The Key to Agent Automation: Knowing What Your Agent Needs

Keith Raymond

Keith Raymond

Automation that enhances the agent experience and ultimately their selling and service capabilities is fundamental to enabling their success. But with so many potential areas to focus on, from portals to licensing and contracting to mobile, it can be challenging to know what to prioritize. Here are some best practices to help CIOs and business partners focus attention on the most value-added elements of agent automation:

  • Know your agent: A successful agent is someone who puts the needs of their clients first, has a positive impact on the people and community in which they serve, and takes pride in being counted on by their clients. Knowing the motivations of an agent provides a good base for understanding where you can get the most value from your investments.
  • Create an inventory of opportunity: Given the complex array of systems that provide support for the agent, a significant step is creating an inventory. There are a mountain of touch points that leave a lasting impression for an agent.To fully realize areas of opportunity, CIOs and their teams should develop a process map covering the agent interactions with all the touch points during the course of a business day.
  • Define metrics for success: The measures of success are likely to be a combination of things like improving the efficiency of submission to commission process, straight-through processing, aggregating access via single sign-on, and reducing agent onboarding times. Whatever the ultimate metrics may be, the process of working with agents and business partners to develop the metrics helps bring all parties together.
  • Understand mobile use cases and value: Mobility for agents has grown beyond calendar and contacts to more of a full agent “mobile office.” Depending on the use case, agents may be looking to access all of their data and applications from any device from anywhere at any time. A well thought-out and well executed IT strategy can support mobile applications by leveraging an open, service-oriented architecture.
  • Consider the impact of emerging technology: For most carriers, using today’s widely available digital technology and approaches will have the most immediate value in agent automation. But there are several emerging technologies, like gamification and wearables, whose potential values should be considered for inclusion on carriers’ roadmaps for the next few years.

Agents are heavily dependent on automation for every aspect of the engagement and service functions that support the ability and sell and service a client. The more CIOs can enable them through technology and process simplicity, the easier it is for them to do what they do best: develop relationships and provide peace of mind.

For more on this topic, see my recent CIO Checklist report: http://novarica.com/agent-automation/

Lemonade’s and Haven Life’s Limited Launch Approach Provides Lessons for Incumbent Insurers

Tom Benton

Recently, innovation-focused startup insurers Lemonade and Haven Life both announced expansion beyond their initial states–Lemonade to all but 3 states and Haven Life adding five states and D.C., leaving only California and Montana to add. Both initially launched in limited states (33 for Haven and just New York for Lemonade). Add to this the announcement this week that Ladder has launched in its first market, California. The limited launch approach allows these companies to gather customer data and make the necessary process changes that will be critical to their data-driven approaches going forward.

As these insurance startups build their policy counts, more customer data will be accumulated that will provide better algorithm results. But, scaling up in size will offer different challenges for these “Creative Carriers”. Lemonade faces a transition of showing profitability while continuing to innovate, and Haven Life, backed by Mass Mutual, may face different pressures as they grow. In both cases, customers will continue to expect these startups to continue being innovative in how they approach customer experience.

Lemonade’s approach is centered on transparency to build trust. According to this recent blog post, they intend to soon release information on performance metrics and the impact of their ‘Giveback’ program (in which the company donates leftover money form premiums to causes customers choose). This is consistent with their focus on changing the industry by changing the dynamics of interaction based on behavioral economics principles infused in the organization by Chief Behavioral Officer Dan Ariely.

Haven Life on the other hand stays focused on creating the simplest and fastest possible experience–what they refer to as their “ridiculously easy process” for buying life insurance. Their value proposition also includes transparency, but more by providing a fast quote and enabling easy comparison price shopping.

With their expansion into new state markets, the continuing growth and adjustments at both of these innovators will be important for incumbent insurers and imitators to watch throughout 2017.

Are Young Insurance Agents Too Optimistic About the Future?

Rob McIsaac

A recent survey of younger agents highlighted a generally optimistic view of the future. In addition to reflecting positive sentiments about economic prospects, they also appear to feel good about the security of their positions, given the significant number of current producers that are expected to retire from the labor force. The average age of an agent in the United States is greater than 59 and there are forecasts of up to 25% of the current population of agents planning to retire by the end of 2018.

While there may well be room for optimism for those who properly frame a career in insurance distribution, the likely reality is that carriers will need far fewer agent relationships in the future. Increasing focus on self service capabilities, desires from consumers to be able to have direct interaction with the companies they do business with and greater commoditization will all put pressure on the industry to do things in a more efficient, less labor intensive, fashion. Distribution will hardly be the only function to experience this pressure. More automated underwriting and automated claims adjudication are two other examples.

