How carriers can maximize agent efficiency

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In my last post, we examined insurance agents’ surprising resilience to predictions of their imminent demise going back at least 25 years. In summary, the news of the agent’s death is grossly exaggerated. Agents control approximately 80% of the homeowner market and 65% of the car market today as most customers still prefer to do business with agents.

Of course, with nowhere going, how can carriers and agents work better together to serve customers and drive growth?

Freight forwarders have made significant investments in digital sales and service capabilities, cloud, CRM systems and artificial intelligence chat to reduce claims and service costs. However, I believe there is still significant room for improvement in using technology to enhance agent skills to drive revenue growth and provide a better customer experience. Ignoring this can not only miss opportunities, it can also create risks.

For example, we’ve seen cellular operators launch initiatives to route all customer service calls through central service centers. Agents still sell the policies, but when the customer needs help afterward, they are routed away from the agent and to an automated service system instead of connecting to the agents or agency staff they already know and trust.

Programs like this take away one of the agent’s greatest strengths and risk alienating customers who prefer to speak to their local agent. Successful agents use service opportunities to strengthen relationships and promote cross-sales. Approaches that disintermediate the agent can have a negative impact on revenue and customer loyalty.

This does not mean that call centers, digital self-service or chat technology should be dispensed with, but that customers should have the choice of how they want to get involved.

Catalyze collaboration through technology

I see three distinct areas in which carriers can leverage the technology to work with agents to improve agent performance, the carrier’s bottom line, and the carrier’s value proposition for the agent.

1. Marketing

Most agents are not the size to consistently and successfully use technologies such as artificial intelligence or web crawlers in their marketing efforts. But porters do! Shippers also have access to enormous amounts of internal and external data that they can leverage for actionable insights.

For example, does a current customer buy prams? This could be an opportunity for a life insurance discussion. Are you looking at real estate bookings or mortgage rates? They are likely to be refinancing their home or looking for a new one. Conversational ads on social media can be used to generate leads when a prospect is actively searching and therefore most likely to take out insurance. Notifying an agent in real time when such events occur creates win-win scenarios for agents, carriers, and customers.

2. Sale

With Artificial Intelligence and Speech Recognition, freight forwarders can leverage the skills of their best salespeople and provide scripts, objection responses, and next best offers to all salespeople on their computer screens while they conduct sales pitches.

3. Service

There are many ways of working together here. Examples are technologies that allow a customer to have chat or calling options from a robust agent website; Integration of self-service and quotation capabilities from an agent website with notifications sent to an agent for follow-up on customer-initiated action; and options to make appointments with agents or agent employees digitally. These features should be available on both the agent’s website and the provider’s website. Freight forwarders should embed an agent somewhere in every customer service loop, as consumer preferences vary from transaction to transaction.

These are just a few examples of how carriers and agents can now work together for mutual benefit. If you want to learn more, keep an eye out for an upcoming whitepaper on the subject from me and my colleagues. I will post it here when it gets published.

In the meantime, I’d like to network and answer any questions you have about today’s insurance landscape. I can be reached here.

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