60% of agents say they’re doing “average to poor” in this critical area

60% of agents say they’re doing “average to poor” in this critical area

60% of agents say they’re doing “average to poor” in this critical area Independent insurance agents are more aware than ever of the importance of digital technologies in growing their businesses – yet their actions tell a very different tale, a new study from a number of industry groups reveals.

Fully 60% of agents who responded to the Insurance Digital Transformation Survey told researchers their websites – the prime portal for consumer engagement – are “average to poor.” Only 8% rated their sites as excellent.

That places agencies in a particularly vulnerable position, as alternative options like Insurify and Trov gather investor support based on consumer-friendly, tech-based approaches to insurance.

The coalition administering the survey, which includes IIABA’s Agents Council for Technology, ACORD User Groups Information Exchange and the PIA, points to a lack of functionality as a reason for this lack of confidence.

“Agents understand the current market and know they need to make changes to compete. A significant number – 70% – have proactive strategies in place to implement new technology to improve their businesses,” said Ron Berg, executive director with ACT. “But even with that awareness, adoption of new technology has been slow.”

Indeed, the survey found that fewer than a quarter of agencies host comparative raters allowing customers to quote home or auto insurance from their sites, and only 16% use chat or instant messaging functions to communicate with customers.

“This is a relatively inexpensive technology and easy to implement, so the low percentage is surprising,” the report said.

Beyond those specific technologies, agencies are also failing to make their websites and services available to consumers in their most preferred formats, said Cal Durland, industry consultant and advocate for the Initiative at Insurance Digital Revolution.

“Whenever I need to find something, I take out my phone and Google it. So does someone who is perhaps new to the area and is looking for insurance – but these agency websites just aren’t robust enough to keep them,” Durland told Insurance Business America. “Your website needs to be more than just a brochure. It needs to host everything from the ability to quote car insurance or chat with staff, all from their phone. There’s a whole slew of functionality that’s just not reading.”

Consumers are also looking for mobile apps to assist them with their insurance needs, yet just 21% of agencies have developed these capabilities. And surprisingly, not many more (just 23%) have a client portal on their site.

Developing these functions should be a top priority for agencies, even if most say their consumers aren’t asking for them directly, said Mike Becker, executive vice president and CEO of PIA.

“Agents can’t assume that no news is good news. When it comes to customers’ digital requirements, that’s never true,” Becker said. “Look at banking – many institutions did not know how popular online and mobile banking would be with their customers until they adopted it. The same is true for insurance. These technologies provide quick, easy and on-demand access to policy and billing information, quoting and rating.”

Other concerns raised in the survey include the adoption of automation tools to improve workflow. While there is some movement here, the survey found that 40% of agents say disjointed workflows remains a huge challenge. Some of this has to do with carriers failing to make their sites accessible through agency management systems, though many agents are not yet taking advantage of capabilities that do exist.

Sixty percent of agents told researchers they are not using claims download, and only 6% and 16% are using bridging to quote new commercial lines and personal lines policies, respectively. That means a number of agents are manually reentering data when they switch from carrier portals to their management systems, slowing down the process and increasing the risk of error.

“Years ago, you heard a lot of push for a single-entry, multiple-company interface,” Durland said. “The industry is still stepping into that.”

Overall, however, the conductors of the survey found the results encouraging.

“Many agents want to become digital, they just need guidance on where to start,” said Greg Maciag, president emeritus of ACORD. The Insurance Digital Revolution is aiming to provide that, he added, by bringing together agents, carriers and vendors to provide information on all digital tools as well as a roadmap for success.

The Insurance Digital Transformation Survey was conducted electronically among agents in the United States between March 8 and April 5, 2016. More than 4,304 agents, brokers and managing general agents responded to the survey.