This also ties to research Novarica recently competed on Millennial consumers. As a generation, Millennials will represent half of the US labor force by 2020. As a group, they have a strong preference for DIY capabilities.

This doesn’t mean that the agent role will become extinct but rather that it will morph and evolve. There are likely to be far fewer, but on average more highly skilled, producers in the future. They will be experts on dealing with complex and difficult situations which don’t lend themselves to a do it yourself model. That could be a very good place for producers to be, albeit with a substantially different business model, than is currently the norm. Carriers will want to be preparing for these changes sooner rather than later, given the speed with which consumer preferences can be influenced by the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

Instant Lemonade Impressive for Flavor more than Ingredients

lemonade

Matthew Josefowicz

Lemonade got some great press this week with their instant claims payment for a small property loss on a renters policy.

While Lemonade is spinning this a miracle of AI, it’s really more a miracle of intelligently-designed processes. Many insurers do rules-based, auto-adjudication for small property losses, but few have the ability to translate those automated decisions into real time payments.

The other thing that Lemonade has done successfully here is focus on the desired customer experience, and exploit the industry’s lack of willingness to do so.

Now if Lemonade can do the same thing with a $25,000 liability claim on a small renters policy, that’s a different story…

News and Views: NAIC Cybersecurity Draft Law, Uber’s Acquisition of Otto, Adaptation to DOL Ruling

Novarica’s team comments on recent insurance and technology news

Insurance groups are looking to define uniformity provisions in the most recent draft of the NAIC Insurance Data Security Model Law.

Mitch Wein

Novarica comment by Mitch Wein, VP of Research and Consulting: “Uniformity is the key to the new Data Security Model draft law. Once the draft is accepted by NAIC (target end of 2016), each one of the states will start looking at passing a law based on the draft law provided. What this highlights to carriers is compliance to the NIST framework, no matter what form the final draft law takes, will be key to avoiding fines, penalties, and reputational damage in the future. Within 2-3 years all states will have a version of the final NAIC draft law on the books. If you are not evaluating your security practices today through a NIST assessment, you should start right away. Novarica has a security workshop to highlight key areas of concern that can help.” More from Novarica on IT security frameworks.

Uber acquired self-driving truck startup Otto in a move to expand its foothold in commercial logistics.

Steven Kaye

Novarica comment by Steve Kaye, Associate VP of Research: “Uber announced it was purchasing Otto, a company founded by ex-Google employees that seeks to retrofit long-haul trucks for autonomous driving. The long-haul trucking industry is currently faced with a driver shortage, and sleep-deprived drivers are also a problem, one that may grow with recent regulations. The near-term impact may be reduced accidents (as highways are an easier problem to solve than city streets), with drivers on-board to help load and unload, for unanticipated issues, and to prevent hijackings.

From Uber’s perspective, this further expands their presence in logistics. Uber has already been able to evade regulations in some locations by operating as a delivery service rather than a ridesharing firm. Combine this with Uber’s plans to invest in mapping roads worldwide and Uber may wind up making more money from commercial logistics services. After investing in self-driving cars and trucks, perhaps equipment at ports and remote piloted or semi-autonomous ships?” More from Novarica on autonomous vehicles and commercial lines

LPL Financial has decided to adapt to the DOL ruling rather than fight it.

Rob McIsaac

Novarica comment by Rob McIsaac, Senior VP of Research and Consulting: “One of the things which frequently follows introduction of expanded compliance rules is a natural period of grieving for an earlier status quo, as well as some notable scrambling to identify options to deal with a revised operational landscape. However, implementation of the rule changes can actually create a form of competitive advantage. Better customer insight can, for example, create new or improved marketing and sales opportunities. From the news reports, this is exactly the approach being taken by LPL. While this undoubtedly carries some near-term pain, the strategic intent focuses on using compliance with the DOL mandate to improve their use of information and their competitive position concurrently.

Potentially lost in some of the other news is the idea that LPL also plans to make use of “robo-advisor” capabilities. In addition to addressing short-term practical needs in the market, this may have the longer-term benefit of “encouraging” a form of future state omni-channel capabilities that would have otherwise faced a more difficult “row to hoe” for implementation. It will be very interesting to watch this develop for LPL, and to see the responses that come from other BDs and IMOs.” More from Novarica on the DOL ruling.

Google learns selling insurance on commission is hard; industry rejoices prematurely

Matthew Josefowicz

According the the WSJ and Insurance Journal, Google will announce today that it is suspending Google Compare for all financial services including insurance.

