Alexandria, Va. — When 10 Generation X independent agents attending the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (Big I) Young Agents Leadership Conference in San Diego this past September discussed their future, technology was at the forefront of their success strategies.

Meeting with the Strategic Future Issues Work Group, and facilitated by Steve Anderson, an agency consultant, the 20- to 30-year old agents were asked a variety of questions that helped the organization better understand their demographics, culture and associated business requirements. Anderson also probed about how agents plan to use technology in the future.

Much of what the Internet has to offer is considered routine in terms of tools and techniques to capture and retain new business, as well as to communicate with existing business stakeholders to ensure business flows smoothly. The Internet, the group said, is their first choice of such tools when it comes to researching clients, competitors, vendors and carriers. While some already use Microsoft Live Meeting to communicate in a broader marketplace, most agents also instant message and email as a matter of routine.

As reported by Jeff Yates, executive director for the Alexandria, Va.-based
Big I’s Council for Technology, even though these agents are not the primary users of technology in their agencies, they get frustrated because they perceive that the technology they use in the business is considerably behind the technology they use in their personal lives—a seemingly serious concern considering their belief that the future consumer client is more knowledgeable than ever about technology.

“The agents believe most of their customers also have done insurance research on the Internet and perhaps have gotten quotes there—particularly in personal lines,” reports Yates. “One agent cited comScore’s 2007 research, which found that over 50% of recent purchasers of automobile insurance from agents also got a quote online.”

The agents said that their customers also want the option to pay by credit card so that they can acquire miles or points from various incentive programs. Several of their carriers offer this option, but this remains a challenge on agency billed business, notes Yates.

Yates also said that the agents see the primary customer interest in their Web sites to be for information about their agency and for information and services relating to their policies, such as getting billing information, making payments, printing auto ID cards, and generating certificates of insurance. Some of the agencies are generating online sales for certain specialty lines, such as travel insurance and horse mortality insurance. So far, auto insurance and certain specialty coverages seem to be the only areas where online sales have taken off, but the agencies worry about “the model that has not been created yet” making a big impact on other lines of their business.

Source: Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America

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