Independent brokers need to focus on the inherent strength of their distribution system – the relationships they have with their customers – by making maximum use of technologies that reduce friction and improve customer communications. Fortunately, there are new technologies and support structures that can help. And there is an event coming up where the developers and adopters of these technologies will be available for consultation.
The independent broker distribution system is facing a number of challenges: Direct marketers, carriers moving to mixed distribution channels, a continuing soft market, and lack of consensus on broker connectivity. However, research from agent associations in the US and broker associations in Canada continue to suggest that independents have a lead over other channels in the relationships with end consumers.
However, that lead is being eroded by two factors:
- The disproportionate amount of time that brokers have to spend on non-productive activities; and
- The lack of strategies to adopt modern customer communications.
Fortunately, technology and support is becoming available to assist brokers in both areas.
The first step to reducing non-productive activities is to identify all of the activities in the brokers office and get a solid understanding of the costs associated and the revenues generated. In days past, gathering this information and industry benchmarks were time-consuming and sometimes costly. Modern technology has addressed this. Leading broker management system vendors are including operations management and business intelligence tools in their offerings and supporting industry efforts to gather benchmarking data on broker operations.
With that knowledge, brokers can take steps to improve operations and work with carriers to develop strategies to attack productive market segments. And technology can be put in place to accurately measure success levels in these areas.
With regard to modern communications, there is increasing evidence that consumers generally and insurance consumers specifically are expecting to communicate in whatever manners they – the consumers – choose . This includes traditional – phone, fax, email – and non-traditional – social media. We have noted in this space that independent distributors who get into social media are seeing real rewards.
A questions for brokers is where to begin. We (humbly) suggest the the 2012 Insurance-Canada Technology Conference (ICTA) on March 5, 2012 as a great place to start. There is an entire stream devoted to distribution technology and will include presentations on operations measurement, benchmarking, and management. In addition, there are several sessions focusing on customer communications, including the integration of social media into communications strategies.
The day begins with a Strategy Session Panel, comprised of industry leaders, discussing broker challenges and includes a luncheon keynote address from Gartner’s Kimberly Harris-Ferrante presenting new Canadian research, which includes information on broker facing technology.