As we have learned, the Digital, Accelerated series has shown different and various sets of agency voices and industry leaders to listen to how independent agents should also be thinking about an advanced transformation. They tackled many different tools and techniques and also about different strategies and opportunities. They also encouraged agents to accept modern technology at every possible turn.
Agents for the Future discussed things with the Liberty Manual and Safeco Agency Capabilities and Programs to learn how to improve the new tools and strategies agents may be adopting. This said team of marketing professionals often works with independent agents almost every day to guide them through improvement projects.
With this work, the ACP team realizes that many agents are making huge digital steps to meet customer expectations and also gain competitive advantages. However, every agent is at a different phase in their digital journey and how agents move will greatly depend on their specific needs and goals of their business.
Here are five members of the ACP team and their unique takes on much better ways on how independent agents can accept the digital era. This is also to place a path forward no matter where they step on their digital journey.
Good: Using a much modern agency management system or AMS to bring tools and technologies together
Better: Controlling data from your AMS to automate and optimize the customer experience
Most agencies depend on an agency management system and this makes sense since an AMS offers an efficient path to digital with a lot of important tech tools already built right in. However, many still struggle with how to use all of the consumer-facing capabilities to their full ability.
There are lots of AMS solutions out there. However, the very one thing that you should choose largely depends on your agency size, business mix, and technology needs. There are a few important things we recommend agents consider such as mobile, cloud, and automation. These should be considered whether you’re shopping for an AMS for the very first time or looking to move from an old system.
Being mobile-friendly and cloud-based helps ensure that you’re investing in a solution that some third-party providers offer will make your company advance into the 21st century and beyond. This allows your employees to work as fast as they can from whatever kind of device they use and this is way more convenient since this is more important if people aren’t able to go to the office.
The true power that AMS holds starts to unlock when it now makes your work more efficient and energizes your marketing muscle. Systems that are automation-friendly can handle data efficiently and can eliminate rekeying of data and edits. They have these self-service capabilities that can help your customers get important data such as policy documents, ID cards, and certificates of insurance on their own, not relying on your staff anymore.
They also offer customer relationship management features or they can easily connect to CRM tools to start marketing automation. It’s easier to automate customer-friendly communications now such as “happy birthday” emails and policy renewal reminders. These can all happen while they help you utilize the communication channels chosen by each of your customers. Most significantly, your marketers can now effectively launch marketing campaigns such as cross-sell, upsell, and getting in touch with lost customers to drive new business growth.
You don’t have to balance customer experience anymore since you can now have both with the right AMS and implementation of its features.
Good: Using text messaging to connect with customers
Better: Supporting texting services that all agency employees can access
The consumers that we have today are expecting the ability to connect with agents that are convenient for them and text messaging is among the best tools you could do for them. Texting is much better since emails get lost in cluttered inboxes. What’s more, phone calls can also get unanswered. Snail mails also take days to arrive.
On the other hand, texting is very fast and effective. The open rate for email is usually in the 20-30% range. Meanwhile, almost all text messages get opened and read. Texting should be your priority if you’re looking for immediate responses.
However, this can also be difficult for agencies since you can only do this with one phone. The conversation can only be done to one staff and locks it only into one device.
A solution could be as convenient as your AMS. Most AMS have built-in messenger solutions that can place text messaging into the hands of the whole staff; meaning every different staff member can pick up conversations at different times if needed. Another good news is that records of those conversations are all stored in one place which then lessens errors and omissions exposure.
There are also third-party providers that offer standalone solutions if you don’t prefer AMS-provided texting solutions. A lot of these vendors also integrate directly into your AMS.
Good: Adopting an eSignature solution
Better: Supporting cloud-based solutions to go completely paperless
Having an eSignature solution is also an important first step in making the move into having a digital office set-up. However, we know this can be tough for you. Some clients see the paper signing as an opportunity for building relationships. This can also offer you an opportunity to see a long-lost customer for the first time in months or even years.
We greatly suggest rethinking this mindset and agents should place themselves in the shoes of your clients. Most clients don’t usually go out of their way, especially during a time that is not convenient for their day to visit your office and sign a document.
Opting for an eSignature solution is one of the best solutions you can do for your clients. Before you just used pen and paper and from the next onwards, you can now sign documents via eSignature. Once eSignatures becomes a natural staple for your staff, the move to a completely paperless office becomes much easier.
It’s also significant to remember that this move is also critical from a customer experience perspective while the operational benefits of moving to a cloud-based storage system will only become more obvious over time. You’ll give your clients time and freedom to handle their insurance needs on their own time. If you’re still not offering eSignature and becoming a paperless company, others are already on their way.
Good: Using online services to serve clients outside of the usual 9 a.m.-5 p.m office hours.
Better: Supporting carrier service centers to keep services open after hours
A lot of agencies struggle with the need to balance to extend office hours to remain open during times that are convenient for their clients to come in and also the desire to maintain a more regular 9 am to 5 pm schedule.
If you go digital, this unlocks so many ways to keep your doors open even when the physical office is already closed. You can be on live chat on your website and you could offer answers to your clients without being physically present in the office. Using online self-service tools can allow your clients to take action whenever is best for them.
Also, consider adopting your carriers’ service centers to step up further and maintain a high-quality service. Most offer extended hours and only a few are open 24/7 in a whole year. A service center can give you peace of mind knowing that your clients are well taken care of while your employees are resting.
Good: Creating a modern and mobile-friendly website
Better: Supporting paid search to bring new prospective clients onto your website
Your website is the face of your agency or company in so many ways. It can give your prospective clients first impressions of your agency, agency staff members, and involvement in the community. Having a customer portal for your existing clients can help save your agency staff time.
Something modern and mobile-friendly website is one of the best ways to secure that competitive advantage. Another plus is the adoption of paid search.
Paid search can also be hugely effective for bringing in qualified leads into your agency. However, this requires a lot of investment of time and resources. ROI can also be essential.
According to the most digitally savvy agents we spoke with, they were able to land a new customer within the first couple of weeks when they acquired paid search. It then took them about 3-6 months to adapt to their new tools and concepts. Another year or two was also then needed to hone strategy, develop strong ad and landing page copy and fully optimize the search terms they were using. These agents keep on improving and evolving their strategy as their landscape is also evolving.
It’s significant to remember that paid search is a marathon; not just a sprint. You will never turn back once you see that your investment starts to pay off.