It’s an online, 24/7 world, even for the insurance industry. Your clients expect self-service options, along with attentive customer support and competitive rates. Why not consider a digital transformation for your agency? It’s easier than you think. “A digital insurance agency can quote more, sell more volume, and give the consumer a much easier path to sales and interaction,” says Todd McLain, top Farmers agent and CEO and Founder of Agency MVP.
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What Is a Digital Insurance Agency Vs. a Traditional Insurance Agency?
But what distinguishes a digital insurance agency from a traditional insurance agency? “If you ask 10 different agents, you’ll probably get 10 different answers,” says McLain. These are some of the qualities that define a digital insurance agency:
- A digital insurance agency may exist without a brick-and-mortar office. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, insurance producers, like so many other employees, now often work remotely.
- A digital insurance agency may provide on-demand or self-service options, such as policy or claim forms that are available for viewing and downloading whenever customers choose—even at 2 a.m.
- A digital insurance agency may offer online assets that build community and increase visibility through promotional materials, such as blog posts and PSAs. Check out our article on social media to learn more about creating an online presence.
- A digital insurance agency may automate repetitive, manual tasks in a digital setup to help its teams focus on the human connection in insurance sales and support.
Increased Automation Argues for a Digital Insurance Agency
Much of the economy is now automated and digitized, and certain factors suggest the importance of on-demand and automated processes for insurance agencies as well. With every year, insurance carriers lower upfront commissions for agents, instead, promoting performance bonuses to incentivize high quote and sales volumes. The intended result is to weed out agents who sit on their renewals and don’t actively seek new sales.
For agents who don’t have the ability to automate these processes, the pressure to increase quote volume and sales can mean a mountain of paperwork and more manual tasks. Eventually, the law of diminishing returns means the more agents quote, the less time they have to follow up. For agents who buy leads, they often can’t contact them all and only have time to call random picks.
Some prospects, such as teenagers, involve particular time-based underwriting opportunities that most traditional CRMs can’t easily surface. Additional opportunities lie with high-value prospects with high premiums or multiple lines. For agents without automated and repeatable processes, it’s virtually impossible to find all these prospects and then also have enough time to establish contact with all of them. “Agents who are utilizing their digital assets to connect with the right prospects at the right time will thrive in the future of insurance. Those who treat data like a task will be out of business or sell out soon,” McLain states.
One Agent’s Journey to Digital Insurance
How does Todd McLain understand the pitfalls of relying on paper-based processes for selling insurance? He’s walked the path himself as an agent for over 12 years. He came to the insurance business from investment banking when a former colleague who had transferred to insurance revealed the unique opportunities of the industry.
Shortly after, McLain invested in his own Farmers Insurance Group agency. He quickly learned that prioritizing leads could pay huge dividends. Todd remembers an eye opening experience that taught him a valuable lesson that’s stuck with him since: “6 months into my career I'll never forget I was looking at a stack of applications and made a personal challenge to myself to call the entire stack back. It took 2 days and literally the next night, the very last lead was an Allstate customer with 10 rental properties who I had saved over $3,000. I got excited and made the call. He answered the phone and before I could even get out my pitch he said, ‘I wish you had called me a couple of weeks ago – I just switched to someone else’ and he hung up on me.”
McLain immediately posted a sticky note on his monitor: “‘How do I keep Allstate guy in front of my face?’ If that guy had been at the top of my list, a sale would have paid for my marketing for a month,” he says. “It was clear that if we are going to be a digital agency and grow, we need to be smart about every second of our day and focus on contacting people at the right time for my carrier.” Our article on running a successful agency discusses this topic further. For McLain, this experience set him on the search for a platform to automate these tasks, which culminated in developing his solution: Agency MVP.
Benefits and Disadvantages of a Digital Insurance Agency
A lead should include information such as the current carrier premium, risk score, claims, tickets or accidents, and more. Platforms like McLain’s own Agency MVP learn from and prioritize each new and pre-existing household you enter into it. “When an agent logs in and the call list loads, the most valuable and most likely to close leads are prioritized for you,” explains McLain. When the platform does the sorting for you, you can increase your sales volume—with the same headcount. In McLain’s case, that volume rose five times without hiring more agents.
However, not all digital insurance platforms are equal. Some CRMs use pattern-matching AI. But, according to McLain, the insurance industry is volatile, with rates and underwriting guidelines continually changing. “You can’t learn patterns and apply them to rates,” he notes.
Some customers may miss the face-to-face contact available in a traditional office agency when they use a digital insurance agency. However, with the advent of the COVID pandemic, many consumers are already foregoing in-person services. McLain suggests that virtual meetings via Zoom or another platform offer a distinct advantage: no travel time for the agent or client. If a client cancels at the last minute, you haven’t lost any time and can simply pivot to your next set of tasks.
“What the agent has to do is make it intuitive for the consumer,” McLain explains. “You can lead the consumer to digital insurance, but you can’t give them too many options. Customers don’t want to feel like it’s challenging and frustrating to shop for insurance.”
Tips for Transforming to a Digital Insurance Agency
Despite the advantages of digital insurance, agents are often intimidated by the notion of automation and providing on-demand services. Their fears are frequently rooted in experiences with complex one-size-fits-all platforms. “What I have to tell agents is: ‘Take a deep breath because it’s much easier than you think,’” says McLain.
The key is to find an intuitive platform that’s purpose-built for digital insurance by people who understand the required functionality of a digital agency. For example, generic CRMs may not be able to retrieve critical data, such as critical underwriting events like claims falling off or competitors taking rate increases, because it isn’t built to learn from leads. The ability to instantly send a text message when a new EverQuote lead hits your account can increase contact rate over 200% than possibly being 5 mins late to call the lead. As well as having a custom automation cadence that tracks the leads renewal date targeting at the right times they are most likely to respond..
“Automation should also track critical event dates like claims falling off where you might be able to steal the consumer from the competition mid term since they are locked in a term and you can now quote them without a claim surcharge. If you wait until their next renewal processes, you're already too late,” McLain says.
As for old leads, although they can be imported, McLain cautions that entries from old platforms are unlikely to contain actionable information. You can still work these older leads and as you requote and contact these you would then update the critical data points opening up the smart xdate automation or claim falling off triggers and more. Any new lead that comes in would of course be on the smarter digital agency path..
How EverQuote Can Help Transform Your Insurance Agency
Ready to step up to digital insurance? One way to get started is through a lead generation platform like EverQuote. EverQuote provides a real-time feed of local leads that match your underwriting guidelines and special qualifications. Quality leads mean you don’t risk competing with your own carrier, contacting leads who’ve been pitched by other agents, or reaching out to leads who finished shopping days, weeks, or months ago. Learn more in our comprehensive guide to lead generation.