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Large-scale disruption is already here in insurance. You’re no longer just up against the agency across town. Your real competition is now the digital startups and direct-distribution players who are leapfrogging ahead in terms of customer experience, efficiency, and technology.
The hard truth is that no agency can survive without futurizing, and you simply can’t afford to go forward without a plan.
But here’s another truth: it’s all doable. The tools and technologies you will need to operate as an agent of the future are ready and waiting. And as for your plan, there are really just five essentials you absolutely must incorporate into your toolkit. Start with these, get them right, and you are most of the way there.
Ready? Here are the five must-haves for tomorrow’s competitive insurance agent:
1. Automation (everywhere)
How much of your typical day is spent on tasks that could be done better and faster with automation? And how much frustration and time could you save for yourself and your customers by automating manual processes? Automation will be the engine of the agency of the future. And don’t buy into the “automation will replace the agent” myth. Automation is about making you more valuable, not obsolete, because when technology can take over the repetitive, monotonous and mundane, you are at liberty to provide the personalized, astute and revenue-driving human interactions and services that set the independent agent apart.
Automation can bring value to every phase of your funnel and policy journey not only by eliminating manual data extraction and data entry, but also by providing the streamlined, fast and error-free experience customers expect. Here are just a few examples:
2. Artificial intelligence
You don’t have to be a data scientist to put the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics to work for your agency and your customers. AI already touches most aspects of life - from navigation apps we use to commute to the fitness tools we wear every day. In insurance, AI is your ticket to easily getting and giving the answers you and your customers need to make good choices.
AI extracts insights from your data to help you make decisions and improve revenue. It drives chatbots that robotic process automation that give customers the information they need and the experience they desire on-demand. AI ensures decisions are based on data, not intuition or past experience. With AI, the agent of the future can:
Again, tools for machine learning such as chatbots are there to make you better at your job, not do your job for you. They give you the time and insights you need to really excel at the aspects of insurance that will always require a human touch, such as explaining complex options, guiding tough choices, providing confidence and reassurance, and being there as a partner and resource through life’s ups and downs.
3. A customer-oriented pivot
Make no mistake, customer-centricity is essential in any business model today, inside and outside insurance. It requires seeing the customer experience as fundamental to driving growth and profitability, not just window dressing. And it requires digitization, communication and every conceivable combination of the two. Keep in mind that your leads and your policyholders expect access, convenience, options and responsiveness at a level unprecedented in our industry, because they have come to expect it in every other aspect of their lives. Pivoting to the customer means:
Automation, AI and customer-centricity - all the essentials we’ve covered so far - must be part and parcel of your agency-of-the-future marketing plan. The point is to do a lot more with your marketing with a lot less effort. Your growth will depend on your ability to scale, automate, personalize and quantify your marketing efforts, and you’ll need the right technology to make it possible. Here’s how agency marketing of the future might look on a typical day:
For growth, marketing must be a non-stop activity, but with automated marketing tools, it can be continually running in the background while you focus on the 1:1 aspects of customer engagement and sales.
A vital thing to remember about becoming an agent of the future is that the future is a moving target. The new processes and technologies you implement to modernize today (and realize the four goals we’ve outlined above) you must be flexible enough to adapt to the next wave of change in our industry and the one after that. If you bake in modularity from the start, you will never be boxed in. Open API architectures give you that future-proof modularity by enabling you to plug in new capabilities and services as needed. They also allow you to iterate your growth - adopting new tools (marketing, SMS messaging, eSignatures, chatbots etc.) as-needed and without any lengthy integration required. With the right API framework, your agency can literally gain access to thousands of “apps” or microservices that empower you to customize a fully interconnected, customer-focused business platform without major IT headaches.
Are you ready to become an agency of the future? Status quo isn’t really an option, but you do have choices when it comes to the path you take to automation, the partners you choose, the technologies you adopt and the pace at which you adopt them. Some paths will be simpler than others, and at Elevate, you’ll have a chance to discover and explore what’s out there. I can’t wait to see you there!
This article was first published in Agency Nation on March 20, 2020: https://www.agencynation.com/five-essentials-for-becoming-an-agent-of-the-future/