Digitizing Your Insurance Agency Operations
The move toward digital operations has been growing in the insurance sector for some time, and with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting “remote work” era, many agencies are looking to implement a digital plan. From customers wanting digitally optimized touchpoints with agents to competitors investing in emerging technologies, the time is now for your agency to adopt new ways of doing business.
Whether your agency is at the head of the digital curve or working to keep pace, the tips below should help you discover ways to transform your operations and establish a strong foundation for your agency’s digital marketing and customer engagement initiatives.
A smart place to start digitizing your operations is to move away from your reliance on paper. This may seem like a simple step, but you cannot truly move to digital until you’ve gone paperless. It’s likely your agency has already significantly reduced its use of paper, but fully committing to it, even when your team is back in the office, will help enable further digital business process transformation while reducing your agency’s reliance on traditional ways of working.
An easy first step is to check out the automated workflows in your Agency Management Software (AMS). No matter which AMS you use, there are likely processes within the software that your agency is not presently utilizing to its best advantage. Such workflows have the potential to improve every area of your agency where you may use your AMS, including:
- IT, including service and change requests.
- Marketing campaign approvals.
- Sales approvals and discount management.
- Purchasing, including procurement and invoicing.
Check with your AMS provider to understand the specific automated workflows available within your system, then prioritize the steps that will have the most immediate and significant improvements to your agency’s operations.
For more steps on going paperless, check out “Turn the Page: 3 Steps Toward Becoming a Paperless Agency” from IA Magazine.
Capture Customer Communications Preferences
Chances are you are collecting multiple points of contact for your customers, from email and mobile numbers to street addresses. To make your customer database work more effectively, you may also want to record each customer’s preferred method for hearing from you. It is a simple data point to collect but can really help improve your customer outreach when you are connecting with individual customers in exactly the way they prefer.
Recording customer preferences permits your agency to focus on digital-first communication methods for your customers who want to hear from you via those channels. It is also an important component of personalizing your digital marketing and customer engagement initiatives. To use this approach to tailor your communications, first you must have each customer’s preference recorded in your system, then update your processes to include a step that verifies you are using the customer’s preferred method of communication each time an outbound communication is planned.
For more on adjusting your outbound communications based on customer preferences, check out “How to Drive Customer Engagement for Your Agency.”
Upgrade to a VoIP Phone System
The telephone is a key tool for most insurance agencies. Upgrading your agency’s phone system from a traditional analog setup to a Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, system can significantly increase the functionality and versatility of your operations.
A VoIP telephone system runs over your agency’s internet connection to make and receive calls versus using traditional telephone lines. The person on the other end of the call cannot tell that you are on a different phone platform, but having a VoIP setup can help your agency with a number of integrated and easily added tools, including:
- Conference call functionality.
- Call recording service, which can help protect your agency from E&O exposures.
- Portability, so phone service can be managed without having someone in the office.
- Video calling technology with some VoIP services.
Additionally, VoIP phone service is often less expensive than traditional phone plans.
Develop a Business Preparedness Plan
Having a digitally optimized operational structure can help better position your agency for situations when working in the office is not possible or advisable, like during a global pandemic, natural disaster or similar emergency. Once your operations are online, you are more prepared to have your systems, important data and other business-critical resources available to your employees who are working remotely. But having the data online is not enough ‒ you’ll also want a detailed emergency response plan in place so your agency can quickly respond to an emergency and implement the plan to minimize business interruptions.
There are a number of resources available to help your agency develop a business preparedness plan, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s detailed outline to the Open for Business (OFB-EZ) toolkit from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. While the structure of these resources is not specific to insurance agency operations, the frameworks they provide do highlight key considerations and steps that all types of businesses should consider.
Identifying the key resources your agency relies on for its operations is a great place to start when developing your preparedness plan. Some important areas of consideration your plan should account for include:
- Office space
- Business records
- Third-party services1
It is likely that you’ve already identified specific processes, tasks or operations that require additional resources or technology solutions to work well remotely. For more on preparedness plans, check out Business Continuity Planning in 4 Steps.
For insurance agencies, the time to move to digital-first operations is now. As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that those agencies that can adapt quickly and adopt to new ways of working and serving their customers in a digital world are better positioned to grow and succeed.
Now that you’ve started on digitizing your insurance agency operations, read more about how going digital can transform your insurance agency marketing.