No matter how you cut it, the traditional insurance distribution model is under pressure.
Today’s customers increasingly desire new ways of purchasing insurance as they seek to receive the same levels of choice and convenience offered by other industries. This—coupled with the advent of new technologies and the proliferation of insurtech startups—is propelling a significant shift across the distribution landscape and the entire insurance industry as we know it.
According to a June 2013 report by McKinsey, the evolution of the distribution channel is “both a challenge and opportunity for carriers and agencies,” which must develop new capabilities and shift mindsets to thrive.
At its core, the insurance industry is about relationships, and the organizations that can strategically leverage technology will further grow and enable those relationships. One such relationship that holds significant promise is between agencies and carriers. A strong agency-carrier relationship is mutually beneficial, as this foundation can weather the storm of a variable market and changing consumer needs and helps drive reciprocal success. With agencies and carriers at the heart of the insurance industry, the benefits of successful collaboration extend beyond their relationship to impact the end consumer.
How should these two groups foster collaboration and work together to respond to customers with efficiency? By streamlining content management and workflow visualization and providing historical and real-time data to drive better decision making.
People are at the heart of the insurance industry, but delivering exceptional customer service can be difficult when also navigating large volumes of work. For agencies and carriers alike, an effective content management and workflow tool helps solve this problem by delivering real-time insights into day-to-day company functions, identifying opportunities to streamline operations and increase productivity. With these tools, agencies and carriers can evaluate:
- How are my teams functioning?
- Where is our time being spent?
- Are we meeting service levels?
- Do we need to adjust staffing levels?
Workflow visualization also helps answer these questions, with benefits ranging from improving visibility to standardizing processes. Establishing roles and workflow through a visualization tool simplifies employee training, streamlines processes and can help an agency with a number of branches feel united as one organization. One of our longtime customers has many smaller branch locations and was struggling to provide real-time backup when an employee was sick or on vacation. Through workflow visualization tools, the main office was able to jump in and help, aiding smaller branches in eliminating backlogs and demonstrating that the full team, no matter the location, was in it together.
In addition to real-time data, visualization tools can also provide insights into historical data. This enables agencies to have a better understanding of seasonal workloads, improve efficiency, and better allocate resources to and strategically plan alongside carriers for the future.
Above all, content management and workflow tools drive measurable results. Agencies often report productivity increases from issuers due to the accessibility and mobility offered with digital documents. Without a delay in finding documents, agencies can also respond to clients more quickly, offering strengthened customer service and enabling long-lasting relationships.
Access to timely, accurate data is a necessity in today’s world. A sophisticated data and intelligence solution provides more than just the numbers, though; it enables both agencies and carriers to make smart, informed decisions by providing insights about customers, the market and the entire insurance distribution channel.
For agencies, these tools can also be used to support carrier relationships through engagement, planning and negotiations. For example, data helps producers and account management team members identify markets and assess and price risk at an accurate level to ensure clients are protected. When working with carriers, agencies have the ability to easily gather and share data in a useful manner, often providing carriers with new insights into their own book of business.
With data, carriers and agencies can also gather market intelligence to elevate their relationships and drive profitability. While they may have their finger on the pulse of one or two markets and their appetite for a certain type of risk, data-driven platforms can provide a high-level understanding of risk in new markets and propel expansion. This enables agencies to plan and grow alongside carriers in targeted areas.
With the insurance distribution model in a state of flux, agencies and carriers can set themselves up for success by leveraging the power of data. Data-driven tools not only enhance this crucial relationship but enable both agencies and carriers to strengthen the most important relationship of all: their customers.
In the era of the empowered customer, it is more imperative than ever that carriers and agencies find ways to better collaborate and deliver the omni-channel experience that customers are looking for in insurance. The combination of content and workflow solutions that streamline processes and data intelligence can help drive both efficiency and an overall improved experience for customers.
Ray is senior vice president for product and strategy at Vertafore. email@example.com