The just released Insurance Digital Transformation Study (available at www.insurancedigitalrevolution.org) sheds light on why agents struggle with adapting to digital technology. As we have discussed extensively, 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 steps agents need to take immediately.

Each of them agree that agents can no longer put off upgrading their websites, 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, said:

“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.”

One area greatly in need of improvement is agency websites.
“The opportunities to use technology to serve customers are huge, however so are the consequences for not doing so,” said Ron Berg, executive director of the Agents Council for Technology (ACT). “Forty-three percent of agents told us they operate 24/7, but that leaves more than half who do not serve their clients” 24 hours a day. “Customers expect service when and how they want it. They get it now from banking, Amazon and many others.”

The survey results are encouraging but cautionary said Mike Becker, executive vice president/CEO, National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA).

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

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

ACT’S Berg believes agents 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 said. “Of more concern is the agent’s perception of the need. More than 90 percent of agents said customers are not asking for a client portal. But just because customers aren’t 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 said. “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 websites, service their customers 24/7, 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.