Insurance consumers have changed over time. They always have, and they always will. We, as agents, who are typically the most critical link in the insurance distribution system, must be proactive enough to recognize these changes and accommodate them with fervor. Sometimes it involves a new way of thinking about consumers, but most times it involves implementing new and different systems that will allow us to accommodate what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.
A prime example of consumer change is the way in which we must communicate with them on their terms. Phone calls are no longer welcome unless it is in response to a callback request. Envelopes and postcards are typically trashed without regard to content. The preferred method of communication has moved to electronic notices by email or through the various messaging systems that are available. The bottom line is quite obvious; you must be where they are.
Self Service Insurance – The Change is Upon Us
Self service insurance is one of the best things that has happened to consumers. Stop for a moment and consider how your carriers have recognized this change in consumer demands and how they have responded.
- Billing: Today’s consumer prefers to receive electronic billing over paper billing and now, more than ever, consumers are agreeing to auto-pay so that they can live life without thought to paying for products they know they have to purchase. The best part of self service insurance is that it keeps your client happy and saves agents and carriers time and money.
- Documents: Why would your agency fax a document for a customer to sign and then fax back to you when you can easily take advantage of many e-signature programs that are available. Once again, your customer responds instantly in most cases, and it saves the agent and carrier time and money.
- Claims: Many carriers have already begun to respond to electronic claims service. This part of the business is probably the last hurdle that must be dealt with. Minor property damage claims are now being handled in a self service manner where the customer can electronically file their claim and send electronic evidence (picture or video) as proof of the property damage. Surely this process will evolve as the use of available technology is expanded upon. The consumer is happy and the agent and carrier save time and money.
- New and Renewal Business: This is old news. Every agent has the opportunity today to allow prospects to obtain and purchase insurance directly from the agent’s website. For most personal line, and some commercial line products, all the required underwriting information can be accessed electronically and the carrier can issue new business and renewals in an instant. If agents do not embrace this method of doing new business -self service insurance, the carriers will, and eventually circumvent the agent’s position in the distribution chain.
Is It Mandatory?
For new agents who plan to do business with Millennials and young Generation –Xs, unless you approach self-service insurance with arms wide open, your chances of competing in these age groups will be minimal. Forget about their birth year, start thinking of these groups in terms of behavior. They prefer more for less because they can insert themselves in every aspect of the transaction electronically and rarely require interaction from the agent.
For agents with a book loaded with aging customers, how will you replace them with younger customers unless you adapt to their preferred way of doing business? All of this is not some nefarious method of circumventing the agent’s position, it is merely the continuation of an age-old selling technique; give them what they want.