Insurance agents are heroes. They protect people with the vital services they provide. They show up in the nick of time in an emergency. Now, with the power of digitalization and remote interaction at their disposal, insurance agents are more like superheroes!
They’ve not only adapted to changing technology like champs, but they’ve managed to do so while their entire customer interaction model got turned on its head in a few short months with the arrival of the pandemic and remote everything.
Going remote, rising to the challenge
Before the pandemic, insurance was highly reliant on face-to-face interaction. In January 2020, agents reported conducting 90% of their sales conversations and 70% of their ongoing client conversations in person—in a study by McKinsey. A follow-up survey conducted in May 2020 saw those numbers drop to just 5%!!!
On top of all this, agents and insurance companies had to deal with the many other stresses and tragedies of the pandemic coupled with the fact that their industry is in the business of coping with loss and the unexpected.
But agents rose to the challenge in a big way, facing calamity head-on and helping clients through a difficult time.
These acts of everyday heroism were made possible by rapid digitalization and a mindset shift that welcomed new tools and new approaches.
Digitalization is a superpower in the hands of super-agents
As buying and selling insurance went digital out of necessity in 2020, the industry made a quantum leap in terms of efficiency. So far, this has been a win-win for clients and agents.
Efficiency is a superpower made possible by digitalization
The emphasis on face-to-face selling makes sense given the importance of trust in a business where customer relationships can last a lifetime, but it’s also an inefficient way to do things. An agent might drive 30 minutes each way to meet with a reluctant client. A lot of sales don’t go anywhere.
Meeting with clients remotely, an agent can save money on travel, waste less time with reluctant leads, make sales with less conversion time, and fit more meetings into one day. In other words, commissions come at a lower cost.
Digitalization helps agents better serve their clients
Digitalization allows agents to meet customers where they are, across a range of digital channels. The whole experience from first contact to signing a policy and making the first payment can be done remotely and securely thanks to co-browsing.
Digitalization helps agents be heroes at home
For agents, efficiency means more time for the mission-critical parts of their work. But it also means more time away from work. Unlike comic book superheroes, insurance agents don’t live in the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude.
They have friends, families, things they want to do with their time outside of work. Anything that makes them more efficient at work gives them back personal time, parenting time, hobby time. The same tools that help them show up for clients help them show up at home too.
Digitalization connects agency with their original purpose
At the end of the day, the best agents are people-persons. That isn’t changing any time soon. Digitalization is helping agents scale their personalized interactions and face-to-face-from-anywhere service.
Digitalization enables salespeople to focus on their primary task: working with people. It helps them be helpers.
As the insurance selling experience becomes increasingly digitized and remote, salespeople can spend more time doing what they do best–interacting with customers–and less time on sales-adjacent tasks like data entry and driving to meet prospects. As Dustin Yoder put it in a Medium article on tech and insurance agents, “The agent profession has regressed into a low-skill data entry job, and the sales savvy within the agent force is going to waste.”
Digitalization helps agents cut the waste and reclaim their time.
Co-browsing has you covered
Here’s one example we’ve seen first-hand at Surfly: An insurance agent can use co-browsing to help cover all the details that go into making a claim. For example, if someone’s been in a car accident and needs a rental, the client and the agent can take care of the claim and rent a car with universal browsing while on a Surfly call.
Omnichannel is like Batman’s utility belt
Customer-centricity means knowing where to meet your customers and how to engage with them across different platforms. An omnichannel strategy creates value by engaging with customers across multiple channels, from chatbots to social media. According to McKinsey, an omnichannel strategy can boost containment by 20%.
Recognition of digital skills
Superheroes don’t need credit for their work, but super-agents deserve it! One of the unfortunate things about sales in any industry is an over-emphasis on hitting numbers. It’s time that insurance companies recognize the role their agents play in the industry’s digital transformation and acknowledge that as part of their job description.
One example of much-needed recognition in this area is Generali’s Global Agent Excellence Contest which awards “the most innovative agents in terms of digital adoption, data collection and new approaches to market.”
This award is more than an attaboy for agents who are on top of tech trends. It’s an acknowledgment of vital changes in the industry and the importance of keeping up.
Customer-centricity is how you avoid a race to the bottom
Customers now expect you to exceed their expectations. We want it now, or we don’t want it! But at the same time, nobody wants to buy insurance the way they order on Amazon or choose a policy like deciding what to watch on Netflix (nothing should ever be that hard) given the serious and lengthy commitment involved.
And this is where customer-centric digitalization gets really cool.
The tools and techniques that have transformed so many other areas of our lives make both sides of the insurance customer’s experience better than ever. Trust can now be scaled. The personal touch no longer involves taking a trip to meet the client on their turf.
Digitalization takes customer-centricity to the next level
Today and tomorrow’s insurance superheroes will be remote and digital. Just like a good insurance agent, digitalization is right where we need it when we need it, and it isn’t going anywhere. Generali has put digital transformation front and center in its “lifelong commitment” to customers.
This is only the first chapter in the insurance agent’s digital hero’s journey.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: TARIQ VALENTE
Tariq Valente is the CSO of Surfly.
Surfly is part of our Batch 6 Fintech program in Singapore.
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