In today’s digital landscape, delivering an exceptional customer experience is vital to business growth. To this end, enterprises are leveraging innovative technologies to deliver the products and services that customers want, in the channels that they prefer, with the experience that they desire. In insurance, policyholders are not the only customers whose experience needs to be taken into consideration. Agents are also an important customer base in the value chain, as they contribute almost 90% to distribution sales for insurers. For agents, the ease of the overall quoting and issuance processes can heavily influence where they place their business. Delivering a delightful insurance agent experience then becomes essential for insurers who want to compete and grow in the digital market.
This blog will talk about the need for improving the agent experience in insurance; share a framework to guide insurers in developing an engaging experience for their agents; and show how one large P&C carrier implemented this framework to drive business growth through their agent distribution channel.
What Does Improving Agent Experience Mean?
Agent experience is all about increasing ease of accessand improving workflow. Simplifying the process of placing business and enhancing the capabilities for servicing customers through the agent portal help agents increase their productivity and therefore sales.
Fulfilling the expectations agents have for experience requires insurers to understand the needs of the agents at the various stages of their work, ranging from quoting and submission, to issuance, to reporting, and servicing. By working closely with the agents to understand and prioritize their requirements, insurers can create an agent portal that delivers an optimal experience, enabling agents to be productive and efficient, and increasing their loyalty to the carrier.
4 Step Framework to Deliver on Insurance Agent Experience
How can insurers develop an agent portal that will give the experience agents want and need to grow their business? This simple four-step framework is tested and proven to guide any insurer to build a delightful experience for their agents:
Know Your Agents:
Understanding agents’ goals and issues is an essential first step to building a better agent experience. To do so insurers include agents as important stakeholders in their portal projects. Insurers who have embarked on agent experience projects have gotten to know their agents by conducting surveys to learn what their agents want, shadowing agents to map out workflow and processes, and interacting with them on a daily or weekly basis to get continuous feedback. By including agents at the onset of the project and seeking to understand their requirements for a better work experience, insurers are not only letting agents know that they are a priority to the company, but also are ensuring that the experience they build will align with the needs of their end users.
Leverage Available Tools:
Manual data entry of vast amounts of data is a complex processes that require agents to navigate through multiple quotes and portals to get an individual quote is a major hindrance to an agent’s productivity. Insurers should leverage available tools, such as APIs, to integrate with third parties and provide real-time data exchange and auto fill through supplemental apps to aid or eliminating the tedious manual entry of data into systems.
Include Must-have Features:
Delighting agents with any experience that’s build for them should first and foremost include the must-have features. Insurers can get at these features by conducting a survey with their agents at the onset of the project. An online survey of 225 independent agent conducted by Karlyn Carnahan, head of property-casualty, North America at Celent, found that agents are looking for an enhanced user experience, easy and intuitive navigation, and quick access to policy and transaction details to support customer service. Agents also indicated that manuals and live chat options could assist them in the instant underwriting process and decrease decision times.Other important features insurers should consider to enhance agent experience include:
a. Ability to quote, issue, and bind business with straight-through processing
b. Consolidation of customer policies
c. Ability to add quick changes to the portal based on workflow
Determining goals at the start of the project is essential to measuring success of the investment. Some common goals insurers set in their agent experience initiatives are:
a. Ease of access
b. Decreased quote time
c. System flexibility to accommodate quick and necessary changes
Measuring the success metrics of a portal is a complex process that involves both qualitative and quantitative processes. Qualitative process involves collecting timely feedback from agents to understand their perspective and to act upon them. For quantitative metrics, an insurer can track changes in time to quote and determine how the revenue and efficiency of the agents has improved. User analytical cases can be created, and surveys can be conducted to get accurate data with measurable metrics.
From Framework to Success
Erie Insurance has more than 13,000 agents who play an important role in the company’s growth. Agents provide quotes, assist customers in the application process, and form the foundation of Erie’s distribution by nurturing and building long-lasting business relationships with policyholders.
Erie aims to provide their agents with the best-in-class agent experience. To reach that goal, Erie decided to build an agent portal to improve on the experience they provide to their distribution partners. As part of this initiative, Erie reached out their agents to understand the agents’ needs and maintained a daily contact with the agents throughout the project.
While building the portal experience, Erie leveraged available tools to make the development a smooth one. Leveraging a low-code platform to separate the integration layers in the policy admin system, Erie started to develop a better way to quote and apply their workers comp policy on the low code platform outside of their core system. As part of the development process, Erie met with their agents and partners, and had their agents test the application’s usability and provide feedback before rolling out the final version.
To ensure success of the agent experience, Erie made sure that the agent portal has all the features suggested by the agents, such as ease of access, consolidated policies in one place, flexibility, etc. This effort proved valuable; once the portal was launched, the response from Erie’s agents was overwhelmingly positive. Their agents liked that the portal provided ease of access with a smooth workflow.
After the launch of the agent portal, Erie started to measure the success of the portal against metrics that they identified at the onset of the project. One of the metrics was to decrease the quoting time. The new agent experience that Erie developed reduced the quoting time from 10 days to 6 minutes. The increased productivity was visible in the double-digit revenue growth that Erie experienced in their commercial lines, proving their agent experience was a major success.
Building an Insurance Agent Experience for the Future
Agents are an important part of an insurer’s distribution. To grow their business through their distribution channels, enhancing agent experience is a must. As seen from Erie’s experience, building a successful agent experience includes involving your agents in the process, leveraging industry tools to facilitate development, adding important features required by agents, and having KPIs/metrics that you can measure success.
Want to learn how to build a successful agent experience? Get advice from industry experts on this topic in our webinar: How to Deliver on Agent Experience with Low Code Development.