Digital, Accelerated: A Quick Guide to Getting Digital

Agent Experts, Customer Experience, Personal Lines, Small Commercial Lines, Technology

Imagine if your independent insurance agency was on fire – what would you have to grab on your way out the door to make sure your agency could still function?

As a digital agency owner, my answer is simple: I wouldn’t need to grab anything. I would still be able to serve clients and access critical files, because all my agency systems are cloud-based, which means they are hosted on external servers and I can access them online from any computer.

As many of us have recently experienced, a fire is not the only thing that can shut your agency doors. Transitioning to digital platforms can help you create what I call a “grab and go” agency – one that can easily operate and serve clients any time, from anywhere.

The tools you’ll need

Taking your agency digital may seem complicated, but I wholeheartedly believe in keeping things simple and running on a lean budget. There are only a few things you really need to get up and running in the digital space (many of which your agency may already have):

  1. A good laptop.
  2. An agency management system (AMS) that lets you keep track of client information, run audits and proactively manage renewals and client communications. Most AMS softwares, such as HawkSoft, QQCatalyst, or AMS360 (which I use), have lots of helpful tools included, so make sure you’re educated about what your AMS can do.
  3. A voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone system that allows you to make calls over the internet – ideally, one that integrates with your AMS.
  4. A functional website. If you want to play in the digital game, you have to have a website. If you are not doing business online, you are basically not doing business.I believe that agencies that don’t have a website are not going to have a place in the insurance industry for much longer. Clients want information, and they don’t want to have to make a phone call or walk into an agency every time they have a question. They want to have information ready at their fingertips. Your website can act as a resource, keeping people in the know, especially during times your office is closed.Your website doesn’t have to be elaborate. But once you have it up and running, it opens up a lot of possibilities. A website can be used as a training dashboard for your own team, a service center for your clients, a hub for claims videos and much more.

There are a million other tools you could add on top of those things, but the four above are the main things you’ll need to be more digital right away. Don’t get caught up in all the bells and whistles and let “shiny object syndrome” distract you from taking those first steps toward digital.

Condition your clients

Once you have the core tools in place, the first step toward becoming more digital is simple: stop putting it off. If you want to transition to a digital payment system, stop taking cash or check payments in your office. If you want to get away from paper documents, stop accepting physical paperwork. There’s no “by next Friday …” It’s like sleep training a toddler – you have to immediately say no.

To do this, you will need to set the expectations and condition your customers to your new ways of doing business. 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.

For example, start responding to every single service request, every change that needs to be made, every VIN number modification with, “Absolutely, we definitely can take care of that for you. Please send your service request to service@insuranceagency.com.” Your customers will listen to you – they’re not going to fight you on it as long as you are consistent.

Embrace the process

It will take time to unravel what works for your agency in the digital space and what doesn’t work. You don’t have to do everything perfectly when you’re making the transition to digital. Just be very open with your customers. They are your biggest cheerleaders – they want you to succeed! Tell them how excited you are to make these changes and ask for their feedback in the process.

The independent insurance channel is starting to make large shifts in the digital realm. This year, we’ve had to face immense challenges in how we serve customers and maintain business operations. Our offices may not have been on fire, but we’re all seeing the benefits of having tools in place that allow us to do business online.

The way I see it, independent insurance agencies that don’t take this opportunity to embrace digital will take big hits to their premium and renewals. Somebody else who is one step ahead digitally will come in and take those clients.

I hope the independent insurance channel takes this as our green light – now is the time to go digital.

Who inspires you on your digital journey? Tell us in the comments below. 

 

Erin Nutting

Owner, Integrity Insurance Services

Erin Nutting is a Mommypreneur who’s focused on changing the insurance space. She has more than 10 years of experience in insurance, first as a captive agent then building an independent agency. She’s passionate about all things caffeinated, helping protect her customers, and finding new innovative ways to grow in life.

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Tina Wang

I really like this article. I am new agency is setting up. I am working on my website. It is hard. VoIP is new for me. I will look into it. I love the ideal to train my clients to go digital. Only email to sevice@insuranceagency.com. 🙂
Thank you Erin.

Excellent insights Erin. Always enjoy reading your blogs and articles.

I’d add ‘5. Dedicated cyber security.’ Whether you employ an inhouse CTO or contact with a third party vendor, albeit the way we currently operate will not change over night, the venue may, which opens up backdoor liabilities and security threats via platforms like MS Teams and Zoom, and even VOIP providers.

I’d also add ‘6. Culture adjustment’. Although we don’t have enough experience, and in turn data, just yet, I’m ALREADY seeing hints of declines in collaboration, creativity, and overall productivity, as well as difficulties in work/life balance for staff.

We have been a “remote” workspace in some fashion since 2012. I agree with the article and some of the comments. My staff says, “this is not a job, it is a lifestyle!” we do a lot of travel together to work through projects, bond, etc. We are also on the phone together all day long. I am posting this from an AirBnb in Palm Desert with one employee at a table next to me. We have talked with the entire staff this morning for various reasons. It is an adjustment, but we have so much fun. We picked up… Read more »

Great point, Michael! In our upcoming e-book version of this article series, we talk a little bit about cybersecurity training and using VPNs when employees are working remotely.
And yes, workplace culture can be tough when you transition to remote work. We’ve heard from agents that regular virtual staff meetings can help, as well as one-on-one check-ins.

That is great! We love to hear those digital success stories, and it sounds like you have found a way to keep in touch with your employees and make it work for your staff.

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