Whatever situation carriers and agents find themselves, the more successful are those that have something to offer on each side of the equation—insurers with technology tools and advice to share and agents who understand what technology can mean for them and how best to use the available tools.
“We are trying to make [technology] more accessible and easier to adopt,” says DeVito.
Progressive also has partnered with third-party vendors who can help agents develop Web sites and develop Internet search strategies, according to DeVito. The carrier also has a large field representation, but also added an agency blog where agents can interact with the carrier’s senior leaders on topics of interest.
Whitfield admits it is difficult to determine a return on an agency’s investment in social media.
“It’s hard to figure out how to make money through Facebook or Twitter,” he says. “How many agency resources should we dedicate to social media? It’s important to us to touch our clients in the way they want to be touched, but it’s tough to keep in front of that considering how the landscape keeps moving.”
Progressive’s direct channel is strong in the Soleyon’s Washington base, but Whitfield doesn’t consider that a threat.
In her conversations with independent agents, Carney reports she was surprised by the number that have smartphones.
“Many agents are embracing mobile,” she says. “You see that expressed by the fact carriers are looking at mobile applications for their agents. How can the two sides better connect and give [agents] access to the policy administration system to help them answer a question for clients when they are out visiting the client.”