Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

Insurance in a connected world: What we can do today for a better tomorrow

Opinion

Customers expect to be as connected to their insurance professionals as they are to their favorite coffee shop, thanks to technology and their consumer experiences. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Customers expect to be as connected to their insurance professionals as they are to their favorite coffee shop, thanks to technology and their consumer experiences. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Technology is revolutionizing the business of insurance.

According to Ernst & Young, technology is the number one external force impacting today’s insurance market. Technologies such as social media, telematics and analytics are redefining our market, impacting areas from marketing and distribution to customer service and pricing.

There is a notion often discussed in our industry that technology is just now disrupting insurance. I would argue that technology has been impacting the insurance industry for decades and, frankly, mostly for the better. What is new is the opportunity that technology is now providing to better connect insurers, agents and insureds.

A recent Reagan Consulting report notes that technology investments have driven improved productivity and resulted in outstanding profit margin growth for agencies. In fact, average profit margins for Best Practice agencies have grown from 12 percent to nearly 27 percent since 1993. These numbers clearly illustrate how investing in technology can enable agencies to drive profitable growth, improve operational efficiencies, and maximize business valuation.  

Meeting customer expectations


Technology has clearly driven financial returns, but we shouldn’t forget that it has also raised customer and employee expectations. In fact, technology has reimagined nearly all customer experiences and at a pace never before seen in our world. All of us are experiencing a more connected life in a more connected world. And those connected experiences are impacting the expectations of insurance consumers across our industry.

To meet these expectations, our industry must deliver a connected experience between all participants in the insurance ecosystem. This means greater connectivity within an agency, with insurer partners, and to the insured. It also means a simulatenous exchange of information between all key stakeholders across the insurance lifecycle. When the business of insurance is digitally connected, we all benefit from superior experiences across the entire insurance lifecycle.

The “connected” business of insurance comprises three key components: the connected agency, the connected insured and the connected insurer.

The connected agency


Using multiple systems for different lines of business inhibits an agency’s ability to cross-sell products, which is the main reason agencies diversified into multiple lines in the first place. In fact, in a study completed by ACORD’s User Group Information Exchange (AUGIE), 98 percent of agencies responded that having a complete view of client business in a single agency management system was either important, very important or extremely important. Using a market-leading agency management system is undoubtedly the first step to creating a connected agency.

A connected agency allows each employee to have the right information and products available anytime, anywhere to better serve clients via a single, integrated system. With many agencies expanding their focus to more lines of business, having the ability to efficiently access and act upon a complete view of the customer is becoming more and more important, regardless of whether the product is personal lines, commercials lines or benefits.

A connected agency also requires the ability to provide a complete view of the customer to your staff regardless of role, time or location – meaning at home, on the road, or on a plane via smartphone or tablet app.

The connected insured


Today’s consumer expects an omnichannel delivery model. A study by Bain & Co. found that over time, insureds will use online, self-service transactions more and more. They expect real-time access to information via multiple digital channels like self-service portals and mobile applications. They demand convenient, digital services such as online bill pay and eSignature. Agencies that cater to these demands, are the ones that experience the most growth. In fact, according to research from Celent, when consumers were asked why they chose a particular provider when looking for financial services, 52 percent indicated that their selection was based on convenience or ease of service.

The connected insurer


Customers demand product choice and effective interactions with their insurance agents. A connected insurer relationship enables profitable growth through access to the right markets and automated servicing. A recent IVANS survey found that 79 percent of agents save at least one hour per day using eDocs & Messages, while 43 percent of agents save at least one hour per day with Claims download. A connected insurer relationship provides ease of doing business and greater productivity with automated download.

In today’s connected world, it has become more critical than ever to adapt with the changing landscape of the industry. Those who fall behind will become less competitive and less profitable.

Reid French is chief executive officer of Applied Systems, based in Atlanta, Ga. He can be contacted at 404.842.0055. Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own. 

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