By Steve Whitelaw, Vice President – Industry & Partner Relations, Applied Systems —
As we think over the last few months, businesses in every industry have been facing new and unprecedented challenges. Independent brokerages have had to evaluate and launch new plans to get staff working from home, connect with insurer partners to access critical policy information and continue to serve customers in their preferred method as face-to-face has been limited.
The response to many of the day-to-day work challenges presented by the pandemic has been to lean heavily on technology. Previously planned digital strategies have been fast tracked to timeframes that were unimaginable before the pandemic struck, and capabilities that were underutilized are more critical than ever before.
In the Canadian market, there has been a strong move for the industry to explore accelerated paths to paperless. Brokers have understandable concerns for how it could affect their businesses, including:
- Protecting the broker-client relationship while providing their consumer service in the customers’ preferred method.
- Maintaining the broker advisory role under the brokerage brand.
- Providing adequate security. Similar to financial services, brokers are responsible for sensitive customer data. PIPEDA gives consumers a right to access their personal information held by organizations in secure manner and consumers are accustomed to accessing portals in banking and other industries.
- Accessing their management system, download files via insurer connectivity and critical documents amidst the pandemic could be challenging if there is restricted access to offices and mailrooms.
While working from home has accelerated the timelines of some brokerages’ digital strategies and caused stress along the way, it has also provided an opportunity to explore new technologies to modernize their businesses. Here are a few strategies we encourage you to consider as you go paperless to ensure the highest level of customer service, especially while working from home:
The cloud is the most vital way to keep your business running anytime, anywhere. Keep your employees connected to up-to-date client and policy information using virtually any connected device, enabling them to reach and service clients at any time regardless of extreme weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
With the cloud, your critical applications and data reside in a secure data centre, which provides redundancy for power, internet access and a physical infrastructure that offers greater protection from natural and man-made disasters, and other unpredicted business interruptions. Since applications are hosted remotely in data centres and accessible via the internet, new users can quickly connect to the system and gain access to data across your business to serve clients anytime, anywhere.
Self-service portals and mobile apps
Keeping channels of communication open and being accessible are critical in uncertain times. If you can’t be there in person, consider how digital technology such as broker-branded self-service customer portals and mobile apps enable clients to access and manage their policy documents whenever they need them and preserves the broker-client relationship
Through a broker-branded customer self-service portal, customers can obtain electronic pink slips, access insurance documents, make premium payments, report First Notice of Loss, and track claims processing. Integrated with your brokerage management system, the portal syncs all activities by the customer in real time so that you are always keep up to date with your customers, even during uncertain times.
A broker-branded, customer-facing mobile app takes these capabilities even further, and puts them in the palm of your customers’ hands. Your customers will feel even more at ease by being able to access their documents and begin a claim without having to reach you via the phone.
Digital collaboration tools
One particularly paper-heavy process is applications and renewals. When you cannot be in the office, this process needs to become as digital as possible in order to continue to function efficiently.
Using technology such as digital smart forms for commercial lines applications to easily capture, store, validate, display, submit customer information, add comments and make certain questions “required” make the application process easy and stress-free for insureds. Traditionally, this process would take several days and meetings to complete the application, however, you can offer a more digital approach and give your customer one less thing to worry about.
Additionally, e-signature tools shorten the process of traditionally having to either come in the office to sign or wait for the application to be mailed to a fraction of the time. It is too much hassle and potential stress to have to print, sign, and scan an application. Instead, give the insured the opportunity to sign their application forms electronically.
While the three recommendations above speak to enabling an end-to-end paperless process, it is also important to not lose focus on your team. As uncertainty remains a reality, fear of the unknown can be unsettling and remote work can feel isolating. People want to feel connected and protected during uncertain times, so look to new ways to keep in touch with your team and your customers. The more your team feels connected, the better equipped they will be to effectively address the needs of your customers, especially during the unprecedented times that we face today. The more secure and happier your team feels, the better service that will be afforded to your customers.
Digital technology creates new ways of doing business and can enable you to navigate uncertain times together, so you can ultimately safeguard your most important assets: your relationships with loyal customers and employees.
Educational resources are available to help brokers harness the benefits of paperless.
About The Author
Steve Whitelaw is the Vice President of Industry & Partner Relations at Applied Systems. He brings more than 20 years of leadership experience within the insurance industry to the global enterprise insurance software marketplace.
About Applied Systems
Applied Systems is the leading global provider of cloud-based software that powers the business of insurance. Recognized as a pioneer in insurance automation and the innovation leader, Applied is the world’s largest provider of agency and brokerage management systems, serving customers throughout the United States, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom. By automating the insurance lifecycle, Applied’s people and products enable millions of people around the world to safeguard and protect what matters most. For more information, please visit appliedsystems.com.
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SOURCE: Applied Systems