The world is changing so fast that it’s difficult to keep up. A radical transformation is rumbling beneath the foundation of our venerable insurance and financial services industry. Yet we are, in many ways, still conducting business like we did in the 1950s. When consumers buy traditional insurance products in the property and casualty (P&C) arena—for example, auto and home insurance, commercial business insurance, and life insurance—they are basically told how to buy it. There are only couple of factors that consumers can control regarding their purchases: which representative or carrier they will buy policies from and how they will buy it—from a representative in his or her office, over the internet, or on the phone. Beyond that, people are told when the policy goes into effect, when it ends, how much it costs, payment options, and the limits and deductibles they can choose from. This has always been the case. But today we live in the Amazon.com world, where you get to choose what to buy, how and when to buy it, how you want it delivered, and other options. You can even see what hundreds of other people say about the products before you buy. Amazon and other companies keep evolving based on what customers want. Discussion Partner A radical transformation to unrivaled service in the insurance industry By Troy Korsgaden But in the insurance world, it doesn’t work that way. We are stuck in the last century, for the most part. We must make people’s lives easier in the context of the new world order.
Adapt to radical transformation and never look back
To successfully move forward, we must be alert to the radical transformation that is taking place in the world and provide customers with unrivaled service within the framework of that change. Successful business owners are those who will adapt to the tsunami of change taking place in the world and in our industry by looking to the future and planning for the long term. Research by four principals at ghSmart, a leadership advisory firm, say it’s critical for businesses and leaders to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. They conducted an analysis showing that CEOs who excel at adapting are 6.7 times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. They found that adaptable CEOs spend significantly more of their time—as much as 50 percent more—thinking about the long term, as opposed to the short term and medium term. Less successful executives devoted an average of thirty percent of their time to long-term thinking.1 “We believe a long-term focus helps because it makes CEOs more likely to pick up on early signals,” the principals concluded. “Highly adaptable CEOs regularly plug into broad information flows: they scan wide networks and diverse sources of data, finding relevance in information that may at first seem unrelated to their businesses. As a result, they sense change earlier and make strategic moves to take advantage of it.” We must adapt to the unprecedented change that is unfolding around us and never look back. In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, commanded: “Burn the ships!” His order sent a clear message to his men that they would never turn around and go back where they came from. Burn your ships. We’re not going back to where we came from. We’re not going to invest our future in shopping malls. They’re being torn down. We’re never going back to Kodak paper. It’s gone. We’re never going to walk into Montgomery Ward again. It’s history. The insurance industry as we know it will never be the same again. Soon, things will be drastically different than they are today
Introducing the “Discussion Partner”— Your most important role Thinking about this situation we are in today led me to come up with a new strategy:
becoming a Discussion Partner for clients. A Discussion Partner is a person who understands that clients don’t want to be sold, and they don’t want to be told. Customers are smart. They do their due diligence through digital and social media. According to the Ecommerce Foundation, 88 percent of consumers research products before buying them in a brick and mortar store. Advertising people call this an “omnichannel” approach to shopping. That number relates to general merchandise, but guess what? The number is the same for people who are comparing prices on auto insurance. The Insurance Information Institute reports that in 2016, 88 percent of consumers said they would use the internet to research life insurance before purchasing coverage. Yet they are often afraid to pull the trigger and make the actual purchase because they are protecting their income, their assets, and their retirement. They want to make sure they have made the right decision so that they will be covered if someone wipes out their car or if they wipe out someone else’s car and injure multiple people in that vehicle. The information on the internet is somewhat helpful, but people need a Discussion Partner—not to sell them something, but to be a trusted advisor who offers unbiased, helpful guidance. When tax time comes, people could easily use TurboTax or some other automated tax-preparation software to prepare their federal and state tax returns. But if they have a complex financial situation with a business or multiple property, they prefer to hire a highly competent CPA and maybe a tax attorney. They want to be able to discuss with an expert how various scenarios will affect their tax burden and receive advice on how to shelter their assets from taxes. The CPA and tax attorney are Discussion Partners. People want to work with professionals who aren’t just interested in making money but instead genuinely want to help them mitigate risk, grow their assets, and protect the financial future of their families and businesses through sound advice. I see a shift taking place among independent and exclusive representatives and broker reps. They are realizing that their clients want more today than they settled for in the past. Carriers, reps, brokers, and team members can no longer provide optimum service just by offering the products and solutions they’ve represented all their lives. The local representative or advisor is the gateway to all the products and services offered in the universe. Discussion Partners are local service providers. If someone is in a car accident, they can go take pictures at the scene. They can take the driver blankets while he or she is waiting for the EMTs and police to arrive. They can get the driver a rental car. They can do things that other people in the omnichannel can’t always do. This ain’t your daddy’s daddy’s insurance book. The purpose of this book is to convince you to buy in to service first and then earn the right to add more products and services by becoming a Discussion Partner to your clients—no matter what they do and no matter whether you sell policies to them directly or help them secure coverage through an alternative method
Evolve with unrivaled service
I wrote this book for the early adopters— those forward-thinking carriers, representatives, brokers, and team members who recognize the need to evolve and serve clients with unrivaled service as our industry experiences a radical transformation. This book is for those people who recognize that even though they’re doing a great job of serving clients right now, it won’t be good enough in the future. If you’re a carrier executive, this book will help you align your organization around everything that touches the customer. If you’re a broker/agent, this book will change the way you look at your business so you provide unrivaled service and fulfill all your customers’ needs. If you’re a team member, this book is your dream come true. Providing exemplary service takes away your pressure to sell, encourages you to build relationships, and positions you to fulfill your customers’ needs. Let me put it this way: The carrier has a new credo to provide unrivaled and seamless service and interactions. The broker/agent will have a bigger and more robust client base, making his or her business more profitable and manageable. And team members have always put service first and filled in when they’re available to sell. Now the duties of everyone involved converge into one purpose, naturally and seamlessly. What does the future hold? Eventually, all carriers, representatives, brokers, and team members will become multiline reps, selling every insurance protection and financial services product and service available. Why? So, they can ensure that their clients have everything they need. Reps and advisors will sell the products their own firms represent. They will also have joint-venture agreements with other carriers, agencies, firms, and your—product-specific experts so they can offer clients the widest range of options possible 100 percent of the time. Those who limit their offerings will fail to compete at some point. Unrivaled service has come to mean you can no longer just put one toe in the water; you must put your whole darn foot in the water. You must make every product and service available to every client. You won’t deliver all of them at the same time, but you must be ready to offer the appropriate products and services whenever someone needs them. Let’s look beyond the status quo and consider the potential that lies beyond what we’ve always known. Let’s broaden our view of what’s possible so that we can serve our clients the way they want to be served. After all, they are our number one priority and our entire reason for existing as businesspeople. Let’s put our organizations on a continuous loop of improvement that places our clients in the driver’s seat. I hope the concepts in this book will serve as a roadmap for you and your organization as you look to the future. I encourage you to evaluate your company, firm, agency, or practice through the lens of our quickly evolving world to discover its—and your—true potential.