Independent agents are still the primary sales channels for insurers, but the expectations of customers on these agents have shifted. In turn, insurers are focusing their efforts on providing agents the tools and capabilities to attract and retain customers – and to move away from traditional objectives, like cost reduction and organizational growth.
The prioritization is in IT initiatives that allow agents to create simple, transparent, and unique experiences as well as contextual engagements for their customers, but IDC research shows that only a third of insurers have plans to invest in new capabilities for effective agent management.
The majority of insurers risk falling behind in managing this important function. To stay competitive, insurers need to understand what the insurance agent of the future looks like, and what they need to maintain customer relationships in the digital era compared to the traditional needs of the past.
Let’s review: The traditional sales agent vs the agent of the future
The traditional agent: The traditional insurance agent is more product centric. They focus on what they’re selling and try to push their products as much as possible to get a sale. They’re the primary channel of communication with the customer, and interactions tend to always be face to face.
Occasionally, customer interactions occur via phone or email. More recently to be considered “innovative,” they try to interact with customers through chat. The traditional insurance agent typically works in an office and follows manual processes to log interactions with a customer or potential customers.
Incentives to keep them selling are all based on product sales and if they’re hitting their quotas.
Now let’s look at the insurance agent of the future based on today’s customers’ needs:
The agent of the future: Insurance agents are encouraged to be more customer-centric. Their focus is building a relationship with a customer and serving as a trusted advisor, being able to answer customer questions and cater to their unique needs.
Agents are encouraged to maintain the relationship with a customer after the sale, and also make communication with the customer seamless. Though independent agents remain the primary channel for insurers to reach their customers, the agent of the future is much more omnichannel.
Customers can reach agents on the channels they’re comfortable with, which is a mix of traditional channels like phone and email, and new channels like social media and chatbots. Agents are also more omnipresent in the way they conduct business. It’s no longer just office-based communications, with agents possessing the tools and capabilities to conduct business anytime and anywhere at the convenience of the customer.
In order to maintain good selling behavior, incentives are no longer based solely on product sales. A heavy emphasis is also on a new set of KPIs around the customer relationship, including customer feedback scores.
At a time when digitally enabled touch points are replacing traditional channels, the traditional channel of agents are still in high demand for the insurance industry. Customers want to interact with a professional when dealing with complex matters on coverage, policies, or claims.
To fully optimize and incentivize agent performance, a future-ready agent management platform is needed so insurers can enable their agents to receive the best experience, in turn giving their customers the best experience.