People continue to use the internet to do many of their daily tasks. Online banking is a huge trend. You can also buy airline tickets, check weather and news, and search for legal advice and medical advice. Where are you and your agency in relation to the shift as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century?
Direct writers were the first to educate consumers about online insurance solutions. They offered services like quoting and policy access online, giving clients access to their insurance information whenever they want. This trend is being incorporated into the business strategies of independent agents and will continue to grow.
Industry experts agree that the Baby Boomers will be replaced by Generation Y. This means that people will expect to have online access and not just want it. Based on a 2010 comScore study, ACT reported that in 2009, a record 2.8million policies were bought online. This is 22% more than 2008. 82% of respondents reported using online tools like electronic signatures. This confirms that people are more comfortable using the internet for a variety purposes. Consumers expect fast, easy-to-use service.
It is important to understand what online client access means. Client access allows policyholders to access their insurance information to make changes to their policies or retrieve documents (including auto IDs, certificates of insurance, and so on). It is more than just a way to provide request forms via your website. Online access means that policyholders can feed data 24/7 to get self-service functionality.
Online access to clients’ policy information is a great way to add value to your agency, especially in this digital age. All agencies should consider adding online client access to their services to increase their industry competitiveness.
Delivering Agency Value
It would be wrong for us to claim that agents have been replaced by the internet. However, they still play an important role in the insurance process. According to ACT, 78% of consumers still purchase insurance offline. The number one reason is that they want to talk to someone who can help them. Many agencies realize that it is possible for them to adapt their sales and services models to meet future customer needs, but they don’t have to abandon traditional methods.
Online service options are an added benefit to a high-quality customer service package. This makes the agency more modern and cutting-edge. Online access allows staff to fulfill the vital roles of risk management professionals and insurance consultants that add the most value to your policy offerings and claims support.
Certificates of insurance-available upon request are one area in which online services make sense. This is how it might look: An electrical company requires certificates of insurance for every job site. The company can print its certificates online and have them ready to go for every job by working with an insurance agent who offers online access. This certificate also confirms where the team is heading that day. They have everything they need to start their day at the electrical company before they open their insurance agency. This is much better than waiting for an agent to issue the certificates. They don’t have to wait for an agency to open. They can get their certificates whenever they need them.
Keep existing customers happy
This is a huge benefit for the agency and acts as an exit barrier. Clients are less likely to switch to another agency if they have online access. Let’s take a look at what could happen: An event services company has been working with an online insurance agency for years. After much consideration, the management team of an event company decides to move to another agency that doesn’t offer online access. The staff of the event company are used to being able to obtain certificates on demand and make change requests whenever needed. It is quite an inconvenience and shock to not have this option. What do they do if clients need a certificate of insurance during the weekend that the agency is closed? This is an event services business. Many big events take place on weekends. They can’t do business if they don’t have certificates of insurance.
The company calls their agency constantly to request things that they were able to do, which causes frustration for both of them. The event services company eventually convinces their new agency that they can offer online access. Everyone ends up happier. The company is able again to issue certificates on demand and the agency has more time to complete other critical tasks.
Secure New Ones
Client access 24 hours a day is a tremendous benefit for existing clients and a great way of securing new business. Online access is becoming a key way for agents to be more competitive and grow in their industry. One agent from California told us that customers today want options. “Four-five years ago, a low percentage of potential clients wanted a way of communicating on the internet. Now, 30-40% are well-versed in online certificate services and specifically ask for this functionality.”
This number should only continue to rise. The agent stated that clients are more demanding than ever and want their services when they need them, not when agencies feel like it. This technology is too important to ignore in a highly competitive industry.