8 Ways Carriers Can Improve Ease of Doing Business for Agents
Independent agents (IA’s) have many choices when choosing carriers partnerships, and ease of doing business can make or break an agents decision. To become the preferred choice for agents, carriers must update their backend operations and perhaps reassess the value of their IA distribution network.
With over 80% of US commercial policies sold by independent agents, today’s insurance climate requires carriers to view agents as valued distribution partners and not just producers. Agents need to trust that a preferred carrier will be there when they (and their clients) need them most. This includes providing timely quotes, clear underwriting criteria, and an efficient claim experience. By understanding the needs of independent agents, carriers can uncover valuable opportunities to improve their ease of business and accelerate small business market share.
Why Ease of Business is a Critical Factor for Agents
Similar to carriers, agents are looking to maximize their profitability and grow their market share in the most efficient way possible. Legacy systems make it hard for agents to quote, bind, and issue without experiencing long waiting times. In fact, a recent survey by Trusted Choice found that 47% of respondents expressed wanting more enhanced digital capabilities from carriers, with better quoting experiences and increased education being top two.
With different carriers offering similar commercial products, speed is often a major determinant in which company an agent or broker chooses. The carrier delivering a modern digital experience with fewer hassles will likely be favored among agents looking to grow their small business book.
The Challenges of Selling Commercial in the Digital Age
Insurance agents face several challenges when it comes to selling commercial insurance policies. Among these challenges are extensive paperwork, application data duplication, lengthy underwriting processes, poor communication from carriers, and large margins of error. The following five categories encompass these challenges.
Limited access to information: Legacy systems often lack the ability to easily access and analyze appetite, making it difficult for agents to quickly find the information they need to make informed recommendations to their clients. This results in longer wait times for quotes and policy issuance, leading to frustration for both agents and customers.
Manual processes: Legacy systems often require agents to manually input customer data multiple times, complete paperwork, and perform other tedious tasks that can be time-consuming and error-prone. This results in delays in policy issuance and increased e&o exposure.
Inefficient workflows: Legacy systems may not be designed to work seamlessly with other software tools, making it challenging for agents to integrate new technologies and services into modern workflows. This results in a lack of efficiency, as agents may have to spend more time manually moving customers through the sales pipeline.
Large margins of error: Margins of error can be a major concern for agents, as inaccuracies can lead to customer dissatisfaction and lost business. Accurate data is critical to the underwriting process so even small mistakes can have significant consequences, such as under calculating risk or providing inadequate coverage. Additionally, errors in applications or policies can cause confusion and frustration for customers, leading to negative feedback and a damaged reputation for the agent.
Little ability to track application status: One of the challenges that independent insurance agents face when selling commercial policies is a lack of communication from carriers regarding the status of applications. When agents are left out of the loop, not only can it cause frustration and delays in closing deals, it may even mean losing the sale altogether.
Improving Ease of Business Can Supercharge Agent Sales
Efficient quoting and binding processes are essential for insurance agents, as they allow more time for selling and building customer relationships. However, unforeseen errors and delays in underwriting can create friction and frustration for both the agent and the customer. This can result in long-lasting reputational damage for carriers, as well as a decline in business from agents and customers.
In today's digital climate, customers expect quick and efficient service. Even the slightest delay or mistake can lead to a loss of confidence and trust. Independent agents rely on carriers to provide them with the necessary tools and support to deliver high-quality service to their clients. When carriers fail to meet these expectations, agents can lose confidence in their ability to provide the level of service their clients expect.
Improving ease of doing business can help reduce these sales frictions and allow agents to quote, bind, and issue policies more quickly and efficiently. By automating processes, eliminating unnecessary steps, and improving data access, carriers can help agents streamline their workflows, making it easier for them to provide customers with the appropriate amount of coverage.
4 Industry Leaders Easing the Burden of Doing Business to Increase Competitiveness
Several insurance carriers are already leading the way when it comes to improving ease of doing business for independent agents. Some of the top carriers include:
The Hartford: The Hartford has made significant investments in its digital capabilities, offering agents access to a range of tools and resources to help streamline the sales process.
Travelers: Travelers has been making significant investments in their digital capabilities to improve the ease of doing business for independent agents. Travelers has multiple distribution partnerships that allows agents to quickly quote and bind policies, as well as track the status of applications and claims.