It turns out, selling insurance for commissions through comparison sites is much harder than it seems. This was obvious to anyone who read InsWeb’s 10Ks from 15 years ago. Comparing rates doesn’t necessarily lead to buying directly from the site that lets you compare rates. Google seems to have figured out that it can make a lot more money selling advertising to insurers than selling insurance on commission.

It’s an interesting example of how innovation works in the Valley. They tried something, it didn’t work the way they wanted it to, they learned something, and they shut it down.

Unfortunately, some industry observers are drawing the wrong lesson. An industry source quoted in Insurance Journal says “U.S. consumers are still enamored with their agents.” But it’s pretty clear that the massive growth of direct personal lines and the current investment in direct commercial lines shows this is at best an overstatement.

Again, the lesson is not “the old ways are best.” The lesson is “new market dynamics mean new models.” Commissioned sales is less remunerative than selling ads. Google learned their lesson. They’re moving on.

One start-up’s stumble does not signal an end of disruption

Matthew Josefowicz

The insurance industry enjoyed another collective moment of schadenfreude yesterday when Zenefits’ CEO resigned after the company was found to have bungled agent licensing. But here’s something that appeared in no headline:

Zenefits bungles licensing; insurer customers go back to preferring inefficent processes and bad buyer experiences.

Just because Zenefits stumbled doesn’t mean they will fall. And even if they do, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t pick up the ball and give customers what they need. Maybe a company from inside the industry. Maybe not. Maybe a combination of both.

For example, on the same day that Zenefits announced their problems, P2P start-up Lemonade announced relationships with several top-tier reinsurers.

For those of us old enough to remember the first dot-com boom and its impact on the insurance industry, there’s an interesting difference this time around. Back in the 90′s, the aspiring disrupters were ahead of the market. This time, they’re in sync with the market and ahead of the regulators. Like Uber and disrupters in other industries, they’ll struggle with regulations. But if they create enough customer value, eventually they’ll win those struggles.

And as the DOL is proving, sometimes regulators can disrupt markets all by themselves in an attempt to be more customer-centric.

Insurers need to keep these external market shifts top of mind when making IT plans and decisions. External pressure, customer expectations, and innovation and putting new pressure on insurers’ data, digital, and core processing capabilities. IT leaders have a critical role to play in positioning insurers for the future that’s already here.

Next generation agents – Daniel Pink offers some advice

Tom Benton

Day 2 at the NAMIC Annual Convention began with a keynote from Daniel Pink, author of “Drive”, “To Sell is Human” and other New York Times bestsellers. His message for the NAMIC attendees was about selling, with what he called a “1-3-4″ message: 1 big idea, 3 principles and 4 takeaways.

One Big Idea:  Seller Beware

After pointing out that sales is generally viewed as negative and pictured as a slimy sales man (almost always a man) selling a used car, Pink pointed out that this view is from a time in the past, a time of “buyer beware” when customers had little information, few choices and limited ways to talk back. However, times have changed: instead of information asymmetry with sellers owning most of the information, we live in a new world of information parity where consumers have all the information, have many choices and multiple ways to talk back. In this new paradigm of “seller beware”, we need to reconsider how sales are done.

Three Principles, Four Takeaways:  Summary

Pink then proposed three principles to selling in this new world, and four takeaways based on current research on behavior in the new world. Here is a summary of thoughts from this part of his talk.

Much of our thinking about who is best at sales is not true – we picture the ultimate salesman as highly extroverted, but in fact they are no better than ones that are highly introverted. Research shows that “ambiverts” are best – they are able to be introverted or extroverted based on context. We also assume that a direct approach is best for persuading customers to buy, but in fact research shows an interrogatory approach, asking questions, can be more effective when based on facts. Also a small, honest blemish on an otherwise strong offering can increase it’s attractiveness, another counter-intuitive result from research. Finally, giving the information a customer needs to make the sale easy, rather than trying to persuade them to change their minds, is effective. Pink presented his findings in a humorous but very informative presentation.

What does this mean for the insurance industry?

As good as the main presentation was, the real gem came in the last question of the Q&A session at the end of the keynote. A participant asked a great question: in an industry where agents are an aging population and we’re finding it difficult to find, train and make successful a new generation of sales professionals, who should we look to hire? Pink talked about avoiding strong extroverts and look for a few qualities that can be measured and correlate with successful sales candidates: ambiversion (as described above) and conscientiousness (shows ability to follow up, make calls, and stick with the sale). Pink observed that the new work generation grew up in households where they were served a “heaping bowl of self-esteem”, and didn’t learn how to handle rejection. He said this generation responds well to being trained in how to handle rejection, that it’s part of the process to encounter failure. They can be taught that sales is not just a transaction, but a way to help people and make a difference – values are important to the new millennial agents.

