Every year, when my policies come up for renewal, I always take time to mix a little business with pleasure. This year was no different—I called my agent and headed to the web as well.
Among the sites for agents and companies, and the sites designed to just provide quotes, you know what I found? An easy start-to-finish solution? A virtual agency on the web? A single place that allows me to choose, learn, compare, buy and manage my insurance?
No, no, and no.
Instead, the web and insurance distribution is a fragmented, sometimes overlapping and segmented system of sites. An agent site, for example, may provide information and the ability to get an online quote. Everything else must be e-mailed or phoned back and forth.
Or worse, I go to one of these “lead generation” sites. I fill in six pages of detailed information only to find out that I’m going to be called or e-mailed by every insurance agency in the vicinity.
On the other hand, there are the company sites. I can “e-walk” in and take care of the whole shootin’ match, from information to quote to purchase to management. But what’s the sacrifice? There’s little competition—no shopping the rate around. It’s usually their way or the highway. E-commerce at a price.
That’s just it. Most agencies are going to find turnkey e-commerce/e-access solutions difficult to fund and to implement. Heck, for many agencies, keeping a website’s information up to date is hard enough.
But if you want to open up your agency to true e-commerce over the web—providing cyberservice and customer service as well as insurance information and tools while writing for the companies of your choice—then you might want to consider joining the YouZoom Network.
On the outside
YouZoom (www.youzoom.com), the brainchild of Arrowhead General Insurance, allows its members to provide e-commerce capabilities through their own websites. Calling up a friend of mine over there, she walked me through the site development process.
Creation of a website is easy. Once you’re a member, you’ve got a template-driven system that allows you to upload your own information, logos, and pictures.
To have a fully functioning site, you need not have any knowledge of HTML or coding. If you can point and click, and can type in some information about your agency, you can build a site. Or, if you’re too busy, send it all to them, and they can take of it for you.
You can use your own domain name, give them a list of five possible names to look into registering, or make use of the YouZoom Network for your name. They’ll get the site registered with search engines, and you’re ready to go.
Visitors to the YouZoom.com site can search for an agent by state and ZIP code; visitors to your site have access to quotes for auto and home (with life insurance soon to be included). Prospects and customers can bone up on “Insurance 101” and learn more about the agency and YouZoom. Live help is even provided to site visitors 24×7 by a YouZoom call center.
While you can implement YouZoom into your own site’s look, most of the 200-plus members make use of the template system.
The downside to that is that the template is binding and sometimes limiting when trying to make the site something that will aid in establishing greater ethos with members of your local community. I’ve been told the release of YouZoom’s next generation of tools and offerings is imminent, and will help take care of some of that.
On the upside, you’re opening doors to a whole new audience with tools that allow customers to purchase straight from the web. Even more, it will give customers the power to manage accounts from their browsers. The “account services” feature lets them go in, make a claim and look at possible changes to a policy.
On the inside
Now I know you’re thinking, “So part of my site is working through Arrowhead’s companies? What about the companies I write for?” That’s where the agent tools come in handy.
Yes, that which you sell through your site’s YouZoom affiliation, quoting and e-commerce technology is using their companies. However, you are not stuck with that. Using the agent tools, you can access every possible quote to your site.
One tool is called “quotes.” Selecting the length of time or history, you can generate a list of the quotes requested from your YouZoom site—full information, including contact information, too.
The nice thing is that for anyone who visits the site and begins filling out the form, as soon as they move to the next page,
the information is stored—complete or incomplete.
What my friend at YouZoom tells me is that some agents use the quotes tool for contacting incomplete entries or for visitors who never acted on a quote. The prospect can be informed that there are a number of other companies the agent writes for and that the agent would be happy to provide some other quotes. For some agents, it’s a good balance between complete online transactions and building a relationship with the prospect. I was referred to one YouZoom affiliated agent who gained 10 new customers in a month because of YouZoom—and seven more from taking quote information from YouZoom and following up with e-mails and/or calls.
Agents can also edit their site information online as well as change login names and passwords. Web statistics are available for site traffic, and are detailed enough that you can even see the times of the day and the days of the week that your site is the busiest.
As a whole
YouZoom may or may not be for every agency. Part of it really depends on where you see your market and customer base. But make no mistake, the tools offered by companies like YouZoom are becoming more and more commonplace. They are also becoming more and more comfortable to use.
Look at the rise in Internet usage and purchases over the web. People have always seen the web as a place for information. Now it’s a place to manage accounts and buy the intangible.
I can buy groceries online, but more than likely, I’m still going to have to go to the store to pick them up. I can’t use my web browser to test drive a car I want to buy, even though I can buy a car online. I can pay my bills, look at my credit card charges and manage my stock portfolio all online. I should be able to do that with my insurance.
Not only should I be able to do that online, but also I’m beginning to expect those that I deal with to have those tools and capabilities, including my insurance agent. With companies like YouZoom out there, the excuses of expense, technology assets, staffing or implementation no longer are valid. The question should be, “Are we ready?”
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