Using digital tools, agents, brokers and carriers continue to make strides in becoming more accessible, more responsive and more personal to their policyholders.

No one has ever accused the insurance industry of being technology pioneers. However, the tech that sophisticated companies provides has informed how consumers expect to interact with their insurance agents, brokers and carriers.

According to a report from the insurance and technology analysts Market Insight Group, four factors drive customer expectations:

  • A shift in location of commerce from place to space
  • An expanding set of online information, search engines and review sites
  • Continual increase in the number of mobile and smart devices
  • Social media

Stages of Evaluation

Judy DeLaRosa, vice president of online platforms and at Chubb & Son. also co-chairs the Customer Experience and Strategic Future Issues for the Agents Council for Technology (ACT). She points out that the consumer goes through six stages in his or her insurance journey: discover, evaluate, buy, experience, renew/leave, and advocacy choice. Through each of these stages, agents, brokers and carriers have an opportunity to interact with potential and current insureds through multiple touchpoints.

In “discovery,” a consumer interacts with the insurance industry through Google or Bing, social media, or other “find an agent” searches, as well as producer or carrier websites. In the “buy” stage, a consumer wants online chat, quick and easy applications, e-signature and online billing. In the “advocacy” phase, a client agrees to write a web-based review, she says.

Collecting data is not a problem for agents and brokers. The challenge is that it’s difficult to handle.

Make no mistake: Underwriting, claims execution and investment management will continue to be the fundamental keys to success for carriers, just as customer service, risk management solutions and education will continue to differentiate successful agencies and brokerages from their competition. But the most successful firms in the digital era will be those who combine their strengths with digital tools.

Technology as a Collaboration Tool

As carriers implement technology that enables them to take a more active role in the customer journey, it’s of interest to not disrupt the typical agent/broker distribution channel and ensure that it remains viable.

Chubb’s digital strategy recognizes today’s consumer journey involves both digital and non-digital interactions. It considers both, and that the consumer may engage directly with the carrier or through its appointed agents. The carrier provides information on its website and through social media, and also has an agent portal that contains information and solutions to support sales such as educational content regarding how to manage certain risk exposures, loss scenarios, access to electronic applications and online quoting solutions as well as account servicing solutions.

“It comes down to external and internal collaboration,” says DeLaRosa. “ (We) all have an improved understanding of the consumer journey, including connectivity among the various touch-points, and as a carrier, how we can better support that journey and help position our appointed agents to do the same.”

Adam Edelstein, chief operating officer at Hiscox USA, echoes the need for carriers to consider their distribution channels when implementing technology upgrades. Hiscox’s client base—typically a business owner with up to 10 employees—makes purchasing decisions similar to those of a traditional consumer, and Hiscox we wanted to support that. But they had to figure out how to do that without disenfranchising the traditional brokerage side of our business, which is still the largest.

To approach that challenge, Hiscox built an environment around its small business direct and partnership team—a website to initiate, complete and purchase insurance; a call center staffed with licensed agents to help with transactions; and a platform to select wholesale broker partners to distribute to retail agents.

Carriers must have a complete picture of their demographics when formulating a digital strategy. “Are you positioning yourself to the agents? To the policyholders? Is the policyholder under 30? Over 30? If you are selling through your agent, how much control do you give?” asks Sean Allen, U.S. vice president for business processing, technology and procurement services provider Xchanging Insurance Services (which provides premium, policy and claims processing services to Lloyd’s of London and the London Insurance Market).

Sitting on a Gold (Data) Mine

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Hiscox USA, which specializes in professional, general, E&O and EPLI products for small-to-medium businesses, chose to adapt some of the technologies seen in the financial sector, such as mobile, payments and billing. “One thing we are focused on is responsive design,” Edelstein says, referring to a web design that automatically adapts the layout to the viewing component used. “But anyone can build an HTML site that works on desktop and mobile. It’s apparent to us that you actually have to think differently about the customer journey when building both.”

The questions an agent would ask, when sitting on the other side of a desk from an insured, would come out differently than if the client was attempting to obtain coverage from his or her smartphone, he points out. “You may want to think about binary yes/no questions. If there are 30 classes of business in a given discipline, do you want to ask all of the questions so the insured has to scroll all of the way down? That’s different than the traditional experience with an agent, where you are asked: ‘What do you do?’”

Analytics and big data come into play when building mobile policy coverage forms, as carriers need to understand their clients. Hiscox has become more proactive in mining the data that it has on its customers, so it can ask targeted questions and deliver targeted responses. For example, if a policy quote form has 12 questions, and for a given customer segment the answer to question 7 is always “no,” then eliminate that question, he says.

“As an insurance company, we have data coming out of our ears,” Kramer says. “But how can we use the data in a way that mitigates risk?”

Future Strategies: What’s Next?

How can a firm plan its digital strategy and future when it doesn’t know what technology will be available five or 10 years from now? Edelstein advises using service-oriented IT architecture, which allows flexibility, the ability to make decisions that are not application-specific, and the opportunity to test and deliver new technologies in real time.

Flexibility is key, as insurance firms must be able to handle all of the preferences of the policyholder. Does a certain insured want some documents by paper, but others electronically and billing information by text?

“There are challenges,” adds DeLaRosa. “It requires investment and it’s not simply once and done. You have to monitor, research and adapt. Expectations are constantly changing; today’s trends can be tomorrow’s table stakes.”

Hey Carriers, Listen Up

“While it doesn’t exist across all carriers right now, I’m a big proponent of enabling a ‘buy’ button on personal-lines rating systems, which is hosted on an agency website,” says Keith Savino, chairman of the board for the Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU), a national member organization that provides industry advocacy, education and networking to more than 20,000 agencies, carriers and MGAs.

Savino would like carriers to provide technology in which a client or prospect can visit an agency website, begin the online quoting process, receive multiple carrier indications or quotes, and complete the process online.

Noting that this tool would be different than aggregator sites—such as Google Compare—because a local agent would review and differentiate the policies with the prospect and offer additional coverages, Savino says that the “buy” button “is about enhancing the customer experience.”

With original content (abbreviated) as published Jun 22, 2015 on Property Casualty 360| Original Article By Melissa Hillebrand