Experienced insurance agents remain in demand and have a choice in who they work for and what products they sell. To attract the best agents, insurance carriers need to provide more than attractive compensation models. They need to provide the best possible integrated solutions and services for all agents and agencies with which they work – often supporting multiple business models. Agents’ needs could range from a simple system to illustrate and submit new business to a robust portal that provides social media tools, risk management solutions, a 360-degree customer view, product recommendations and illustrations, and real-time policy and commissions status.
Most carriers work with agents who have vastly different needs. As such, carriers need to understand the various types of agents they work with and the solutions that will best support each group. Each channel has unique profiles - for example, captive agents who want a robust, differentiated service; independent brokers who do not want to learn a different process for each carrier; or phone agents who want streamlined, simple processes they can complete quickly. Agents at different stages of their careers within a single channel may have different needs, as well. For example, a newer agent may look for tools to support new sales and training while a more established agent may prefer tools that simplify renewals.
Increased customer sophistication has added to this complexity as customers cross channels to meet their insurance needs. The convergence of technology innovation, baby boomers’ increased technical savvy, and increasing Generation X demands for online and mobile options mean that today’s customers are likely to compare product pricing, riders, and services. Customers understand what they are buying, and many prefer to research online for even very complex insurance products such as estate planning second-to-die policies and variable products. Some customers look to complete the sales process online – but many prefer to use that knowledge to have more productive discussions with their life insurance agents. Agents need tools to help them understand their customers’ online and phone activity in order to provide the seamless policyholder service they offered in the past.
Carriers must address the additional challenges driven by agent and customer demands. Carriers already are spending large sums of money to provide capabilities for agents and self-service online support. The challenge now is how to account for the added costs of mobile applications, enhanced call center capabilities, and websites. If customers are serving themselves more and more, should agent commission structures change over time? Should agents be rewarded for supporting the self-service channels that, in fact, could reduce expenses for the carriers?
Like customers, agents have choices. Carriers need to drive profitable business and provide end-to-end services in a way that makes financial sense. Have you determined how you will retain your agents?
For additional information, please reach out to Laura Yorks.