Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about the death of the insurance agent. In its “2017 Top Issues” report, PwC says insurance is the industry most affected by disruptive change. This comes from CEOs who are extremely concerned about the speed of technological change, shifting customer behavior and competition from new market entrants.

Analyst firms are tracking the billions invested in startups focusing on various segments of the insurance value chain. And even a new website, willrobotstakemyjob.com, predicts there’s a 92% chance the role of the insurance agent is “doomed.”

We know insurance is much more than just a calculation of risk done by a machine. Consumers and business owners of all ages want a relationship with an advisor who will help them protect their most valuable assets. In fact, a recent survey of more than 1,200 adults in the U.S. revealed most people (78%) simply aren’t comfortable with the idea of technology completely replacing insurance brokers. At the same time, the younger, connected generation is redefining what a broker-customer relationship means, revealing new lanes of digital communication.

Now is not just an opportunity for brokers to differentiate themselves from emerging insurtech startups and chatbots; it’s a mandate to make the brokerage model more efficient and competitive while also enhancing the customer experience. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Brokers face many obstacles on the path to technological transformation, but there are concrete steps to help them ride the wave of change.

Technology Disconnect

Many insurance brokerages find themselves relying on legacy infrastructure—on-premise servers and a host of disparate technologies that mire them in paper and process. Producers on the road visiting customers have to call the home office to quote insurance rates, while brokers and customer service reps have to log in to multiple carrier systems and double down on data entry. This system doesn’t just waste valuable time; it also increases the risk of human error.

As the ability to purchase insurance directly online becomes more readily available for consumers, it’s crucial agents and brokers create a more efficient, automated process for clients. Integrating technology, like an agency management system, can streamline and even automate paperwork, enable electronic signatures and provide real-time insight into ratings and reporting anytime, anywhere when connected to the cloud.

While cloud-based computing has been gaining steam in the insurance sector, adoption still has a long way to go. A cloud-based agency management system can store information in a centralized location while simultaneously sharing and saving it across multiple devices in real time. That means agents and brokers can access individualized customer information anytime, even during a meeting. This is the type of personalized, immediate customer service being required of all industries in the on-demand world. 

Outdated Practices

When producers miss a sales goal, they often lack the resources or insight to understand why. Friendly recommendations and a firm handshake no longer suffice as the primary source of new business. Studies show sales professionals who leverage the power of customer relationship management software are 50% more likely to reach their quotas than those relying on traditional methods. CRM software provides automated and accessible insights into the team’s sales activities and roadblocks all in one place. CRM solutions also allow producers to generate more volume because they spend less time inputting and tracking relationships and more time talking to customers or prospects.

While tools to automate the internal sales cycle are important, just as important are the external digital tools that bring awareness to your agency and interact directly with your audience. Consumers have become accustomed to using social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to praise good service, initiate a customer service request or crowdsource recommendations about products and services. You should create social accounts to interact directly with your clients and prospects and to track your brand mentions, competitors, products and any other ideas or themes relevant to your business.

Perhaps an even more important aspect of a comprehensive social media presence is it legitimizes your business in the eyes of Google and other search engines so your company’s information shows up in a search. If you don’t show up there, you don’t exist.

Once thought of as luxuries, social media and CRM tools are now business imperatives that connect brokers to new customers and sustain the relationship year over year.  

The Silver Tsunami

For any industry to survive, it has to attract new talent. The average U.S. insurance agent is 59 years old. Research by The Hartford in 2015 revealed just 4% of people age 18-34 say they were drawn to insurance. Many described the industry as “boring.” Meanwhile, millennials will occupy 76% of the workforce globally by 2025, bringing with them a wide range of deep technical skills and high expectations for work/life balance, efficiency and transparency from their employers.

Just as agencies should adopt technology like agency management systems, cloud computing, mobile devices, and digital marketing tools to attract new consumers and increase their efficiency and pipeline, they should also be aware of the impact technology can have on hiring. The millennial generation has grown up, been educated with, and relies on technology to work efficiently and collaboratively. Brokerages must modernize to attract new recruits.

More than adopting the technology itself, adopting an innovative mindset will go a long way to attracting recruits. This means fostering an organizational environment that provides a vision of the company while empowering others to make decisions and take ownership over their outcomes.

If you haven’t made these changes yet, you still have an opportunity to attract this generation of workers. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of millennial brokers think a career in insurance offers many desirable benefits that meet their career priorities. One recent survey reveals 81% of millennial brokers plan to work in the industry for as long as possible. In addition to providing work/life balance and career growth and development opportunities, insurance offers financial stability and an active community with social ties—essential career priorities for the millennial generation.

It’s more important than ever for brokers to recognize the new reality and adopt the technologies that make them more efficient and bring them closer to the connected customer. If you don’t, robots likely won’t take your job—but another broker will.

Schaknowski is Vertafore’s SVP and chief sales and marketing officer. bschaknowski@vertafore.com

Sponsored content from Vertafore, a Council Partner in Excellence.