The Internet has changed just about every aspect of our professional and personal lives. Need to figure out if your symptoms are a head cold or something more serious? Type those into WedMD and you have an answer after skimming a few sentences.
Forget to pay a bill for the month? Login to your bank’s website and take care of that with a swift click of the mouse. Especially professionally, there’s a high chance certain aspects of your daily work routine involve online software and tools otherwise not available.
While most (if not all) would agree that the Internet has greatly improved the way businesses and professionals operate, the Internet has also been considered a threat to certain industries, and eliminated the need for several others — what’s Blockbuster up to these days? Because of the Internet, many companies have shifted to automation solutions that, while streamlining processes, eliminate the need for human-to-human interactions, or in some cases, jobs. Insurance is no exception.
Due to technology startups and strictly online insurance companies, the traditional insurance agent position can now be added to the list of jobs threatened by the Internet, according to The New York Times. Even giant tech companies like Google are jumping into the mix, only adding to the pressure on today’s agents, whose income is dependent on their policyholders’ payments.
Worried? You should be… to an extent.
Yes, the Internet is changing the way your customers are purchasing policies, but keep in mind: you’re the expert and your knowledge about the industry is unmatched by any dot-com option.
Following are a few strategies insurance agents can use for remaining relevant in today’s online insurance world.
1. Never stop educating yourself
Why are consumers, our customers, turning to online insurance rather than engaging with an agent? It’s convenient. But convenience doesn’t necessarily equate to value. Just because consumers can read a few FAQ pages and company reviews online, that does not mean they are fully educated on the extent of their insurance needs. As an insurance agent, you now must prove that your wealth of knowledge is far greater than a website — bring new policy options to the table when able, present policy updates or changes in layman’s terms and position yourself as your customers’ very own FAQ page.
Do this by learning the ins and outs of your customers’ lives and don’t be afraid to point out loopholes in policy purchases. Those same loopholes may have gone unaddressed if purchased online. Customers aren’t looking for you to be a friend, but rather an expert who can lead them in the right direction while keeping their best interests in mind.
2. Treat the Internet as a tool, not the enemy
Natives of the digital age, many consumers (both prospective and current) value their independence. For example, 90 percent of the millennial generation routinely researches products online (60 percent research via mobile). This means insurance companies need to make their information easy to access and easier to comprehend. Because of the independent mentality, new customers are likely to conduct their own research before connecting with a professional for help. If you aren’t catering to that basic need, you’re very likely to lose business without even knowing it.
Consider offering an online tool that walks customers through your insurance services as a place to start. Create ‘call to action’ buttons or contact forms with a place for customers to submit inquiries along with their email addresses. These tools encourage your customers to reach out with any questions or interest in engaging with an agent for further information on policies for their lifestyle. By leveraging the Internet, rather than treating it as the enemy, agents can cater to the consumer desire for convenience while fostering new and existing relationships.
3. Simplify your processes
As an agent, part of your responsibility is to make the buying process headache-free. From start to finish, make sure that the consumer comes first and that the buying process is simplified for them. In our always-connected world, customers are busier than ever, so be proactive when it comes to policy updates or life events that affect your customers’ insurance needs. Humanize the process so that your client is doing the least amount of work.
Consumers often assume that the claims process is easier if done online, but as professionals we understand otherwise. Don’t be afraid to embrace change. If you learn to change up your communication and selling methods, chances are your customers will notice, which brings value to your services and role as an agent who can evolve and improve with time.
A one-on-one conversation with someone familiar is more appealing than the thought of dealing with a call center and being on hold for who knows how long.
Does your customer prefer email updates or text messages? Cater your communication methods to each of your customers, and don’t be afraid to offer to meet them in the middle for important conversations.
The Internet has undoubtedly changed our personal and professional lives, which has some of us worried about job security. Rather than worry, implement a few operational changes in order to provide your incomparable value as an insurance agent to new and future customers. Find a balance between old and new practices for best serving consumers, and learn how to leverage the Internet for continued education, communicating with your customers and simplifying what many consider a complicated, old-school industry.