Have agents reached a tipping point when it comes to making their services accessible with a smartphone? Some believe the independent agent still has time to adapt. Others argue that those who wait will be run over by competitors – both direct writers and their digital-savvy agency brethren. It’s risky to make a precise prediction. However, looking at how smartphone use has evolved provides some eye-opening clues as to just how much time agents have to make changes to their current service and marketing models.
For starters, smartphone penetration in the United States is now seven out of 10 Americans, according to Nielsen. Those smartphone owners are not all young either. Nielsen also reports that 51 percent of mobile owners over the age of 55 now own smartphones, up 10 percent from 2013. Moms and millenials are the top smartphone users and comScore reports that 18 percent of the latter do all their browsing, emailing, social networking, and news reading on a smartphone or tablet. The bottom-line is that the smartphone and the staggering array of apps developed for it has become the communications device-of-choice for huge chunks of an agent’s clients and prospect pool.
Americans are always looking to save time, whenever and wherever they can. Convenience, prompt service and ease-of-use rank as critical factors when consumers choose what products and services to buy. It’s also not hard to understand why the smartphone is so popular, not just with the young but with Americans of every age and background. Smartphones place the world at one’s fingertips with just a click or two – and they do it almost anywhere. Agents who downplay the importance of the smartphone and of having their own app will pay a heavy price.
Jason Cass, an agent based in Centralia, Ill., and a passionate digital advocate, puts it bluntly.
“The client of today is going to get the information they want in the way they most want it,” he says. “A mobile app makes it possible for an agent to provide this information without the client going directly to the company, thus cutting the agent out of the equation. Customer service is about creating a client experience and the mobile phone is at the center of that experience.”
It’s well-known that one can now perform a staggering array of functions with a smartphone, including buying groceries, airline and theater tickets; checking the status of an order or a flight; making bank deposits; and paying bills. Consumers can use their smartphone as their wallet to buy merchandise with just the wave of their hand.
The medical profession has also embraced the smartphone to make communications easier and more immediate between patients and their healthcare providers.
The argument against agents making more use of the smartphone has been that insurance is too complex a product to be reduced to a smartphone. Consumers, however, are being conditioned to do everything with a smartphone. Many insurance carriers already make their policies, payments, and claims filing procedures accessible through a smartphone.
Why would insurance agents believe they are somehow exempt from making their services more accessible and immediate with a smartphone through their own agency-branded app?
The window of opportunity is still open but closing fast.
This article originally appeared at: www.insurancejournal.com