As they race to drive substantive top-line, organic growth, many insurance brokers and agents are making substantial investments in data warehouses, analytics and related technology.
Today, the pressure for making these investments is coming from multiple directions, including:
- Clients: Insurance buyers want greater depth of insights from their brokers; it's become the new normal in the value brokers are expected to deliver.
- Insurance companies: Brokers are trying to level the playing field with insurers, which historically have had and leveraged superior loss and exposure data in their dealings with brokers and agents.
- Larger competitors: Many global and national brokers have invested millions of dollars to create proprietary data platforms and train front-line producers and account executives to leverage intelligence, analytics and benchmarking tools to better serve clients. Competing in a marketplace where buyers place greater emphasis on insights gleaned from robust analytics puts brokers lacking such capabilities at a disadvantage.
- Prolonged soft market conditions: In this environment, it’s imperative for brokers and agents to find new ways to differentiate their service offerings when it's hard to demonstrate the ability to deliver truly unique value to clients.
Even though brokers and agents recognize their needs and potential opportunities related to technology, when investing in data integration and management, analytics, and related technology applications, many struggle to align these investments to drive top-line organic growth.
On the following pages are 10 tips to help brokers and agents make better decisions and achieve their growth objectives when acquiring and deploying technology-based solutions:
1. Don’t put the cart before the horse
Start with a strategy.
A surprising number of brokers race to consolidate agency management systems, build data warehouses and analytical capabilities without a strategy for leveraging consolidated and enhanced data, analytics, and related capabilities.
Often, the greater focus is on data mining and internal efficiencies, without adequately considering how these investments will be used by the front-line team to drive new and expanded sales and improved retention.
2. Recognize strategy starts at the top
Don’t delegate this to your information technology team.
While the IT team should be involved at all stages, strategy development must be driven by the C-suite with the participation of senior sales, account management leaders and their team members.
All should be engaged in every element of the strategy — from identifying data requirements to structuring the roll-out and sustaining its implementation.
3. Beware of following the leader
For most brokers and agents, it’s a flawed strategy.
Be smart in approaching your technology investments. Start by determining how you plan to use enhanced data visibility and tools across the spectrum of your operations, but with a focus on how technology will help drive sales and retention results — the life-blood of any broker or agency.
4. Recognize that your data has limitations
Regional or local brokers and agencies may be victim of data bias; data they collect are restricted to their own geography/locations, client base, and experience rather than market-wide.
Yet, clients often want broader-based analytics and benchmarking for a robust understanding of how their coverages, program structures and experience compare with peers in their industry, size band and geographic footprint.
5. Clean your data
The adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies especially to information technology.
Today, many brokers and agents build data warehouses and analytics on platforms of bad data.
Many firms have huge problems with the quality of data housed in their agency management systems. And cleaning this data on your own for use by the front-line team can involve exorbitant costs in staff time and expenses, as the process must be maintained continuously as new data are captured.
6. Deliver data and analytics where they’re most needed
Many brokers focus on building centralized data warehouses and analytical tools.
While that’s a required first step, it won’t deliver the desired results. It’s imperative to get information and functionality into the hands of individuals who interact directly with clients and carriers on a timely basis, so they can access and use it when and where it’s needed.
7. Focus on the point of sale
Many brokers fail to invest adequately in point-of-sale technologies, such as tablets, to support producer/client executive efforts to demonstrate the power of their data intelligence, market insights, analytics and the like.
8. Don’t neglect the need for training and ongoing support
If there’s one area where the biggest breakdowns occur, it’s a lack of training of sales and client teams on how to leverage technologies in face-to-face interactions with prospect and clients.
Effective rollouts require adequate upfront training backed by "ongoing" support to make sure front-line producers know how to use your data to differentiate the firm, drive sales and improve retention.
9. Understand costs and budget accordingly
Gathering, checking and enhancing data from throughout a broker’s enterprise can be time-consuming and costly; know what’s entailed from the start so you can allocate sufficient staff time and budget to make sure whatever system you implement gives you the desired functionality.
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10. Don’t underestimate the value of outside experts
Many brokers and agents outsource certain aspects of their data management.
The day-to-day requirements for maintaining and delivering data and analytics can overwhelm IT departments and short-circuit even well-designed deployment strategies. Specialist providers that work in the insurance sector can help brokers and agents design and implement best-practice data strategies for a fraction of the cost of doing it in-house.
With a well-developed strategy and thoughtful implementation, brokers and agents can get the greatest return on their investments in technology-based data and analytics solutions. Beyond gains in client service and retention, brokers and agents will be able to leverage their investments to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, generate measurable improvements in top-line organic growth, and win the race to procure and implement the latest technology and analytics.
Patrick Schul is chief sales and marketing officer of Greenwich, Conn.-basedRiskMatch, a business intelligence and analytics company. E-mail him firstname.lastname@example.org.
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