2018 has turned out to be the year of the text message. For agents, that reality presents a challenge that is both substantial and immediate.
Today, there are dozens of vendors that offer chat capabilities. Web messaging has emerged as a game-changing alternative and Apple has launched its Business Chat, which allows companies and brands to communicate with customers over iMessage. The terminology, however, and dizzying array of options and features, may cause some to run. What follows is a basic analysis to cut through the hype.
In the 2018 Insurance Digital Transformation Survey, only 7 percent of agencies offered any form of live chat, which underscores a disconnect between how agents use digital tools at work and how they use them as individuals. If you use Facebook Messenger or text on your smartphone to keep in touch with family and friends, why would you not use texting in some form to keep in touch with clients?
Jay Byrnes, president of the Connecticut-based Byrnes Insurance Agency and ACT Committee Chair of the Agents Council For Technology says it best: “We no longer control our communications.”
Businesses and individuals alike have become more tech savvy and are engaging through various digital platforms, including web forms, email, social media, and messaging. The question is, what methods work best for agents?
The chat versus messaging debate is the best place to start because they are not the same.
Live chat interactions are synchronous, which means the parties need to be actively available at the same time. Utilizing a chatbot after business hours mitigates but does not eliminate this weakness. Live chats are also session-based — so once ended — the entire conversation thread may be lost. Some systems may save the conversation for 24 hours or so and may permit a cut-and-paste process to an agency management system. The problem, of course, is that these extra steps take time.
Chats also lack context, so if a policyholder recontacts the agency for follow up they will likely end up having to repeat part of the previous conversations. Again, more time lost.
Lastly, if a policyholder needs to share a screenshot to add detail, that usually requires a separate email.
Messaging is asynchronous, which means the two parties can communicate without being available at the same time. Messaging is also contextual, so the next time a policyholder or prospect has a question, the agent would know exactly what that previous interaction looked like because they will see them in real-time.
Messaging is also a cost-saver. According to a McKinsey & Co. study, a single chat interaction costs between $3 to $5 per interaction while a messaging communication is typically less than a dollar.
Messaging can strengthen relationships between agents and carriers in addition to agency customer relationships.
Enterprise messaging systems offer maximum security (banks and some insurers already use them). Plus, automatic, permanent archiving is another big time-saver.
Messaging favors relationship building over one-time transactions because of its contextual ability. This suggests messaging can strengthen relationships between agents and carriers in addition to agency customer relationships.
This column doesn’t endorse one vendor over another and limited space precludes deeper treatment. But, three conclusions are clear: Insurance can’t be sold like a loaf of bread; speed and convenience are indispensable for every agency, regardless of size, location and specialty; and addressing the connectivity issues outlined here cannot be put off.
Wetzel heads his own insurance marketing firm that specializes in website design, messaging and social media programs for agents through its Social Media Content Roadmap. The firm maintains a partnership with LivePerson Inc. Website: www.wetzelandassociates.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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