Pink’s presentation offers important advice to developing the agent force for insurers. In a new world where consumers have an advantage of knowing about the products and services we offer, insurers need to look for and train a new generation of agents that are equipped to succeed by better knowing how to fail. Contact me if you’d like to discuss Pink’s presentation and how it can be applied to insurer distribution networks.

Four Obstacles Annuity Providers are Facing in 2015

Mitch Wein

Recently Novarica hosted a Special Interest Group Meeting in Boston for Annuity providers. The meeting was well attended with four key themes emerging:

  • Product Time to Market
  • Straight-Through-Processing and Related Issues around NIGO
  • Electronic Signatures
  • Security

The executives in attendance were looking at how technology can solve problems and enable capabilities. What struck me was the paradox of technology providing better and better ways to reach the customer, while at the same time introducing new issues that didn’t exist earlier. One participant noted that “Annuities are sold, not brought”. This comment provided insight into this area of insurance and why it is unlike other area. Clearly the customer and agent experiences are very important. How analytics and mobile can help is still being explored by the carriers.

Another area of keen importance is the product itself and the ability to modify or introduce new products quickly. We talked about innovations that are on the horizon, especially around customized product offerings that can be assembled in real time out of product features that have already received regulatory approval. Yet, today’s existing legacy systems can’t support these types of time to market innovations. A third area of importance is the ease of doing business for the agent & broker. E-app, illustration and e-signature have been deployed to facilitate straight-through-processing but in the non-captive third party distribution channels, the effectiveness has been more limited. Security is the overlay on top of everything. Carriers feel they are in a good position but noted breaches in firms like Target and Home Depot indicated that what they perceive may not be accurate. We talked about ethical hacking and proactive penetration testing as mechanisms to validate assumptions. All-in-all a terrific an interesting session.

Our next special interest group will be taking place June 25th in Boston, MA. This meeting will be geared towards Regional P/C carriers. If you or a colleague would like to attend, please feel free contact me at email.

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Lessons from Peter Drucker

Paul Ptashnick

As I was reading our latest report: Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for Property & Casualty insurers, it reminded me of a few famous quotes from management consultant, author and educator Peter Drucker. Below I have highlighted a few of his quotes and how they relate to the insurance industry.

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

As technology evolves it’s going to have a revolutionary impact on the insurance industry over the next few years. Some of these areas include the “Internet of Things,” Social Media, Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Security and Digital. With the rapid changes in technology-enabled capabilities, it’s imperative for organizations to have access to the latest research and subject matter experts to stay on top of the latest trends.

“The best way to predict your future is to create it”.

We’re seeing larger insurers creating their own future by widening their lead in advanced capabilities in analytics, data, digital channels, modern applications and innovative business practices. In addition, some midsize insurers are also creating their own future by deploying more advanced capabilities than their peers.

“What gets measured gets improved”

As saavy insurers start deploying new capabilities in underwriting, product, distribution, analytics, etc., it’s vital for them to be able to track their own progress. Novarica is helping insurers to “measure and improve” their own initiatives with our new benchmarking tool.

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

Technology is playing a vital role for Property & Casualty insurers in creating and keeping customers. Below are a few advanced capabilities being deployed by insurers in 2015 to help with these efforts.

  • Customer: Mobile app to view customer relationship details, balances, key documents, etc.
  • Distribution: Mobile app/mobile optimized web for producers to provide access to customer, book of business, or sales materials
  • Product: Analytics-driven product design
  • Product: Products designed to optimize buying/selling experience through one or more of the following: (a) use of pre-fill data, (b) elimination of unnecessary questions, (c) streamlined underwriting process matched to control of risk/coverage levels
  • Distribution: E-Signature
  • Underwriting: Predictive scoring based on models leveraging internal and third-party data
  • Marketing: CRM-driven campaign management that shares information across distribution, underwriting and service channels
  • Billing: Electronic bill presentment and payment
  • Analytics: Self-Service analytics based on verified and accessible enterprise data
  • Analytics: Use of Big Data tools to mine enterprise data effectively (Hadoop, NoSQL, etc.)
  • Claims: Mobile FNOL with video/GPS data capture and pre-fill

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”

The capabilities listed in our Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C Insurers are widely available to insurers and are deployed more or less widely by them today. These advanced capabilities are being driven by a combination of five elements: analytics, data, digital channels, modern applications and innovate business practices. Successful organizations in the future will re-imagine and re-conceptualize their product, service and operation strategies in light of technological changes.

As always I welcome your feedback. Send me a message at email or to learn more about Novarica’s Benchmarking the “New Normal” 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C insurers, download a preview

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