The insurance industry is abuzz with discussion around digital transformation. It follows that tech topics dominated this year’s Global Insurance Symposium and InsurTech New York agendas. Digitization, automation, and the direct-to-consumer business were on everybody’s lips. One sentiment was clear: The role of the trusted advisor will always be necessary to the industry because human connection remains central to the insurance transaction.
That said, the way insurance agents interact with customers must evolve alongside technology.
Digitization is meeting people’s needs in areas ripe for automation. But it’s also replacing some of the more mundane tasks that agents have traditionally handled. Agents don’t need to sit at their desks to sign papers anymore, but they do need to promptly answer their social media direct messages. This is all part of meeting customers’ changing needs.
While digital evolution is intimidating for many industry veterans, there is ample opportunity for carriers, marketers and agents who are open to adopting new technology. Those who embrace change can shape the role of the advisor in the future. From investing in social selling to outsourcing your work (to AI!), here are some of the ways I see digital changes boosting insurance agent relevance and success:
No. 1: Prioritize social selling in the prospecting, sales and retention mix.
What’s the biggest change coming to insurance agents? The way they connect with prospects. As the digital age continues, social media needs to be a larger piece of the communication pie. This doesn’t mean tossing out other communication methods like phone calls, virtual appointments, emails, or in-person meetings. But it does mean agents should be incorporating social selling into their digital marketing and sales strategies.
Social selling is more than just being present on social media. It means giving intermediaries the reins to not only help humanize your brand, but also build personal connections through their own social networks. Why is this so important? Because people buy from people — even in this digital age. Those people are on social media, and when the intermediary is too, they’re more likely to sell there. Stats back this up: Almost 80% of social sellers outsell their peers who aren’t on social at all.
To stay relevant throughout the buyer’s journey, marketers will need to help agents cultivate a healthy mix of organic posts and paid social ads. This will not only keep agents (and the insurance carriers they represent) top-of-mind, but also offer value to potential and current leads through thought leadership, insightful tips and real-world advice.
Agents can also set aside time to respond to comments, engage with followers, and proactively reach out to audiences on social. After all, the whole point of social selling is adding the human touch to the sales process. Building community and rapport with leads will establish agents as trusted experts in the industry.
No. 2: Use tech to free up time to focus on relationship-building.
As tech gets smarter, we’ll see it taking over more repetitive or low-stakes tasks, which will free up workers in the insurance world to complete higher-level work. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Insurance Industry Outlook, 74% of insurance provider CIOs say they’re focusing on bringing more AI into their processes. In other words, insurance professionals will increasingly make fewer decisions alone; instead, data and analytics will support and guide them. And in the process, agents are getting more time back to invest in customer relationships.
Sure, you can automate emails and use online scheduling tools — but tech is going so much further. The industry is investing in everything from AI-powered underwriting to telematics, often improving the quality of service in the process.
The bottom line is that with tech on their side, agents and advisors have more time to do what they do best: build relationships and sell their products and services.
No. 3: Don’t assume “digital-first” customers don’t want an agent’s expertise.
As insurance products modernize and AI and automation make underwriting, pricing and the entire sales cycle shorter and more accurate, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t take away the important role of the intermediary. Even consumers who want a digital-first experience still value the guidance of a trusted professional as they’re making decisions to protect their futures. Believing digitization is here to work with you, not against you, is key to agents securing their roles within the digital landscape.
Legacy insurance agents and those fresh faces looking to jump into a new career in insurance shouldn’t worry! The digital era isn’t going anywhere, but it’s here to make our lives easier. Lean in and let it work for you, knowing that human connection and advisorship will always be core to the insurance transaction.
Nola Morris is the VP of Strategy at Denim Social, a SaaS provider for the insurance industry. These opinions are the author’s own.