That client just called again. They want to make yet another change to their coverage. It would be alright if this stupid “new and improved” policy management system would just do what you wanted it to.
Here we go. System is down again. That’s the third time this month. Better call IT.
You know they can probably get things back up and running again, but deep in the pit of your stomach you hope they can’t. You hope it’s down for the count this time so you have an excuse to upgrade to a better system that doesn’t have 6,000 different problems and an endless list of codes you can never remember just to get the data you want.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. These are common challenges facing insurance brokers every day. Consumers are demanding better service, better value, and more personalized experiences, but you can’t give it to them.
Here’s why (and what you can do about it):
The Redundancy Problem
You fill in the required fields. Name, date-of-birth, the client’s address, and then have them sign. Wait. What’s this? You need their address again? You need their name again on another sheet?
Traditionally, insurance paperwork was simple, but due to regulation it has grown to epic proportions, with duplication being the norm across the industry. Streamlining the process would simplify this issue except that many agencies still run on paper and ink.
Some insurance companies still require “wet” signatures as a matter of internal policy, despite the legality of digital ones.
This is the “redundancy problem.” Inefficient processes are baked into the insurance application cake. Getting rid of these inefficiencies isn’t a trivial matter, either. Legacy systems often get in the way of technology upgrades, and management has little incentive to overhaul systems for fear of disrupting essential customer and client services.
The Real Problem with Your Workflow
Tied into the problem of redundancy is workflow. When you have to do the same thing 3 times, it kills productivity and motivation.
Even if you had some kind of super-duper technological solution, you’d still have a persistent problem on your hands: manual data entry.
It’s not that technological solutions don’t exist. They do. But, most of the popular ones on the market aren’t too good at automation. Part of the reason for that is automation in the insurance business is hard. Underwriting is part math and part qualitative analysis.
How do you automate that?
And yet, this must be done to streamline and improve your workflow — especially when larger firms are managing to push through and dominate your markets.
Document Storage and Security Problem
A sort of downplayed problem in the insurance industry is the document storage and security issue. Archiving and retrieving documents is a pain in the you know what. It stems from old paper filing systems. When computers were introduced to insurers, "imaging" processes took over, but the basic problem of archiving and retrieval wasn’t fixed.
Where digitized copies are allowed by insurers, agents and support staff have to image or scan applications and other documents into computer systems and then send them off. But, the agency infrastructure is such that agencies and brokers are not directly tied into the insurance company’s internal systems.
Security and document handling processes might be slightly different.
Ever get a secure email attachment from an insurance company with a proprietary document management platform? Odds are, you had to log into a special area just to view it. Then, if you wanted to download it, there was another process for that. Sending any documents back involved backflips.
But, even sharing between offices and branch locations isn’t easy. If your brokerage or agency operates in several different markets, and each one has its own non-networked system, document sharing and handling is all but impossible.
Push vs. Pull
Most systems force you to adapt to them instead of them adapting to you. This is the classic “push vs. pull” problem. In conventional systems, you are retrieving information but, unless you know what you’re looking for, you may never find it.
Push notifications can alert you of important interactions with customers or carriers, as well as data-driven insights that can be used to improve your agency’s bottom line.
Clients also expect “push” services. They don’t want to log in to get something. They want you to deliver information to them via apps and other intelligent services.
The Persistent Problem of Ignorance
Sometimes the problem is a broker’s lack of understanding about how a system works. Some systems are inherently difficult to understand and use, or they take a long time to learn. Other systems are inflexible. They force you to work within strict boundaries, so you’re tempted to find shortcuts to do what you want to do. This certainly doesn’t help with system or product knowledge.
And, of course, all these problems delay underwriting, sales, and delivery cycles, resulting in sub-optimal employee performance and unhappy clients.
So, where does that leave the broker or brokerage executive looking to improve and be a part of the solution for his or her firm?
Insurance Brokers Meeting and Beating Challenges Faced
Smart brokers and agencies are moving away from dinosaur systems that cause all these problems, but they haven’t yet discovered the “holy grail”: a way to become a digital agency.
Smart, omnichannel brokerage management systems are transforming conventional agencies and brokers into digital agencies using cloud-based technology.
Such solutions change the way these brokers operate by:
- Introducing automated policy management
- Improving transparency through integrated frontend and backend operations
- Allowing brokers to sell and service customers from mobile, tablet, and desktop devices
- Letting the company see and interact with data in real-time
This type of smart, all-in-one-place, easy-to-use functionality will increasingly provide forward-thinking brokers with the ammunition they need to meet evolving client demands. It will also usher in a new normal for the world of insurance intermediation.
By removing layers of unnecessary complexity, automating eligible processes, connecting offices, and making it easier for customers to interact with their brokers, the digitally empowered broker will seldom face a challenge he or she cannot handily overcome.