Small and medium enterprise (SME) brokerages are at a crossroads. While they don’t have the budget of their larger counterparts, they do have the potential for a serious competitive advantage.
This advantage can enable brokers to tap into consumer trends, embrace available data in new ways, and offer more personalized customer service than their less tech-savvy competitors.
How? It's simple really. All you need is the right broker tech investment and a smart, well-managed implementation.
The Challenges SMEs Face
The European Commission defines a SME as a business with under 249 employees and an annual revenue of less than $62 million, and while the future is bright for SMEs, success is far from guaranteed.
SME brokers face the same basic business and technology requirements as their larger counterparts, but with considerably fewer resources to bring to bear.
Typically, it's the budget that's the issue for smaller brokerages.
Even though SMEs are focusing more on technology solutions than they previously did, spending an estimated $676 billion by 2021, they’re still finding it difficult to keep up with larger businesses that can spend much more money without feeling the pinch.
It might be a drop in the bucket for a multinational to spend lavishly on a suite of bespoke systems. Not so for many SMEs — leaving them at a disadvantage.
Some SMEs try to narrow the gap by implementing comprehensive business management systems. The thought is that such systems can automate clerical tasks, improve operational transparency, and empower personnel to quickly retrieve the right data at the right time, every time.
In essence, these SMEs are turning to advanced brokerage technology to alleviate staff requirements as they try to build a leaner, meaner business machine. The problem is that these companies will often turn to the same technology solutions being used by their larger counterparts. If you want to play with the big boys, you gotta act like the big boys, right? Wrong. These solutions are built specifically for large operations and can strip away the main advantage that smaller shops have going for them: speed.
Most full-scale enterprise solutions take months to deploy and even longer to master. They’re also too comprehensive — which is to say that they offer functionality that SMEs don’t need and that comes at the expense of usability. This can be in the form of an over-crowded UI, a difficult-to-navigate portal, confusing dashboards, or a generally slowed down system.
The unnecessary complexity can also lead to user errors when logging and retrieving information. Worst of all, in actual fact, these enterprise systems often inhibit and slow employee workflow rather than enabling and accelerating it.
For these solutions, your options for customization are usually limited, extremely expensive, and slow to implement. Bottom line: big slow solutions can work for big slow companies.
For SMEs, it can be like trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. More often than not, it will cost you a lot of money, a lot of time, and impede upon your operational agility. And it won’t deliver on the unique needs and strengths on which your business depends in order to thrive.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your business doesn’t need an upgraded management system or that one can’t help you overcome some of your most pressing business challenges. It does mean, however, that not just any solution will do. You need to find the right solution for your unique business needs. And it may take some looking. Stay the course, be patient, and conduct due diligence as thoroughly as you can. I promise, you’ll be happy you did.
Smarter Insurance Management Tech, Better Opportunities
Technology impacts revenue, there’s no way around it. If you want your business to make more money, you need to invest in good technology. Consumers today are tech savvy, and if you can’t provide service and support to them through digital means, they will move on to someone who will.
Embracing change is where SME brokers have a massive opportunity over their competitors. By investing in business-forward broker tech, businesses can bring new customers right to their doorstep.
Here are three ways an investment in smart insurance broker tech can transform your business and even pay for itself:
1. Robust and Easy-to-Use Systems
When it comes to diving into technology, many fear that it will be a big, messy and disruptive stumbling block to existing operations. While new systems may represent an improvement over the long term, businesses are reluctant to spend the time, energy, and opportunity costs adjusting to change and complexity now for an undefined gain down the road.
The fact is, with the right technology investment, it’s not an either-or proposition. You can have a smooth implementation process AND enjoy the future dividends of a superior system.
Today, systems that are super intuitive right out-of-the-box, are easy to configure and customize, and are built in a highly adaptable manner, are the new standard. No more “solution shells” that require weeks of on-site, complex, customizations carried out by technicians and that challenge your IT staff.
Management systems built on the force.com platform are the perfect example of solutions built on powerful and reliable infrastructure while at the same time being easy to tweak and conveniently customizable. Being able to leverage this platform presents considerable benefits.
First, there’s the added advantage of a ton of available literature on how to use and customize the system for your needs. Having the built-in support of the Salesforce community is a total game changer. There are literally millions of pages online devoted to providing you with tips, tricks, and tutorials for how to get the most out of the system architecture.
There are also countless forums to facilitate an ongoing conversation on all aspects of the force.com platform. In other words, you’ll never again sit on hold for hours trying to get the smallest fix done or see a small change made.
Force.com also has built-in security infrastructure and controls. Any sensitive client information is protected from being breached not only by the platform, but also with permission controls. That means you can set data privileges so that only the right people can have access. The platform also complies with data protection laws, including the soon to be implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Being able to rely on a system that is not only easy to use and customizable but also focuses on security and compliance can be a dream come true for many SMEs.
2. Advanced Data Analytics
Today, data and analytics are the name of the game when it comes to increasing sales. And yet, so many brokers are leaving money on the table because they don’t have a system that allows them to harness the power of analytics.
The big benefit for brokers is the ability to leverage data to increase revenues. A smart management platform is able to provide automatic notifications when upsell or cross-sell opportunities become available.
Imagine being able to access touchpoints, changes of addresses, or upcoming expansions, for example, all in a few clicks. When information is no longer siloed across departments, brokers have access to the data that can be used to more effectively communicate with and sell to customers.
For clients who have more complex policy needs, additional data is especially potent. Instead of acting as a mere facilitator, you can be seen as a vital partner, adding value and expertise throughout the process.
Capturing data and being able to use it properly fuels the growth needed for your investment to be paid back.
3. Modularized Systems
Moving to a modular software architecture can go a long way to making your tech investment pay off.
Using a modularized system means that elements of the system can be invested in and rolled out piecemeal. It allows you to build your system with the pieces fitting together perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle.
Rather than having one big clunky software system that needs constant monitoring by the IT department and systems upgrades — assuming it even fits your needs in the first place — your business can operate better with a flexible solution.
There are many benefits to this. Primarily it means your minimum required investment will always be manageable. That's something that’s often difficult for SMEs to find. Hand in hand with that is you can strategically stack your future investments.
With a modular system, you are able to replace your older systems in pieces—module by module—until you are ready to go all in. Or, if you are happy with certain parts of your current system, you can implement only the modules that you need.
Finally, going modular means you don’t commit yourself and your organization to a system until you’ve proven it’s value and effectiveness. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than going all in on something for your business only to decide it’s a bust. You want to avoid that at all costs, and modular systems help prevent it.
Reaping the ROI Benefits of Your Broker Tech Investments
If you want to be able to seize on the opportunities in the current SME market, you will need a platform that covers all your needs from easy-to-use systems to the advanced data analytics that help your brokers better serve customers. And as your business expands, you want a system that can scale right alongside you, seamlessly.