With a new year comes new trends, and in 2018, agents and carriers can expect to balance emerging digital advances with human customer service, Smart Harbor says.
A new insurance trends analysis report from Smart Harbor, a digital technology solutions provider for insurance, outlines 5 key predictions for the new year. According to the report, in 2018, agents will accelerate their adoption of digital tools, and agents and carriers will enter into stronger partnerships to share critical data and analytics to grow.
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“As an industry, we have been talking about technological evolution for a long time. But in 2018, the combination of competitive conditions, availability of cost-effective technology, and numbers of independent agents striving for growth and better client service creates the perfect storm to drive significant acceleration in agent digital transformation,” Jason Walker, managing partner of Smart Harbor, said in a statement.
“Barriers that once prevented agents from implementing digital technologies have been removed.”
“Incorporating these technological advancements is mandatory for agents to compete in the market," Walker added, "but going digital will never remove the human element from the insurance transaction. Customer service is the foundation for agents and they will need to navigate how to implement these solutions while still providing the personal interaction clients demand.”
Based on Smart Harbor’s insurance trends analysis, here are the five key predictions for 2018:
1. All about the infrastructure.
We live in an on-demand world, driven by instant service. Whether the agency is looking to grow, expand, or even exit, Smart Harbor says having a strong and flexible digital infrastructure is critical. This includes interactive websites with online chat and quoting capabilities, client portals and mobile apps, next-generation agency management systems, and integrated call centers for 24/7 services. Agents will be evaluating their infrastructures and expanding capabilities and services for clients.
2. Move from closed loop to open access.
Insurance agents operate in many different kinds of environments, including regularly accessing multiple carrier websites, agency management systems, and customer relationship management systems. A large portion of these applications are closed, meaning they don’t allow the free exchange of data, forcing agents to spend time on manual workarounds and double data entry.
In 2018, Smart Harbor predicts agents will seek to partner with companies and implement tools that can bridge the gap between various systems, and choose applications that are built on open structures — meaning they “talk” to one another.
3. Pursuit of the paperless agency.
In 2018, Smart Harbor data analysts predict that more and more agencies will finally implement e-signature and other e-document tools in 2018. More agencies will transition to an all-digital workflow to improve productivity and increase sustainability. Smart Harbor warns this move will require collaboration with carriers and guidance from regulators.
4. Synergistic partnerships increasing access to sales analytics.
The carrier/agent partnership is about to go beyond a provider/seller framework in 2018, Smart Harbor researchers say.
Agents gather unique sales data, such as target market behaviors, web preferences, and specific product interest. This data can help carriers improve sales and marketing efforts.
Carriers can return the favor, with the technological infrastructure and expertise enabling them to provide education, training, and best practice programs to help agencies improve their digital capabilities. In 2019, Smart Harbor predicts these two teams will develop deeper and stronger partnerships that will enable both the carrier and the agency to improve sales and grow their businesses.
5. Agents embrace artificial intelligence (AI).
The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) tools will continue to become more and more commonplace, and in 2018. Smart Harbor analysts say agents and agencies will increasingly convert to digital technology tools, or improve and expand existing practices.