how to lead technology innovations in your agency

Ron Berg
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At the Agents Council for Technology (ACT), we’re always keeping an eye on the latest trends and changes in the insurance industry.

There are two main changes that I’ve seen impacting independent insurance agents in the last few years:

  1. The changing expectations of customers, who want streamlined, digital experiences.
  2. The wide implications of cutting-edge technology on every aspect of insurance.

Technology such as online chat, artificial intelligence, voice computing and much more provide new ways for agencies to connect with customers and stretch the capability of their existing staff.

Independent agents have a lot going on, so it can be hard to find time to implement new projects. But new technology offers value and opportunities to agents across the board, and agencies that don’t embrace technology will write their own fate.

Adopting new technology can seem like an overwhelming prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ideas for how to successfully lead tech innovations in your agency.

Start by looking at your customer base

First and foremost, new technology should serve the needs of your customers – making it easier for them to access information and connect with you in the way they prefer at every step of their journey.

ACT created a checklist to help agents think through the technology that can help cultivate a great customer experience. The list can serve as a tool to think through which technologies could help your agency better serve customers, and is a part of the free ACT CX Lifecycle online toolkit for agents.

This may mean improving upon some of your agency’s existing technology. For example, updating your website to be mobile-friendly or implementing a tool for electronic signatures. Or it may mean undertaking a larger, more complex project, such as investing in SEO improvements or developing an AI chatbot.

In any case, start by assessing the technology your agency has in place and what your customers need, then identify one or two key areas to focus on.

Make sure you’re using your existing tech to its full ability

Agency management systems are often more feature-rich than agents realize. Along with most offering web-based platforms, many integrate with third-party software and offer capabilities for automated communications and marketing campaigns.

You’ll know your agency is ready for a new technology project when your staff is using the most you can get out of your agency management system.

Get leadership on board

Ideas for new technology projects may come from producers, IT managers or any other agency staff member. But for new technology to really take hold, agency leaders must be on board.

The agency principal may not be the one leading a new technology project, but they must understand the project and help hold people accountable for implementing the new technology across the agency.

To make this happen, whoever comes up with the idea for the project should create a proposal to the leadership that draws on research to communicate the potential benefits of the technology now and in the future. Then the agency leadership can help create a project plan and get the whole staff on board.

Create a detailed project plan and communicate with your team throughout

Before you start implementing new technology in your agency, gather your team for an overview of the technology and to discuss the reasoning behind the project. Talk through who will lead the project, who will be impacted by the changes and how you will measure success.

As the project moves forward, keep the entire staff updated on the status of the project and the results. Keep in mind that it may take some time to see results. With new technology, success is often a building process as the team and the customers adjust to the changes.

Take the first steps

The next few years are going to bring huge changes in the insurance industry. These changes offer many opportunities for agents to better serve their customers. But to do so, agents may have to step out of their comfort zones and react more quickly.

As these shifts take place, it’s essential for agents to keep an eye on trends and educate themselves on new technology and where things are moving. This may involve attending industry conferences, joining carrier advisory groups and getting involved with forward-thinking groups.

about the author

Ron Berg
Executive Director, Agents Council for Technology

As Executive Director of ACT, Ron works with independent insurance agents, insurance carriers, software vendors, and other insurance industry vendors to advance the use of the most effective business processes, practices and technologies, in order to enhance productivity, service, marketing, sales and security.

Ron’s career covers a wide range of technology and management background in the financial and insurance industries, including computer operations, programming, technical support, software implementation, and agency support.

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Outstanding article, Ron! Our industry is so fortunate to have your leadership as director of the IIABA Agents Council for Technology. You are absolutely correct that consumers are expecting the combination of cutting edge technology combined with personally tailored advice from their insurance agents. Your article provides a great road map for agents committed to improving their customer experience while finding the best ways to leverage their existing and new technologies. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

Thank you for the kind comments, Claudia.
For those who dare unaware, ACT is comprised of volunteer representatives from carriers (including Safeco), agents & brokers, software vendors, and user groups & associations. Claudia has long been a strong supporter of ACT, both within work groups and as a member of ACT’s steering committee. Not to mention an amazing WA-based agency owner!
EWnding the mutual admiration society portion of this post. 🙂 For anyone who wants more background on ACT’s many free agency resources, check out our website.