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Business as Usual for Agency Operations - Keep Improving Tech While Touching More Clients

By Matt McGrail, Senior Vice President, Meadowbrook Insurance Agency

Matt McGrail, Senior Vice President, Meadowbrook Insurance Agency

As rapidly as technology is being introduced in the insurance industry, it is critical to remember that most technology remains a step away from the client. Technology is primarily a tool that needs to be effectively integrated into existing systems in order to improve an agency’s operations. Technology helps us leverage our team and create important efficiencies. But client contact remains our most valuable asset, especially with our larger groups, who may often require flexibility when developing processes.

Insurance technology acquisitions is one topic that has dominated the trade headlines recently. Meadowbrook Insurance Agency recognizes that technology acquisitions will benefit agencies, offering more options for lead generation, data analytics, and providing more “bang for our buck” in the industry. Other technology will make the competitive environment even more aggressive.

Along with all of these activities, finding the balance between acquiring technology and utilizing its leverage, while keeping client service top of mind is a daily job for agency operations professionals. Our agents react to the immediate needs of clients daily, while still providing our carriers and business partners with the information they need to accurately underwrite the insureds. Of course, this must happen as the technology integration and training continue unabated. It is important that decisions are made seamlessly when client-facing issues arise, and expeditiously for internal purposes so processes don’t come grinding to a halt.

Technology can enable us to touch more clients and do it faster. Sending clients useful information offers agencies more opportunities to market new products, maintaining that all- important connection with clients. Once again, it’s a balancing act, because overwhelming clients with emails or social media probably turns clients off more than informs them. Even though most insurance operations professionals know the value of proper communications, it has also been shown that we CAN over-communicate and confuse our client base.

Most agencies today are trying to continue doing what we’re great at: focusing on the clients that helped to build our agencies. Agencies are also trying to tap into other revenue streams by using the technology and tools we are purchasing. These technologies and tools help agencies create efficient processes, and allow agencies to provide the 24/7 access many insurance buyers are demanding today.

Technology has dramatically assisted the industry in expanding our footprint without building brick and mortar offices on every corner. That was the old way of building business which relied mostly on face-to-face communications. While such communications are still an important factor for many clients, it has become less important for others.

As we move forward into the unknown, one fact will be understood by all: the next generation of insurance professionals and clients know a world dependent on technology and being able to access information 24/7. That means everyone will need to accept the new, and often better, ways of accomplishing our goals without constantly fighting technology because we aren’t comfortable with letting go of the old ways. This fact needs to be understood to attract top talent to the agency.

During the next 5 to 10 years, it is estimated that insurance professionals will be retiring at a rate faster than we’ve ever seen before in the industry. It will be hard to attract enough quality talent to replace those leaving. Attracting the top tier of those in the job market is a priority, so this issue will also affect technology decisions, as successful agencies want to provide the best tools for their people.

Technology doesn’t always work as intended, and there may be errors at times. That is a given in business, and as we know, human error does occur as well. But technology will be critical to fill the experience gap that will be occurring with so many retirements on the horizon. We will also continue to focus on technology to increase the capacity of each team member. That’s one of the costs of doing business. The goal is not to decrease the number of people we employ; It is to ensure that the clients who choose us are served by those people and served well. Clients are the ones who make the most critical decisions, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they have the information and the options to do that with confidence.

Technology can’t do it all. We will still need to spend time asking lots of questions and researching risk topics. But being jugglers isn’t new to most of us. We understand it’s business as usual – using and adding technology as we keep our clients satisfied every day.

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