The world of the independent agent and broker is changing
rapidly and in many areas. Sometimes it
seems things are changing so quickly it’s impossible to keep up. Competition is
fierce. Clients are demanding more service, completed faster and taken care of
when it’s convenient for them.
Running an agency isn’t getting easier and finding, training
and retaining quality staff can be a nightmare. Add to that the ever increasing
demands for volume by carriers and it’s no wonder agents and brokers are
pulling their hair out.
On top of all that, agencies are being advised that they
need to get more involved in social media and digital marketing; an area that
only a few years ago wasn’t really a factor. Effectively using social media is
foreign to many agencies. Their confusion is only magnified by all the
“experts” and consultants out there overwhelming them with a mountain of
completely foreign techno babble.
Many have come to the realization that there isn’t anybody
on their current staff with the necessary knowledge to handle this important
area. Others are trying the best they can. Still others have decided to take a
wait and see attitude convinced this may just be a passing fad. Where do you
Social media is all about relationship building and there
couldn’t be a more important time for agents and brokers to maximize their
relationship with their clients and potential clients. Because of increased
competition there are an increasing number of insurance providers vying for the
attention of your clients and prospective clients. Many of them are more highly
automated and have people on staff that are very effective in using social
media. If you’re not able to keep your clients attention and nurture a positive
relationship with your clients they will move in and try to replace you.
Remember some of them have enormous budgets earmarked for advertising.
They are not the only folks you have to be worried about.
Part of my role here at IIABNY is staying on top of what is occurring with
independent agent carriers. It means reading tons of articles, blogs and white
papers. One very significant trend I have noted over and over is carriers
coming to the realization that they have to replace their existing legacy
system with one that is more effective and consumer friendly.
These articles encourage carriers to adopt new customer
engagement models. Apparently the message is getting across as over 75% of
carriers ranked this as a first or second priority. Carriers realize that
consumers are demanding easily accessible information that allows them to
research and educate themselves on insurance. They also want easy access when
necessary via mobile apps on smartphones and tablets like the iPAD. This even
extends over to claims with mobile apps available to report a claim and get the
claims process started.
Development and retention of current data on
clients/consumers, referred to as Big Data, offers carriers the ability to do
predictive modeling and analytics. They want to leverage this new customer
engagement by obtaining as much pertinent information about the client as
possible. This data then allows them to better analyze and predict
The use of telematics is a great example of this. Customers
and prospects are encouraged to plug a device into their car that provides the
carrier with a wealth of information relative to their driving habits for the
possibility of saving premium. This just further ties the customer to the
carrier who owns that information and allows the carrier to better choose clients
to insure long time based on an analysis of the information provided.
For quite some time agents have been proud of the fact that
when you asked their clients who they were insured with they would say the
agent or agency. That was reflective of the deep seated relationship the client
felt with that agent or agency. The changes I outlined previously in this
article will very likely affect that relationship possibly taking the agent out
of this role in the future. Clients may start to recognize and value the
relationship with their carrier over the one they currently have with their
agent. That is definitely something I don’t believe any agent wants.
In order to combat
this it’s important that agents nurture and solidify their relationship with
their client. Social media is an important part of doing exactly that. Coupled
with a customer centric, highly effective agency service model you are almost assured of
retaining the primary and most important relationship role with your client.
Failure to provide exceptional customer service and to
nurture your client relationship via your agency’s website, blog and social
media leaves the door open for your carriers or your competition to take over.
In a highly competitive marketplace like we have today an agency can’t afford
to allow that to happen or it could spell disaster for their future.
Social media is not a passing fad. It’s the current model
for nurturing a relationship with clients and prospects. It may change in the
future but for now it’s the way to go. Sift through the techno babble, learn
how to use it effectively and then make it a part of your overall operation. It
may involve an investment initially however you won’t regret it in the future.