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How to Drive Growth with a Next-Generation Agent Experience

Priya Merchant

Senior Director, Digital Engagement, EPAM Continuum
Blog
  • Financial Services
  • Insurance

In recent years, the insurance industry has undergone significant changes from the consolidation among independent agent and brokers to the rise of new technology-enabled players. As a result of these changes, carriers are under pressure to deliver value and not just offer a competitive price or terms. They need to find ways to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace and build stronger relationships with agents and brokers. One way they can do this is by embracing the next-generation agent experience.

Transformation Drivers & How the Landscape has Changed

To determine how to deliver that enhanced agent experience, we need to explore the trends that are driving transformation across the insurance industry:

  • Customer experience is digital-first and personal. As end-insureds continue to expect a more digital, 24/7 experience (along with the personal touch), agents require solutions that provide information specific to their customer’s needs. This means enabling a positive digital experience from when a customer arrives on the digital platform until they leave.
  • Agent-customer relationships build trust. Agents want to be able to communicate effectively with customers through real-time connections and interactions. It’s about providing ways to improve the agent-customer relationship, such as contacting customers per their channel preferences, tracking their replies to optimize digital interactions and offering tailored guidance. These initiatives build trust between the agent and customer.
  •  Agents want to conduct business efficiently and grow in a digital world. Insurance distribution has traditionally relied heavily on in-person agents to support customers. However, post COVID, digital services have become the standard for customer expectations. Agents need digitized processes and the ability to efficiently manage customer interactions across the customer journey to drive better outcomes.
  • Agents seek empowered development. Agents want to grow all their skill sets to find more fulfillment. In fact, “77% of insurance agents say that education is either indispensable to, or an important element of, an agency’s success.” By empowering the right people with the right skills, agents can guide customers through the insurance journey more effectively and confidently, and carriers can stay nimble and relevant.
  • With retiring agents, Millennial agents have different needs. The agency workforce is aging rapidly, and the failure rate for new agents is high…almost as much as 50%. To plan for the future, agencies need to attract the next generation of millennials and Gen Z leaders who can be employed remotely. These generations will look for insurers that leverage technology.
Enabling the Next-Gen Agent Experience

So, what should carriers be thinking about to create a standout experience amid these trends? There are three things carriers should consider when designing experiences that have a significant impact on the agent’s relationship with the insurer.

  • Design for agent engagement and a holistic experience that brings the most value. Enhance the experience across the entire agent lifecycle – from onboarding to selling on the field, servicing their customers and rolling off seamlessly. Providing a holistic experience can allow insurers to not only position themselves as the carrier of choice, but also build trust and optimize engagement across the agent lifecycle.
  • Design experiences that use the correct tools for the correct job. Intelligent automation technologies are best at completing repetitive or complicated tasks. Humans (agents) are best at providing empathy to navigate complexity. When everything is running smoothly, customers often want to help themselves. When something goes wrong, having a human (agents) can be critical emotionally.
  • Design for a hybrid sales model and relationship building. ​Recognize the shift from face-to-face to a digitally enabled hybrid model, in which agents are supplemented by digital capabilities to interact with customers. Evolve the agent’s role to go beyond just selling insurance into a trusted advisor who supports customers as they navigate complex decisions.
An Agent Success Enablement Framework that Drives Growth

Digital-savvy agents seek an entirely new, evolving experience. It’s time to think beyond portals when it comes to digital online access and engagement for agents. Instead consider a clear support framework that identifies key areas where agents seek support from insurers. The framework should consider how carriers can support agents in their daily interactions with customers and the kind of support they need to sell in a digital world. Identifying where an agent might require additional help is critical to understanding how to improve their experience and enable them to overcome the pain points of growing their business.

To help agents succeed, carriers should provide access to: 

  1. Agent Enablement: Managing the end-to-end agent lifecycle experience is crucial for insurance carriers. It includes everything from onboarding and training to performance management and succession planning. By providing agents with the tools (i.e. real time tracking of goals, compliance and commissions) and training resources they need to be successful, carriers can drive growth and improve retention rates. Furthermore, regular mentoring from more experienced staff members will help agents hone their skills and build long-term relationships with customers.
  2. Lead Generation and Client Management: Optimize digital marketing, communication and pre-sales activities to qualify prospects and reduce the cost of client acquisition and improve conversion rates. Leverage data to engage, up-sell and cross-sell.
  3. Business Enablement: The ease of doing business with an insurer goes a long way in supporting agents in their relationship with customers. No one wants to do manual work. Implementing technologies and simplifying processes for agents will enhance their experience. When insurers introduce new digital tools, ensure agents are well trained and can easily find help when they encounter problems.
  4. Customer Service and Self-Service: Customers want to be able to access their information 24/7. Providing self-service capabilities for policyholders – so they can easily manage their policy, access documents, pay bills and file claims – reduces costs and frees up capacity to let agents focus on more complex tasks and relationship building. 
Implementing a Future-Ready Strategy
A successful digital transformation for an insurance agent requires technical know-how and sales skills to build customer relationships and close deals. The right mix of skills will vary depending on the type of insurance sold and the agent's strengths. But regardless of where your company is on its journey, providing access to a support framework can give your agents the best chance of success in the digital world. In today’s dynamic market, implementing a future-ready, agent-first strategy will enable carriers to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive.

Learn more about EPAM’s experience in insurance here.

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