An agent’s technological plate is so full it may seem impossible to decide where to start. Experts agree that embracing mobile needs to take top priority for two critical tasks: to mobile-optimize the agency website and streamline clients’ access to various functions via smartphones.
“Agents must streamline their mobile technology, no question,” says Ron Berg, executive director at ACT – Agents Council for Technology. “In fact, agents need to be in front of insurance buyers in their use of smartphones, not behind as they are now. It’s not happening fast enough.”
According to the Pew Internet Research Project, 58 percent of American adults own a smartphone and 34 percent go online mostly using their phones rather than using another device such as a desktop or laptop computer. Other studies confirm that mobile is more personal than a desktop or laptop – it’s how people communicate today and it’s more cost-effective in the long run.
Berg explains that some agents just add a carrier’s mobile app to their website without understanding the consequences.
“Let’s say you’re an agent who has mobile apps from four of the six carriers you represent. Unless you place all of a policyholder’s business with one carrier, you’re forcing the consumer to add multiple apps, which is confusing and takes extra time,” Berg says. “Most damaging of all is the fact that it discourages consumers from going through agents at all.”
“Agencies need to provide clients a single, mobile point of contact regardless of carrier and policy,” says Kiki Johnson of GoInsuranceAgent.com. “It’s critical for them to understand what apps can do for their clients and the benefits they can get in return, including greater retention and the ability to stay top-of-mind and relevant for the consumer 24/7.”
Johnson adds that mobile is critical for three different audiences, all of which have different requirements: producers for their internal use, prospects who use smartphones to shop with, and clients who want to access their policies and perform critical functions such as creating a household inventory.
“Unfortunately, the vast majority of agents are not focused on utilizing, maximizing and investing in mobile,” says Chris Paradiso of Connecticut-based Paradiso Insurance. “Half of our web traffic is from mobile devices. For agents, there are many resources to self-educate via articles, YouTube videos and conferences. I’d talk to fellow agents you trust and who have adopted these technologies to understand the best ways to achieve maximum ROI (return on investment).”
ACT’s Berg also recommends that agents reach out to their carriers to determine what resources may be available, including training and co-op funds.
“Society is moving incredibly fast in the use of the smartphones and we, as agents, are not reacting fast enough in response,” says Linda Rey of Rey Insurance, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y. Rey’s agency has its own mobile app that accesses all policies and carriers – and the result has been a marked increase in retention.
“The fact is, mobile will dominate the marketplace,” says Paradiso. “The consumer is used to many of these technologies outside of the insurance space. People hardly go to the bank any longer.
“ATMs and mobile banking have made the customer experience easy and painless. We are silly to not believe insurance will not follow that path of creating an easy-to-use system for real-time quoting, e-signatures and claims reporting, in addition to automated communications based on activities,” Paradiso says.
This is the third of a series on the technology issues facing agents. The focus is on practical solutions on many fronts, including the customer experience, privacy and security.
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