The last few years brought tremendous changes to the independent insurance agent channel. Customer expectations grew exponentially. Competition increased. Digital ways of doing business became the norm.
2020 only accelerated the pace of change in the insurance industry.
However, insurance agents rose to the challenge, adapting to new ways of working and continuing to provide excellent advice and service to their customers.
We at Agent for the Future have learned a lot from the insurance agents and industry experts that contributed to our site in 2020. Here are the top ten lessons from the year to help independent agents level up in 2021:
In the past year, digital tools became even more essential as the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person interactions difficult.
In the kickoff to the Digital, Accelerated article series, Tyler Asher wrote that it’s time for agents to embrace digital.
But more than just embracing digital, agents need to prioritize digital investments.
In part two of the Digital, Accelerated series, Liberty Mutual’s Chief Digital Officer, Emily Fink, predicted that the shift to digital will only accelerate in the post-COVID world.
“Far from just viewing digital as an occasionally helpful tool, we need to be ‘digital-first,’ focusing on digital as a key part of how we operate and serve customers,” she wrote.
Being digital first is really about being customer-first, she wrote. But it also helps agencies grow, operate more efficiently and better serve customers.
Part of a growth mindset is a willingness to take risks. True Agents for the Future are trailblazers who are willing to try new things, even if they might fail.
Erin Rodliff, Liberty Mutual’s Chief Actuary, Global Risk Solutions, North America, remembers feeling afraid of failure as she considered a job opportunity in an area she wasn’t familiar with.
“I told a prior manager that I wanted to go after the opportunity but it scared me,” she wrote in her article on Agent for the Future, “and they said, ‘Well, if you’re scared, that’s probably a good thing. If it scares you, it’s going to be a really good development opportunity.’”
Liberty Mutual and Safeco’s research on millennial insurance consumers found that younger customers want the ease, choice and advice that independent insurance agents offer.
But, as Tyler Asher explained, the methods of delivering on those value propositions are changing. Agents need to evolve to meet the changing expectations of consumers – while still building strong relationships and offering expert advice.
One of the many benefits of using digital tools is that they allow you to track results and find proven ways to drive leads and grow your agency.
Jeff Roy, CEO of Excalibur Insurance Group, winner of the 2018 Agent for the Future Award, suggested that agents track metrics such as cost per quote, acquisition cost per client, response times, close ratios and more.
“Knowing those metrics and numbers gives you a baseline from which to improve your agency,” he wrote. “By learning those numbers and looking at that data over time, you can drive costs down.”
Some agents worry that going digital is too hard and that their clients aren’t ready. But digital agency owner Erin Nutting said it doesn’t have to be complicated.
“I’ve found that customers will do business with you how you ask them to do business if you set the expectation and communicate the change,” she wrote.
Embracing digital doesn’t mean losing a personal touch. In fact, digital tools can help agents bring a personal touch to client relationships even if they aren’t able to meet the client in person.
Video especially allows you to connect with clients, show your personality and build personal relationships. Ashley Abrams, marketing manager for McClain Insurance Services, wrote that to connect with customers via video, agents should start small and unscripted and aim for authenticity rather than big production value.
“Focused digital marketing is the new norm, and customers have come to expect marketing content that is customized to their needs and interests,” wrote Dshanya Reese, brand marketing manager for Watkins Insurance.
She suggested building out digital marketing personas to reach potential customers at the ideal time and in the ideal place.
The future is diverse. By 2060, racial minorities will make up more than half of the population in the U.S. To effectively serve a diverse population, insurance agencies need to embrace diversity.
In her article on Agent for the Future, agency owner Raina Walton said making that shift starts with opening up conversations about diversity in the independent agent channel.
“If we want to see independent insurance agencies continue to be successful into the future, we’re going to have to start having these conversations and make sure we build inclusive agencies,” she wrote.
The 2020 Agent for the Future Award winners showed that one of the things that set top agencies apart was a growth mindset.
Winning agencies are always seeking to innovate and find new, creative ways to grow and improve.
2020 forced us all to rethink strategic plans for the year and quickly pivot to new ways of doing business. From closing offices, to working remotely, to adopting new technology to communicate with and serve customers, insurance agents had to quickly adapt during a chaotic year.
This year taught agents to stay flexible and pivot quickly, and forward-looking agencies are taking those lessons to heart.
Rather than anticipating a “return to normal” in 2021, the agencies that will thrive will be the ones that embrace change and work to lead the charge into the future.
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