In the insurance industry, there are different types of technology available to agents, both for captive agents, as well as independents.
The idea behind “Tech Check” is we’ll discuss some technology that we’ve seen, that we’ve used, and are essentially reviewing so that other agents can know not only what is available, but what is their competition doing with it.
New apps and services come out all the time. But let's start with the basics. In this article, we’ll cover EZLynx, and specifically their comparative rater.
In case you haven’t heard of a comparative rater, it saves a ton of time for independent agents by running multiple quotes at once. It simplifies an important and complicated job, and it’s hugely useful.
The insurance landscape is continuously changing. My dad started his agency with Farmers Insurance back in the early 1980's. Through the 80's and 90's, captive agents really made a killing in personal lines, and commercial lines was dominated by the independent channel. Commissions were high, products were more company specific, and the brand of an insurance company truly mattered.
Over time, I’ve seen that the brand matters, but really only on two fronts: claims service, and price. If a company has those two items going for them, they are likely to succeed. There is a lot of administrative and “behind-the-scenes” action from the carrier to make that happen (ie: customer-friendly policy language and appointing good agents ensures smooth claims. Profitable books help maintain solid prices), though if a company can make those two things happen, a consumer will likely give them a serious look.
Innovation in one sphere will often influence another unintentionally. For example, when Edison created the light bulb, electricity quickly became standard in many homes, which then decreased the need for kerosene.
Did Edison mean to disrupt the kerosene industry? I doubt it, though I could be wrong. My guess would be that he wanted to create a product, and was thrilled that he had invented something that would change the lives of people all over the globe. Still, it had a major impact on a completely different industry.
We can apply that to Tesla and the self-driving car. Tesla has not only created some pretty slick cars, but is soon going to be offering self-driving cars to consumers. As an insurance agent, there are lots of questions, like who will cover the liability, and how?
These are good questions. I’ll give my opinion on these points, which can change based on more information. Don’t judge me if it’s 2030 and I was way off. With that nice little disclaimer, let’s dive in:
Microsoft OneNote has become my favorite, go-to program for staying organized. It's free and it works across all of your devices, so you can use it almost anywhere.
I don't know how I - or my company - stayed organized before we used OneNote. You and can run a better insurance agency, or business of any kind, with this tool.
In this article, I'll show you the basics of how it works and give you a few tips that my team and I use every day.
Sometimes people walk into our offices and ask, "Why do you have so many computer screens?" Some studies show that multiple monitors increase productivity by 20-30%. Others disagree and say that they increase distractions and may actually reduce productivity.
Our own experience is that multiple monitors help immensely. They save us time and make us more productive. This article will show you how you can do it too.
Every employee has at least two monitors. Most of us have three, and four have four monitors. (!!)
I just read an article on a new insurance company called hippo. They are another company heavily invested in by tech-savvy venture capitalists who are going to change the way insurance is done. In Hippo’s case, they are focusing on home insurance. The article is a short read, and worthwhile so you can be aware of what’s coming down the pipeline (because there will be others).
In short, Hippo will focus on customer experience by revolutionizing home insurance: they will get rid of “expensive commissioned agents” to lower prices, provide more transparency, and update forms to be more clear.
Direct sales make agents leery. Direct sales combined with relevant technology can make agents nervous. Should they be?
I'm not sure where I heard about the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni. (He also wrote Death by Meeting, which we reviewed here.) But I'm so glad I found it! I've read it twice. Then I bought the audio book, so I could listen to it while exercising at the YMCA or while driving. Each time I've gone through it, I've learned more.
Applying its principles has changed the way we approach teamwork at IHT.
Why does Teamwork matter? I think the author explains it best in this short video:
As I’ve covered in past articles, I’ve spent a lot of time cold-calling, which means I’ve spent lots and lots of time on the phone. When I first started, I spoke very fast, wasn’t confident, and just wanted to give my pitch, then get off the phone. Throughout my various jobs, I picked up 4 skills that led to me having phone calls where the prospects would literally tell me:
“When I call back, I want to speak to you. You’re very pleasant, and I like talking to you.”
Keep in mind, I’m not a real talker. When I go to the party, I’m the guy that likes to find a group I’m already comfortable with, and spend time with them. By implementing these skills, I’m confident that anyone can improve how they come across on the phone. I have these written down near my phone, as a nice reminder every single time I get ready to speak with someone.
Without further adieu...
When I speak to insurance agents about prospecting, creating relationships, and so forth, many of them are self-proclaimed “old-school” agents. They do networking through BNI groups, chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, in-office visits, and the like. Those are great ideas for networking, and I tell those agents that they should continue those activities in conjunction with a strong online presence.
Most of them simply admit that they don’t really know how to create an online presence, much less use social media effectively. Some feel overwhelmed, and downright afraid. We all know what that’s like:
My parents tell me that they remember placing phone calls by picking up the receiver, upon which an operator would say, “Number please”. They would then say the number - “245J” for example. There were “party lines” in those days, so often neighbors could listen in on the call. For much of my own life, you had to be mindful of long-distance phone charges. For example, our little insurance agency in Perrysburg used to have a $600 per month long-distance bill! (This was on top of our local phone service bill.) But that has all changed for the better.
“Cold calling is dead!” some of you will scream.
Anytime someone in sales mentions cold calls, the eye rolls, and sighs of “this again?” are sure to follow. I’m here to say that cold calling is not dead. I’ve experienced solid growth through cold calling, and I know I’m not the only cold-caller here!
Last Thanksgiving I drove down to Hilton Head and back. I brought a few audio books to pass the time. One of them was Death by Meeting, which sounds like the title of an Agatha Christie mystery. (In fact, I brought one of her stories to listen to, as well.) But this book by Patrick Lencioni is about how to solve the mystery of boring, unproductive meetings.
Whether your insurance office is big or small, you participate in a variety of meetings. Some probably go better than others. Hopefully yours aren't boring, but they can probably be improved.
When I got home from my trip, I was excited to apply the things that I learned in this book - and they instantly changed our meetings for the better! And I'd like to share what we learned, with you.
Insurance Journal released a list of the top 10 insurers in the country based on size last month. You’ll recognize the names.
State Farm leads the way, with $36.5 billion in DWP. Berkshire Hathaway (including Geico) is second at $22.8 billion. Allstate rounds out the top 3 with a respectable $20 billion.
Of the top ten companies, only three grew their market share – Berkshire, Progressive, and USAA. The companies with the steepest decline were State Farm, Farmers and Nationwide. Everyone else maintained their market share.
You’ve set up processes to ensure that you’re setting reasonable expectations with each client, and you have a simple program in place to follow-up with your clients throughout the year. Now, what kind of resources should you put into your retention plans? Here are three that will help:
Aside from basic customer service, much of what we have discussed deals with “customer experience.” We will have an article on this later, but the simple truth is this: Customer service is reactive – customer experience is proactive.
Agents generally hire employees to help with the reactive stuff. For your retention program, either you or someone else will need to monitor it and make sure that bad boy is running smoothly. Even when programs can automate a lot of the grunt work, you have to check on them to make sure everything is working properly.
In the end, if you can have an employee manage the program, even if it’s just online software (we’ll get to that in a minute), it will allow you to prospect, sell, or do whatever creates a profit for your agency. However, be certain that someone is sending out letters, texts, e-mails, etc., to your clients at those specific touch points.
IHT is a multi-state insurance agency with dozens of branches across the eastern and central United States.