Digital Acceleration and Transformation
Evidently in the past, Advantage Insurance Solutions has always been an old-school agency operating traditionally with pen and paper and face-to-face interactions. As an independent insurance agency in Denver, Colorado, this gave the company the chance to center its focus on the community and its citizens.
Up to a certain point, our business transactions, such as signing the paperwork of the client and reviewing policies of policyholders, had to be done in the office and in-person.
As the years went by, Advantage Insurance Solutions adopted the digital way and utilized the digital tools suitable and helpful for the agency. This made me realize to level-up our methods and ways in the agency hence triggering our big move into the World Wide Web and digital marketing.
Conducting business transactions in-person still has its perks and advantages, but the agency had to grow and keep up with the modern ways of society, as well as find more ways to provide a more convenient customer experience to our clients.
Looking into it, moving into digital tools is a win-win situation both for the client and the agency; this is because clients who prefer not to go to the office may opt not to do so, and independent insurance agents can cater both virtual and personal meetings with customers depending on the customers’ preference making the agency and its agents flexible to whatever the customer needs.
Our agency had a wake-up call to move to digital tools last year when the Northwest was hit by a huge snowstorm. The whole staff had to work from home using our cell phones for more than one week. After this experience, we realized that we should be able to work and answer customers even not in the office.
We knew that we needed an upgrade in our system before and did not let snowstorms render us not functional. And for the agency to still run during times like this, we had to get a better system that is ready for any emergency, not just snowstorms.
With that snowstorm in mind, we migrated from the traditional phone system to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system which allows us to communicate with our clients using the Internet which is more accessible nowadays. And to fully integrate the digital tools in our office operations, a web-based agency system was also deployed; together with the consolidated texting and implementation of the eSignature and usage of videos for business transactions that mostly contain instructions or information on some processes that a customer has to go through.
It is now convenient for our agency to do business transactions either physically in the office or virtually in the comfort of our homes. Our staff can move their office work and do their tasks to their homes without having to bring all of the paperwork literally.
The digital tools that we use and the way we utilize these tools have expanded our market, making us reach other parts of the world that we haven’t actually reached yet. The digital tools we have introduced us to new learnings and new clients to do business with. This shows that we can maximize these digital tools and help the agency grow in the number of clients and also the number of members that we have in a team.
For the last five years, I was the only contact person in the agency, but with the growing number of clients, we had to have more manpower, and just a few months ago, we welcomed the fourth member of our P&C team.
With all the advantages of going digital, still nothing beats a human touch. And since we started out traditionally, we’ve incorporated a personal touch to our video proposals for first-time clients that are planning to move to the area. It showed great results as it makes the video more sociable and humane.
The videos are not just for the new clients, we were able to produce more videos for different processes; for transactions like renewals and inquiries, I make a 30- to a 90-second video covering all the questions of the client and then sending the video link to the client giving them the luxury to watch it on their own time. In the future, I plan to make a page with all the videos and then compile it, there will also be videos answering the frequently asked questions that the customers can rely on whenever they do have questions and inquiries.
One of the many advantages of the digital approach is the automation of ways to communicate, by utilizing the features of email, websites, and other things on the Internet we could provide a better customer experience for our clients. In having these digital tools, redundant contents can be used to our advantage and will give us an edge for going the extra mile just to reach out to our clients.
To state an example of how the digital approach improved our communications, we created a page wherein our clients can fill out an online form to sign up for our client portal. In this way, we were able to utilize our digital tools to have the repetitive task of asking the clients to fill out a form, in paper, be automated by embedding a form on our website so they can sign up for our client portal. Also, the client portal improved our communications by letting the staff and clients focus more on their more important or crucial concerns rather than asking how to fill out the form and other frequently asked questions that can now be found on our website.
We also built this website to serve as a compilation of everything that a client needs to know about us such as our history (to show credibility), the training packages and courses that we have, other articles that may answer clients’ questions, job openings, and if they did not find what they were looking for in the website our contact number and email address for more inquiries is also on the website.
Our communication with both our staff and clients are now better with the use of digital tools, and to be honest the visuals on the website makes information about our agency more entertaining to read and easier to comprehend than the usual black-and-white paper that we may hand out. Our instant email feature on the website also makes it easier for customers to ask us questions or raise concerns without having to fall in line in the office and can maximize their time to do other things.
Extending our staff’s capacity
The use of digital tools in the agency has helped us do our businesses more efficiently and at the same time help our staff grow and reach their maximum potentials as they take advantage of the digital tools that we have and the tools that we will find useful in the future.
As an example, our agency’s specialty offers auto/car insurance, homeowners, workers, business insurance and others can be seen on our website. We are required to make a yearly policy review for that product within a seven-week timeframe as an open enrollment period. Customers used to go into the office to, as one of the usual questions, ask quotations about our offers. But now our agents can send clients the link to our website wherein they could get an estimate quotation of what they are planning to avail in our program. Our agents do not need to meet with our clients personally now, most of the questions that they may ask are already on the website also including the link to our client portal. The client portal will serve and help them access their information with our agency online and also the website has videos that are helpful in discussing topics that are related to our offers such as the California Harassment Laws, Workers Compensation and many more.
Regarding the client portal, it does not only allow clients to view the information that the agency has but also facilitate business transactions between the client and the agency. Through the client portal, clients can make changes to their accounts or profiles and/or consult with their agents without having to go to the office for just a single inquiry. This makes our agents more flexible since they can serve our clients who do not want to go outside their houses to do something with their policies. But still, if our clients prefer to discuss things about their policy face-to-face, our agents can still do so. This portal is a big help to our agents and to our clients to the point that most of the tasks for clients are now automated and they mostly would just need to input information in the portal, then the portal will organize the information itself. This also makes data keeping more organized and synchronized with what the client sees. Having to use digital tools maximizes our staff’s capacity and makes it less prone to human err.
We started last 2005 and for the past 16 years we are glad to have served (and continue to serve) 45 states. As we continue to expand the places that we cover, we knew we had to up our game and adapt to changes that would make us more efficient than ever before. Building our own website opened our agency to a lot more opportunities and made us more creative on the content that we want to produce. Our goal for the contents that we post on the website is to inform our clients about the programs that we offer, and for new clients to get to know everything about our agency. To add a human and personal touch to our website, we even added pictures of our people to make our new and current clients feel at ease that they are not just talking to some robot over the chat box or AI on the screen. As we started going online and publishing more content, we had an online compilation of what most of our clients want to know and what they usually want to get done that they usually do when they come into our office. We even made videos on how-tos or good-to-knows and added a feedback submission feature on our website, together with the instant email. Studying the trend on what our clients want to see in our website made it more worth investing into.
Migrating to digital tools was not easy, we had to find the right tools for us and had to have knowledge on how to make it more helpful and user-friendly to our clients. To other insurance agents planning to go or are new to digital, get out of your comfort zones, embrace this evolution, and rip the band-aid off. You can’t keep on waiting for the old traditions to be perfect because they will never be perfect. Sure, it will not be an easy transition and will have trial and error – even some casualties as you go through the process, but these digital tools are worth investing in to help the agency grow and serve our clients better because going digital is the future.