A new report suggests that independent insurance agents and brokers are well positioned to survive and thrive in the future – if they embrace customer service using digital tools, and utilize new approaches to proactive agency management.
The report entitled “Agency Opportunities in a Time of Profound Change” (available on the ACT website) is written by Jeff Yates, executive director of the Agent’s Council for Technology (ACT), a unit of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Yates notes that it is “an exciting time to be involved in ACT because we have so many future-oriented initiatives underway” designed to assist agents and brokers to take control over their destiny.
These initiatives form the bulk of Yates recommendations for agents. Here are some examples.
- Agencies must develop skills in managing multiple communications channels with consumers, and Agency/Broker Management system vendors’ offering must support agents in this.
- Agencies must be able to offer on-line,value-add services to complement, not replace, personal service. An example would be providing clients the ability to request and issue routine Certificates of Insurance through a secure web site.
- A major advantage of independent distributors is the ability to have highly localized community presence. Agencies need to take advantage of mobile technologies to “decentralize into very local offices to be even closer to consumers”.
- Agencies must take advantage of all available tools – including Download, Real Time and electronic filing – to free staff for personal connectivity with clients
- Agencies must get comfortable with outsourcing non-core tasks including, but not limited to, IT functions in order to increase flexibility and agility.
All of these are presenting a strategic challenge to agency management. Yates notes that one of ACT’s work groups has started to articulate critical attributes required for agency managers, which include: “leadership skills (managing a business, not just an insurance technician), strategic thinking, anticipatory, agile, knowledgeable, social, knowing your consumer, good marketing and sales skills, having a communications plan (clear brand positioning), efficient processes, and financial management.”
Yates believes that independent distributors are uniquely positioned to take advantage of a time of profound change. He concludes the report: “Creating that personal connection and relationship is becoming more and more important to today’s consumer, and independent agents excel in this arena. At the same time, agencies have more choices available to them as to how they organize, manage their staffs, create an effective online brand and establish enduring digital/personal relationships with their clients in order to thrive in tomorrow’s insurance market.”