Nationwide: Nationwide has been focused on improving the user experience for agents, with a range of digital solutions to help simplify the sales process. For example, Nationwide developed an online platform that allows agents to manage policies, submit claims, and access customer information in real-time. They also offer a range of training and support resources to help agents navigate their systems and improve their workflows.
Liberty Mutual: Liberty Mutual has launched an online portal that provides access to policy information, real-time quotes, and other important data.
8 Powerful Strategies for Carriers to Improve Ease of Doing Business for Agents
Even though a complete system overhaul may not be in the cards for every insurer, there are still opportunities to increase operational efficiency. Here are eight ways carriers can enhance their relationships with independent agents to expedite their commercial market share.
- Automate the quoting process – When agents are able to quickly and easily produce quotes, they can focus more of their time on selling policies and less on administrative tasks. Additionally, automation can reduce errors and inconsistencies in the quoting process, leading to more accurate premiums and a more positive customer experience. By automating the quoting process, carriers can ultimately increase the number of policies sold.
- Build 3rd party Insurtech partnerships – Carriers can improve their ease of doing business for agents by partnering with third-party Insurtech platforms. These platforms offer a wide range of services, such as quote generation, application processing, policy management, and claims handling. By partnering with these platforms, carriers can integrate their products and services on the platform, giving agents access to a streamlined and simplified process for selling and managing policies. Additionally, these platforms often leverage advanced data analytics and machine learning to provide agents with more accurate and personalized insights, leading to better customer experiences and increased sales.
- Provide more education on policy requirements: Carriers can offer training and education to independent agents on their products and underwriting guidelines to help agents better understand their products. By improving agents' knowledge and capabilities, carriers can help agents better understand the needs of their customers and identify opportunities to cross-sell or up-sell policies. Commercial products are complex, and providing clear and concise product information helps agents reduce their e&o exposure and provide a more efficient and pleasant customer experience.
- Communicate industry trends: By sharing information on emerging trends, shifts in consumer behavior, and changes in regulations, carriers can help agents make more informed decisions when selling policies. This can lead to more effective sales strategies, better customer service, and ultimately increased revenue for both the carrier and the agent.
- Adopt an omnichannel communication approach: Agents have harnessed the power of omnichannel strategies, and carriers can learn from their success to improve communication with their agents. By adopting similar strategies, carriers can facilitate communication by providing agents with real-time updates, information about policy changes, and other important developments they should remain aware of. This can help build stronger relationships between carriers and agents, improving the overall ease of doing business and enabling agents to be more effective in selling policies.
- Streamline commercial policy renewals: Carriers can improve ease of doing business by making commercial policy renewals easier for independent agents in several ways. First, they can provide agents with automated renewal reminders, including notification of any changes to the policy terms and conditions. This can help agents stay informed and up-to-date on their clients' policies and avoid any lapses in coverage.
Additionally, carriers can provide agents with streamlined renewal processes, such as pre-populated applications and renewal questionnaires to help speed up the process and reduce the administrative burden on agents. Finally, carriers can offer incentives and rewards to agents for renewing policies on time, motivating agents to prioritize policy renewals and improve customer retention rates.
- Take note of what the big players are doing: By taking note of the strategies and best practices that have been successful for larger carriers, smaller carriers can mimic those approaches to enhance their own relationships with agents. This can include things like investing in digital tools, automating processes, providing better communication and training, and partnering with third-party software providers to streamline the quoting and binding process.
- Learn more about agent workflows: To improve ease of business, carriers should make sure new tools align/ integrate well with the tools that agents are already using. By aligning with existing workflows and integrating with existing tools, carriers can minimize disruptions to agents' day-to-day operations and make it easier for agents to adopt new technology. This can lead to improved productivity, reduced training time, and ultimately a more seamless sales process.
Conclusion: Prioritizing Ease of Doing Business Can Help Carriers Thrive
Ultimately, by prioritizing ease of doing business and taking concrete steps to improve the agent experience, carriers can set themselves apart from their competitors.
Those that take initiative and reimagine how they can make life easier for independent agents will reap the reward of agents flocking to do business with them. On the other hand, carriers that overlook the importance of this critical aspect may be forced to lower prices, offer higher commission percentages, or add new and unique coverages to their portfolio to remain competitive.
It is crucial to pay attention when agents shed light on what isn't working and respond with purposeful solutions. When agents are satisfied, they can become powerful advocates for carriers. By actively engaging with agents and implementing solutions that align with current workflows, carriers can foster mutually beneficial relationships.