As the insurance industry changes, so are independent agents, evolving to integrate new technology, deliver excellent customer experiences, cover emerging risks and more – all while continually giving back to their communities.
At Agent for the Future, we’re always interested in hearing how forward-thinking agencies are growing and driving the independent agent (IA) channel forward. This year, we launched Regional Agent for the Future™ Awards (along with our National Award) to honor even more innovative agencies around the country. (You can read about the national winner here and the regional winners here).
In reviewing the more than 130 applications we received, we identified four key growth trends that shape what it means to be an Agent for the Future.
Here are four areas where winning agencies are investing time and resources to grow in 2020:
1. Bolster client relationships through technology
Modern consumers expect excellent digital experiences with every company they interact with. This is especially true of younger clients – a Liberty Mutual and Safeco survey of 1,600 millennial insurance consumers found that millennials are more likely than older generations to learn about and choose agents through digital engagement.
Agents for the future use technology to enhance their relationships with customers.
For example, Alta Vista Insurance Agency created automated, personalized customer email journeys to communicate with personal and commercial clients throughout the year. They built a video studio in their agency’s conference room so they can create more videos to help educate clients.
Stewardship Insurance creates video and digital content addressing the questions their customers are asking, and then publish it on every platform possible. By using technology to meet customers online and answer their questions before they ask them, Stewardship demonstrates their expertise.
2. Develop their niche
Brook McGuire, Safeco’s strategy lead for specialty products says specializing can help agents grow a preferred book of business. “By narrowing your focus down to a very targeted customer, you’re more likely to have success marketing, attracting and issuing policies,” she says.
We’ve seen this play out with winning agencies. Many agencies are working to address emerging risks such as cyber and cannabis. Others bring in multi-lingual producers and CSRs to service different markets.
Still others find creative ways to carve out a niche within traditional products. For example, DealerPolicy Insurance Agency partners with car dealers to engage with customers during the car buying process.
3. Give first
Independent insurance agents have a long history of giving back – within their communities and within the independent agent channel.
For example, McClain Insurance Services participates in more than 25 agency-sponsored drives and events every year. They invite clients to support their efforts and also donate $25 to charity for every referral they receive.
Agents for the Future are also generous with sharing their expertise with other agencies and businesses. Chris Paradiso, owner of Paradiso Insurance, created Paradiso Presents to help teach other agencies and businesses how to embrace digital marketing.
4. Meet customers where and when they want to interact
Liberty Mutual consumer research found that customers (especially younger customers) are likely to use more than one digital platform for service interactions. Half of millennials used four or more digital platforms, including email, online accounts, texting, social media and more.
More and more agents are finding that their customers prefer emails and texting over phone calls. Winning agencies are working to integrate texting and other communication methods with their agency management system (AMS) so they can easily communicate with customers through multiple channels.
For example, Compass Insurance Agency created an omni-channel customer relationship management (CRM) system that integrates with their agency management system. The CRM enables Compass to communicate with customers through Web chat, SMS, Twitter, Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Email, or phone. Agents see all the interactions in one place, and can automate routine marketing efforts through multiple channels, making for a better customer experience.
2020 is shaping up to be a big year for independent agents. There are many challenges to face as the industry changes, but we’ve seen that agents are well-equipped to lead the way in adapting to the changes.
We’re here to help independent agents grow and thrive in 2020 and beyond. What are you doing to be an Agent for the Future? Email us your stories at email@example.com or join the AFTF community on Twitter (@agent4thefuture) and Instagram (@agentforthefuture).