Digital Transformation 2.0

The just released Insurance Digital Transformation Study (available at http://www.insurancedigitalrevolution.org/) sheds a lot of light on why agents still struggle with adapting to digital technology. As we have discussed extensively in this column, agents must master digital tools to stay competitive, so we asked the study’s three sponsors to dig more deeply into the findings and pinpoint what steps agents need to take immediately.

Each of them agree that agents can no longer put off the process of upgrading their websites and adding mobile apps and 24/7 availability.  Just as important, they say, is that such actions must be based on a clear digital strategy that’s tailored to each agency.

ACORD’s new  president and CEO, William Pieroni, put it this way:

“Apart from the explicit findings, I think there is a critical implicit conclusion that agents now recognize that the time for digitalizing is now and that the focus needs to be on how to do it effectively,” he said. “The first step is to develop a true digital strategy, including objectives, measurable targets and the required resources.  Half-measures do not work well.    For example, just having a Facebook page is not a social media strategy.”

“The opportunities to use technology to serve customers are huge, however so are the consequences for not doing so,” says Ron Berg, Executive Director of the Agents Council for Technology (ACT).  “43% of agents told us they operate 24×7, but that leaves more than half who do not serve their clients any time of day.  The fact is, customers expect service when and how they want it and they get it now from banking, Amazon and many others.”

The results of the survey are encouraging but cautionary according to Mike Becker, Executive Vice President & CEO, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA).

“Independent agents want to embrace digital technology, however at the same time the survey demonstrates they need guidance, especially in implementation,” he said.  “One area greatly in need of improvement is agent websites. Only 8% of respondents rated their sites as excellent, and 60% of agents said their sites are average to poor.”

Becker added that independent agents “need to remain mindful of their value proposition that sets them apart from the direct writers.  Technology tools will help independent agents deliver their unique value.”

ACT’S Ron Berg believes agents do recognize the urgency of going digital, but for many smaller to mid-sized agents, the process appears so big and they don’t perceive a strong customer demand.

“The tools are out there – mobile apps, agency website quoting, live chat assistance and eSignature,” he says.  “Of more concern is the agent’s perception of the need.  More than 90% of agents said their customers are not asking for a client portal – but just because their customers aren’t proactively asking for a client portal does not mean they do not expect it.”

PIA’s Becker is equally forceful.

“Just because most agents say their clients are not asking for a client portal or a mobile app, that doesn’t mean they don’t want them,” he says. “ Agents can’t take the position that ‘no news is good news’ when it comes to their customers’ digital requirements, which will evolve and become more refined going forward. Consumer expectations are changing dramatically.  It’s critical that agents are able to have functional web sites, service their customers 24X7, and have the most up-to-date automation in place so that they are efficient.”

The bottom line is that agents cannot afford to put off their own “digital transformation.” The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

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