Insurers' digital strategy affects more than just customers

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I often talk to executives from carriers operating in the independent agent channel who think that digital strategies are only for direct writers or carriers that have completed core modernization projects. I couldn’t disagree more with both positions. While it is obvious that carriers need robust digital and omni-channel capabilities to reach consumers directly, they must also digitize processes to meet agent expectations such as ease of doing business and servicing.

Agents have always sought SEMCI solutions for new business processing as the faster response to rate and underwriting questions is valuable in ensuring responsiveness to clients. Now, the independent agency market is also pushing leading carriers and disruptors to rapidly develop and expand agent digital and self-service capabilities. Carriers must prepare for these changes and divert some resources towards digital capability enhancement every year.

Digitization of agent processes addresses time delays and improvements to agent responsiveness and service. These agent-facing investments are integral to digital strategy, yet for the most part they are outside of the scope of core systems. Carriers should consider AMS integration, presentation of underwriting appetite, automation of underwriting screening, automation of third-party data ingestion, use of predictive models, electronic notifications based on customer preference, electronic document signatures, and electronic document presentation. Carriers should also evaluate collaborative tools to help answer agent questions and the use of AI to improve the consistency of responses and redundant data entry.

Agents require unique digital capabilities, yet these are not mutually exclusive with functionality that consumers are demanding. Many carriers working with independent agents are developing comprehensive self-service capabilities to meet changing consumer expectations while also incorporating agent notifications and/or service referrals. These capabilities can ensure that an agent is aware of consumer activity while also presenting an opportunity for engagement that helps to offload some of the service burden and cost from the agent of record.

With all this in mind, independent agent companies cannot allow the disparity in service access between the agency and direct channels to increase. It they do, they run the risk of accelerating the acceptance of direct channel writers.

This blog entry has been reprinted with permission from Novarica.

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