Web-based Business Tools Will Provide Competitive Advantages
Like millions of other Americans, my great-grandparents were thrilled when they got their first telephone, even though it was bolted to the wall and they had to crank it to make a call. Cumbersome as it was, it worked and gave them near instant access to family and friends across town.
Years later, I was equally thrilled when I got my first cell phone, which enabled me to do business while strolling into my favorite coffee shop. And now I’ve got a Web-enabled phone, one that lets me get an updated price quote, an agents phone number, and make a call–all with the same handheld device!
Clearly, the business communications landscape is moving swiftly toward another milestone in the tech revolution, one with thrilling implications for our industry. Just over the horizon are Internet-based tools that will enable carriers, agencies, and agents to work seamlessly and more productively than ever before.
Some of these innovations have been talked about for years. So why are they finally so close at hand? For one thing, broadband is becoming more available and more affordable, helping millions of Internet users realize that “www” no longer means “world wide wait.” Customers everywhere are becoming more Internet-savvy and, as a result, are increasingly impatient with companies and agents that continue to do business with snail mail and paper and pen. And, thousands of Web-comfortable agents are entering our industry and bringing with them a thirst for tools that will help automate routine tasks.
Carriers recognize the need to develop business solutions that optimize broadband and make it easier for agents to do business with them. But developing new technical processes and solutions is only part of the equation. If a company creates a timesaving process, but few use it, then what’s been gained?
Leading companies in our industry are working directly with agents and GAs to ensure that their distributors are maximizing the web-enabled initiatives the company has developed. Providing education and on-site assistance in the field is the best, and most direct approach to helping agents integrate a carrier’s e-business solutions with the agent’s existing business platform–making the business solutions a success for both the company and its distribution partners.
Distributors who ride this newest technology wave and maximize these new tools will be able to use the time and money they save to further enhance their business relationships. And anyone who fails to adapt to the new technology will almost surely lose ground in what has become the most competitive environment in our history.
So what are the hottest new tools? When will they appear? And what will be needed, not to just stay in the game, but to win? Here are my predictions:
Paperless Applications. Currently, a handful of carriers offer agents the ability to submit life applications electronically. Electronic submission gives agents a distinct competitive advantage by eliminating paperwork and avoiding processing delays for inaccurate or incomplete information, greatly reducing the number of “not-taken” policies.
Soon agents will be able to electronically create and submit standardized XMLife-format applications that GAs will route to the appropriate carrier, where the application automatically goes into the carrier’s legacy system. This process will be a huge improvement over traditional procedures in which agents must fill out different applications for each carrier, and GAs must verify every application for accuracy.