Much of the news around tech disruption in life insurance in recent years has been about the rise of digital advice and purchasing solutions like self-service portals. This new technology has been consistently positioned as a competitor to traditional advisors creating an ‘us-against-them-mentality.’ The drumbeat over the past few years has been that as these tools develop and gain traction in the marketplace flesh and blood advisors will have to up their game or face extinction.
The reality is digital transformation isn’t a zero-sum game. Technology advances are not a replacement for all advisors. It’s not an either-or proposition. Instead, the evolving insurance landscape is turning into an environment in which self-service portals can be advisor allies in the same way that advisors rely on their staff or collateral professionals to perform tasks that benefit the advisor but are not necessarily in their wheelhouse.
Rather than signaling the end of the age of the agent, self-service portals could empower agents to enhance their service offering for all clients and find more time to work at the highest level of their capability with their best clients.
The key to advisor success in the time of the self-service portal is to adopt a new way of thinking about technology and how it can enhance their strategies and capabilities.
The self-service portal
Self-service portals are becoming increasingly popular in insurance. Agents and their current clients can access their policy information in real-time, make changes (address or beneficiary changes for example), obtain commission reports and even see pending business. When illustration, electronic applications and portals are integrated the customer experience is transformed. New clients are able to get quotes, see how a policy works, apply and get instant approval and instant policy issuing. The sales cycle is cut from weeks to seconds.
These solutions and the world-class digital experiences they create build customer satisfaction and are a significant source of new business. The word has been that they are so good that they will either replace advisors or force them up-market. There may be some truth to that—for those advisors who resist the need to offer more value and value for their clients. But for those who embrace the new reality and redefine their role and relationship to technology, self-service portals offer a new opportunity to enhance service, make more sales and grow their practice.
2 ways advisors benefit from utilizing self-service portals
Reason 1: Self-service portals help advisors focus on the clients who will benefit the most
Digital self-service portals will enable agents to evolve into true providers of high-value advice for their clients. They will be able to work more selectively with more affluent clients with more complex sets of needs—providing higher levels of service to those that need it the most.
For too long the agent-client experience—especially when it comes to straight-forward things like policy changes–has been needlessly onerous and unsatisfying. Clients don’t want to have to call an advisor, be sent a paper form to fill out, and then wait for days or weeks for a beneficiary change to take effect. A better process is for the advisor to guide the client to their customer portal, have them log-in and make the change—for it to be updated right away. The agent redefines their role from customer service/admin to providing support and advice as needed. The client gets a faster result with less hassle.
Extending the idea—advisors can integrate servicing portals into their larger customer service strategy with the goal of offering great service to all clients, while focusing the advisor’s time and effort on their highest value clients. Routine service requests from all clients can be handled by the portals and the advisor can use the time they save due to this more efficient process to implement higher-value service offerings to their A and B clients—things like hosting expert presentations on health care, education or small business management, whatever items are of most concern to their niche.
Reason 2: Become the tech-enabled advisor clients want to work with
Consumers want to deal with an agent who has an impressive technology offering. They want to know that they can have personalized, digital access to their policies whenever they desire. They want to know their questions will be answered instantly. They want quotes and illustrations in the moment. They want instant application decisions and instant issuing of a policy.
When advisors are able to offer their clients technology that delivers a superior customer experience, they are adding value and building stronger relationships. Customer servicing portals that are integrated with carrier’s back-end systems make it possible for clients to review policy information and make changes in real-time, whenever they need. When the advisor is able to provide clients with that kind of technology and cut service fulfillment time from days to seconds, they will be seen as true experts—partners who help their clients get better results more easily and quickly.
The life insurance industry is undoubtedly undergoing disruption and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Some advisors will find their approach to the business no longer tenable. Some will fall prey to the marriage of changing customer expectations and increasing technological sophistication. Self-service portals and the eventual rise of the true robo-advisor may well hurt many. For forward-thinking advisors, the future is a hybrid model of technology that streamlines processes and enables accelerated, personalized customer experience paired with high-value, human provided advice. Advisors who can provide the technology and advice their clients expect will be the ones who thrive in the coming years.