Become discussion partners with clients

—Reprinted with permission from PIA Management Services Inc.—

Today, the insurance industry is going through a revolution and too many agents, brokers, carriers and team members are failing to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Clients have grown accustomed to convenience, a plethora of information and unending choices in whatever they buy, and this applies to the purchase of insurance products and services, too. People expect it to be easy, efficient and understandable.

As a whole, the insurance industry is miles behind in the race to deliver unrivaled, fast-paced service to clients. To keep up with the radical transformation, insurance professionals must earn the trust of existing clients and new prospects and become their gateway to everything related to insurance and financial services.

The path to this transformation is for the insurance agent or representative to become a discussion partner—a person who guides clients toward optimum financial decisions by offering them every possible insurance and financial services product while disclosing exactly how his or her superior advice works. The goal is to convert everyone into discussion-partner clients who do not want to be sold or told; but rather, they want a consultant who will advise them on the best products, protection and asset-accumulation guidance they need for their families.

Looking closely at the not-too-distant future, here are just a few ways the insurance industry will evolve:

  • Total transparency about coverages and pricing. Clients will know all the details when they purchase property/casualty products, financial services products, life insurance products and more, in the same way financial services and securities are sold today.
  • Convergence of distribution models. Local storefronts will welcome the use of the omnichannel experience, such as digital, after-hours 800- number call centers; claims service; and 24-hour customer self-service through technology or telephony.
  • Technology will streamline processes. The local storefront housing brokers/agents and their teams still will provide service and sales at the point of personal interaction, but they also will leverage the power of digital technology and call centers.
  • Collaboration will become commonplace. Open architecture—a financial institution’s ability to offer clients both proprietary and external products and services—in both technology and service will force the insurance industry not only to adapt, but also to move quickly toward radical transformation.

The key to agents’ survival is that they must provide unrivaled service at the highest level. Nothing else will be acceptable if the local insurance provider is going to be a part of the client’s purchasing process and the person the client relies on for service in the new world.

So, how can agents, brokers, carriers and team members evolve to the discussion-partner model of unrivaled service? Here are seven strategies to help them make the transition:

  • No. 1: Focus everything you do on the client. The client is at the apex and the center of every decision, every system and/or process. Agents must be hyper-focused on meeting clients’ needs—everything they desire and have every right to expect. This begins with providing unrivaled service as a discussion partner.
  • No. 2: Create a team of experts. Usually, this is referred to as specialization, teaming or collaboration of experts. Agents must build a larger and stronger local team through hiring, mergers and acquisitions and strategic relationships.
  • No. 3: Collaborate with expertise partners. Not every exclusive agent or broker is going to have access to every market. In the future, with open architecture, everyone will have a view into the competition’s coverages and rates. Until then, creating collaborative arrangements is important. If clients do need and want specialized products and services, referring them to someone else will not be prudent anymore. Agents must have relationships with experts in many areas. Agents must be quarterbacks who sit in on the coverage presentation and purchase moments. This means getting to know experts in various fields and working with them, even when they might not make a commission. It is important to build partnerships before they are needed.
  • No. 4: Embrace and retool all technology. Agents need to assess current capabilities in the area of technology. Everything is moving at light speed due to artificial intelligence. The things that were once innovative are now commonplace. Agents need to embrace new technologies and use them to create a seamless experience for clients in the front room. Open architecture will introduce new technologies that discussion partner agencies must embrace as they move forward.
  • No. 5: Control every step of customer service and the purchasing process. In the future, this will be the foundation for a successful business model. Insurance professionals need to assume the role of the gateway to everything related to insurance and financial services. They need to guide clients through every step of the process. Agents need to remind clients what they do for them and assure them that they are worrying about the details, so the clients don’t have to worry about their insurance needs.
  • No. 6: Help clients declutter. Insurance agents must be the only financial adviser their clients will ever need. Professionals don’t just refer clients over to other experts anymore; they make everything easier. An agents’ job is to declutter clients’ paperwork; declutter how many people with whom they are working; and make their lives easier. Life is complicated enough.
  • No. 7: Be open to change and embrace it. The tsunami of change happening in the insurance industry is affecting everyone, from the broker/agent, to the carrier, to the local team member providing service to clients who have never needed it more.

Agents should embrace change, not fear it. Yes. They will lose some clients to technology, such as robo-advisers. But, we didn’t lose the entire banking industry because of the ATM. The typical client still wants someone to hold his or her hand through the maze of the insurance industry.

Korsgaden is president of Korsgaden International in Visalia, Calif. As a consultant, he works with large carriers, in property/casualty and financial services. Korsgaden also serves as a subject-matter expert in area of technology and how it applies in the backroom for carriers as well as their distribution. Reach him at troy@korsgaden.com.

—Reprinted with permission from PIA Management Services Inc.—