In the last few years, customers have come to expect streamlined digital experiences from every company they do business with. In my work with the Agents Council for Technology (ACT), I’ve seen how independent insurance agencies are evolving to meet these changes, adopting technology tools to reach out to customers through various digital channels.
This year, we’ve seen the importance of those technology tools more clearly than ever as agents have had to quickly adapt to doing business remotely. Digital transformation is no longer a far-off ideal; it’s a necessity.
The most important thing agents can do is take their first steps into the digital world. Then, you can start building a strategy.
For more traditional agents, it may be helpful to think of your agency’s interconnected technology tools in terms of the role they play in your digital “office.” Your agency’s digital space can augment your physical office and extend your agency’s capabilities. It can make it easy for clients to do business with you even when they can’t come into your agency’s physical office.
Websites: your digital storefronts
Your website is where many customers start their digital journey with your agency. As a basic starting point, make sure your website is well-designed and easy to use – just like you would want your storefront to look clean and professional.
It’s also a good idea to test your website’s loading speed and mobile-responsiveness. Potential customers are going to bail if the pages are slow to load or if they have to pinch to zoom in to see the website on their phone.
You can test your website’s responsiveness with the Google mobile friendliness test or use TrustedChoice’s Digital Review. Appointed agents can also use Liberty Mutual or Safeco’s resources to review your website.
Content strategy: attracting digital “foot traffic”
Once you ensure your website is solid, you can expand upon it with content strategy. You have your digital storefront, how are you going to get people to come inside?
First, ask yourself: What is your strategy as an agent? What kind of content and education will you provide on your website that will help potential customers find your agency? Do you want to be all things to all people? Probably not.
Things like search engine optimization (SEO), paid search and Google ads can help you target specific types of customers. SEO and paid search will help ensure that your agency shows up when people in your area research certain insurance terms online. Google ads can let you show up in other places potential customers are visiting online (think of it like advertising in your local paper, but with a broader reach).
After you’ve established your website content strategy, you can marry that with social media strategy. Pick one or two platforms where you can consistently post well-thought-out content and interact with customers. Social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can let you communicate with your customers in more personal ways and give you a glimpse of things your customers are talking about.
Again, there are many helpful resources to help you plan your content strategy, invest in SEO and get started on social media. A few good places to start: ACT’s resource page on websites and social media, Google’s SEO starter guide, Advisor Evolved SEO courses, carrier resources and more.
Digital communication tools: reaching clients where they are
Technology tools can help you reach out and connect with customers in the ways they want throughout every step of the customer experience lifecycle. Well-placed technology tools can give clients a streamlined, personalized experience whether they are first visiting your virtual office, making a policy change or submitting a claim.
Ideally, your communication strategy will include a balance of hands-on and hands-off approaches.
For example, an online chat feature can serve as a digital receptionist – this could be a chatbot, a tool that plugs into let visitors chat with one of your staff members online in real-time, or a combination of the two.
Texting with clients can also help you achieve that balance of hands-off and hands-on, giving them a personalized interaction while also letting them respond at their convenience.
The hands-off part is setting things up so customers can complete simple tasks electronically instead of having to call you or stop by your office. For example, integrating a comparative rater on your website, using eSignature to let clients sign forms electronically, or allowing clients to submit service requests trough a customer portal or agency app.
When you marry easy digital tools with the white-glove service that only IAs provide, it provides the ultimate solution well over and above what direct writers and insurtechs can provide.
Video: virtual meetings and reviews
Your clients may not always have the time or the ability to come to an in-person meeting. Video can help you add a personal touch to digital communications.
This is a great time to start to become comfortable with things like Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting or other video tools. You can use these tools to meet with clients virtually and even record video proposals or reviews for clients to watch on their own time.
Plus, if you have staff working remotely, video platforms are great ways to hold staff meetings and continue strategic planning amongst your staff.
Cybersecurity: locking up your digital “office”
Digital tools bring certain risks, especially if your staff is working remotely. Make sure to train employees on cyber risks and implement some guidelines for security precautions.
For example, set up a virtual private network (VPN) for employees to connect through when working from home. Train employees on threats such as phishing emails and have an agreement about when and how employees can use personal devices for work. This will help you protect client information and guard against “break-ins” to your virtual “office.”
Sprucing up your digital strategy
A well-functioning digital “office” can help your agency generate more leads, communicate effectively with clients and extend the capabilities of your team.
This time of rapid change can be a great opportunity to evaluate your agency’s technology systems, think through your digital strategies and accelerate your transformation.
Agents that have appointments with Liberty Mutual and Safeco have access to growth-centered trainings, workshops and resources. Liberty Mutual agents can find out more here. And Safeco agents can learn more here.
What are your tips for serving customers online? Tell us in the comments below.