Insurance is an old business, but that doesn’t mean that every process has to remain stuck in the past. The continued advance of technology has opened up more possibilities for commercial insurance agents and wholesalers to leverage automation for sales, marketing, customer service, and more.
You might be worried about how automation will affect insurance, thinking that it will replace the value you currently provide. But in many cases, automation cuts down on busy work and frees you up to focus on building customer relationships and coming up with creative ideas, like for sales and marketing campaigns. And in some contexts, automation is a means for handling more volume, not replacing agents.
For example, one independent insurance agent can’t make themselves available 24/7 to field client queries. But an automated chatbot could handle basic questions while you sleep and pass on the more complex questions to you that you can tackle when you’re back online. Without this capability, however, you might miss out entirely. If a prospect has to wait several days for a simple answer, they might move on to a competitor instead.
This is just one of the many ways how automation will affect insurance. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most notable impacts.
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The Need For Speed
Automation directly affects speed. Technology can often handle tasks faster than humans. Think of how something as simple as a calculator can automatically provide complex arithmetic answers that would typically require more detailed, time-consuming thought from a human solver.
In insurance, automation similarly provides greater speed in areas such as:
- Applications/submissions: Tools like Wheelhouse can automate areas of applications and overall submission management for both agents and wholesalers, to save time and provide a smoother experience.
For example, through Wheelhouse, agents can go through one platform and automatically receive bindable quotes back from multiple carriers, rather than needing to manually fill out separate applications on each carrier’s site. Agents can also automatically carry over information from one application to another to increase cross-selling opportunities.
- Underwriting: Automation tools can also speed up the underwriting process. Artificial intelligence (AI) platforms can analyze data and make almost instant underwriting decisions. Or, the systems could be used to automate parts of the underwriting process, like organizing data in a way that helps underwriters review information efficiently.
As Accenture points to in one of its use cases about working with a life insurer: “Having data at the point it’s needed is helping these underwriters render policy decisions faster than ever. As an added benefit, the insurer has eliminated the time and cost of offshoring these services.”
The same types of benefits can apply to commercial insurance too.
- Claims: Similar to how automation speeds up the underwriting process, it can also make the claims process much easier for both customers and insurers to navigate.
For example: “The most sophisticated carriers will use advanced analytics to quickly segment and route each claim to the appropriate claims handler and resolution channel,” notes McKinsey. Plus, AI algorithms could automate initial damage estimates by reviewing customer-submitted photos and videos, McKinsey adds.
New Customer Expectations and Interactions
Another way you will see automation affect insurance is through customer expectations and interactions. Already, customers are starting to expect faster service. The rise of InsurTech platforms makes it easy for consumers to easily shop for and manage insurance policies in their personal lives. That will carry over into commercial insurance too.
For example, instead of having to call an insurance agent for a quote, customers will expect to be able to obtain quotes online, much like they can for other types of products. That means that insurance agents shouldn’t always expect to directly interact with customers at the first touchpoint.
Instead, insurance agents and wholesalers need to think about their digital channels. If you build out a user-friendly website with an SEO-friendly blog, then customers might first find your agency that way. Then, if they see that you offer online quoting capabilities, they might use a self-service option to obtain quotes in a more automated fashion. By the time you directly speak to prospects, you might be onboarding them as new customers.
Automation can also affect interactions with existing customers. For example, automated marketing tools can help you send emails and social media posts on a set schedule as part of building customer relationships and increasing brand awareness.
“The right email marketing software can collect useful data and stay in touch with your customers. Automatic social media campaigns can raise visibility for your business and build your brand,” notes Constant Contact.
That doesn’t mean you should automate every interaction. You can manually reply to customer comments on social media or questions via email so that you can provide genuine responses. But by automating some of your marketing, you can more consistently jumpstart customer interactions.
Greater Operational Efficiency
Insurance automation can also help you enhance your operational efficiency. A survey by Bain & Company finds the top ways automation will improve insurance performance are by increasing the standardization of processes and enabling faster decision-making.
For example, modern finance tools have a number of automation capabilities that help you keep track of agency expenses and identify revenue opportunities. Automation tools can also help you organize customer data and keep track of leads so that you can spend more time coming up with marketing content and communicating with customers.
Robotic process automation (RPA), which is software that automates digital processes, can be used to turn manual, repetitive operational tasks into efficient processes. For example, RPA can be used to streamline compliance so you can spend more time on revenue-generating opportunities and avoid costly data mistakes.
“By replacing manual processes with RPA, insurers can remove the potential for human errors. RPA increases the reliability of data, which is especially important for regulatory compliance,” notes IBM.
See How You Can Benefit From Automation
Overall, automation in the insurance industry has many benefits. Agents can increase their productivity, reach more customers, provide a more consistent experience, reduce operational errors, and more.
And the best part is that you don’t have to be a tech expert to benefit from InsurTech tools and other platforms that have automation capabilities. Many platforms offer intuitive built-in capabilities that are even easier than trying to do the same process manually.
For example, if you tried to keep track of all customer applications on your own, it could be easy to misplace some files or be too disorganized to get the most out of cross-selling and renewal conversations. But with a submission management platform like Wheelhouse, everything automatically gets tracked within one system. You can easily go into the platform at any time to manage applications and be proactive when it comes to renewals.
So, while some agents might be cautious about what automation will mean for the insurance agency, there’s plenty to look forward to. Already, many automation tools exist that can help you run a better business. And the technology is only improving. Further advances in areas like RPA and AI will mean that insurance agents and wholesalers can run more efficient, profitable businesses.
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