Cutting-edge Web technology is now offering insurance agents help in strengthening their relationships with clients, while improving work efficiency.

Email and simple-to-navigate websites have already been part of their processes for years. Now, Web conferencing lets users bring a higher level of personal attention and value to their customers.

These days, anyone with a phone and a broadband Internet connection can participate in a Web conference. Most consumers can join directly from their home computers.

With Web conferencing, you can show clients a live view of anything on your computer screen. Bring up PowerPoint slides of your sales pitch, show them insurance illustrations, take them to the company websites you represent, run some numbers through a rate calculator or spreadsheet, and do anything you need to help clients see exactly what you’re talking about.

Web conferencing provides immediate, real value to any insurance agent seeking an edge. The industry’s data-heavy information can often confuse clients, overwhelming them with mind-numbing plans and options. It can be frustrating for them to understand the value you provide if they can’t see their options laid out side-by-side.

Web conferencing lets you show them exactly what they need to see. You don’t waste time setting up in-person meetings. You don’t need to travel to their home. They don’t need to put off appointments until their spouse can be present or fret about “picking up” the place before you arrive. Instead, you can address their needs instantly. Even complex transactions can now be easily completed over the phone.

Many insurance agents have found that Web conferencing also lets them land new clients without ever leaving the office. Agents can instantly show the nitty-gritty details of policies, claims and applications that would be impossible to communicate verbally.

Web conferencing allows more personal interaction than a simple telephone quote request. Agents enjoy a better work-life balance. Travel demands drop dramatically, along with their expense.

Nearly anyone can host a Web conference. All you need is a modest broadband-connected computer and a phone. Web conferencing can bring huge benefits almost immediately, by helping you to:

Create more meaningful interactions with clients. Understanding insurance documents is inherently difficult and cumbersome for most clients. By walking through the process step-by-step, while your clients follow along, you can create closer relationships. You can truly help them understand their options and foster trust, because you provide transparency to the process.

Reduce E&O risk. Web conferencing helps reduce errors and omissions (E&O) insurance risk. As every agent knows, the best way to reduce E&O risk is better communication. The onus is on you to deliver clear communications. Web conferencing changes phone calls into side-by-side see-what-I-see conversations.

Share forensic evidence. Quickly demonstrate the extent of damages by showing clients actual photos. Avoid the cumbersome process of making photo files small enough to attach to an e-mail or having to help clients figure out how to open attachments.

Close more “shoppers.” Car insurance rates vary in most states. And with variable rates comes the “shop around” mentality. When an agent is speaking with a potential client who wants a quote, a quick Web conference can show how the quoting process works, building trust and increasing the likelihood of closing the sale.

Appeal to younger clients. Web conferencing lets you give potential clients what they need-a trusted voice that can guide them through the confusing world of insurance. Web conferencing particularly appeals to younger, tech-savvy clients who often feel frustrated by the industry’s traditional paper-driven processes.

Bridge the language gap. For clients who are more adept at reading English than speaking it, Web conferencing lets you walk them through the entire process over the phone while they follow along. It lets you explain a policy more clearly, illustrate its ratings and let them watch while you complete their application process online.

Correct typing errors as they happen. Let clients watch as you enter their new policy data. You will be able to capture data more quickly and accurately, because they can verify it visually while you type.

Resolve IT problems remotely. Most insurance agencies outsource technical needs. When something doesn’t work, you seldom have time to wait for the IT person to make a house call. With Web conferencing, you can show an IT person exactly what’s on your screen and even let them take control to fix the problem remotely.

Look bigger than you are. With today’s prices, even the smallest agency can now host Web conferences, just like the big boys.

Improve your lifestyle. Travel less and spend more time on the most important things in life, like tucking your kids into bed.

Dozens of low cost Web conferencing services are available and nearly all offer free trials. Pick one or two that seem to fit your needs and give them a spin.

A typical plan gives you unlimited sessions with up to 10 to 15 participants for about $50/month. Because the vendors deliver their services through your Web browser, it’s easy to shop around for the best match. Take advantage of different options to figure out which Web conferencing services work best for your company.

When shopping around, be sure to develop a relationship with the company’s customer service contact. A great relationship is vital once you decide which company to sign on with. You’ll want to be confident that technical support will be there for you in case anything goes wrong. Whether you’re looking into Web conferencing for large-scale operations or small one-on-one usage, there’s a service out there that will suit your needs.

Rich Baker is the founder and CEO of Glance Networks (www.glance.net), based in Arlington, Mass.