Recent research suggests that the Internet, and related social functionality, is becoming ‘invisible’ — simply blending into, and augmenting, our normal activities. This is not just a theoretical construct for leading independent insurance agents and brokers, as the experience of a six-person independent insurance agency demonstrates.
We’d like your thoughts on the phenomenon of the disappearing Internet and your experience with using its invisible social tools.
What the experts say …
Pew Research recently canvassed over 2,500 experts, asking where we will be in 2025. Pew reported there were some notable differences in outcomes, but incredible unanimity in one thing: “the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity.’”
The experts cited specific drivers, such as wearable devices, embedded computing, and artificial intelligence in cloud based systems. However, Dan Lynch, founder of Interop, took it to the basics, writing, “The most useful impact is the ability to connect people. From that, everything flows.”
What Independent Agents do …
We don’t know whether Claudia McClain read any of the Pew research. We do know she put the concepts into practice in the service of her customers at The McClain Insurance Services, her six-person Everett Washington insurance agency.
A case study Claudia wrote for ACT begins “It’s a great time be an independent insurance agent.” She adds that “It’s also a great time to live in the Seattle area,” given that the home team, the Seahawks, just won the Superbowl. With the help of Seattle-based insurer, PEMCO, Claudia and her team mashed-up the two ‘greats’ into a win for everyone, using the invisible social and Internet tools that have become integral to her business.
Claudia’s story is compelling and worth the read. Here’s the plot line. PEMCO had been promoting the Seahawks throughout the season, and with the Superbowl season gave Claudia’s agency the chance to organize a fan event – signing 100-by-40-foot banner which would fly over Met Life Field on Superbowl weekend.
With only four days to the signing event, the McClain Insurance services team went into high gear. In addition to issuing a press release, her agency tapped into the internet, with a dedicated web site, and social media. A paid promotion for a Facebook event, which reached 20,000 people locally.
A postcard promotion also fed artwork which was used for a dedicated blog on the web site. Email to the agency’s 1,900 clients pointed back to the website which contained a football-oriented customer survey. According to Claudia , the email had a 44.6% open rate. The survey gave the agency an average grade of 4.95 out of 5, and had a 9 out of 10 Net Promoter score, meaning 9 of 10 would recommend the agency to others.
On the day of the event, the staff set up food and programmed the electronic sign outside their office to attract any and all. The result: 1,632 signatures on the banner, including the 12,000 one (the theme of the banner was the fan as the 12th man on the field).
All of this in four days.
What’s the moral of the story?
Claudia says that the agency enjoys a 95% retention rate because it relentlessly pursues two areas: quality of service which warrant referrals, and customer engagement. The agency’s management system (AMS) is a core element in these strategies.
To augment the AMS, during the early 2000s, Claudia’s team “ventured online to better reach an increasingly digital insurance – buying public.” This resulted in the implementation of a marketing engine which integrates the the AMS to provide timely, relevant communications to prospects and customers.
Claudia and her team also became active with social media to support customer engagement. The point is, it wasn’t any one tool or strategy, but rather a combination of all of these elements, combined with the agency’s drive to provide superior service, that provided the necessary knowledge and skills to pull off the 12th Man event.
From our perspective, this is the seamless integration that the experts are predicting, allowing technology to be the quiet, invisible enabler.
What do you think?
We know there are many independent agents and brokers going down this road, and we’d like to hear your experiences. Our question is this: How can technology suppliers really help users like Claudia continue to drive business without being overwhelmed by technology itself?
Put on your cloak of invisibility, and let us know.