THE DIGITAL AGENCY DILEMMA

THE DIGITAL AGENCY DILEMMA

  • Lisa Smith
  • Published: 22 March 2019

 

Let’s take a moment to clarify the difference between digitizing and Being Digital.

In the 1990s, the P&C Insurance industry relied on policy download. Carriers sent ‘digital’ policy data down to the Agency (Brokerage) Management Systems to synchronize.

Were we digital then?

No. We manually validated the data and manually process discrepancies. This isn’t digital.

In the 2000s, the industry held user groups and conferences debating the merits of ‘back-end’ and ‘front-end’ scanning workflows and processes. The industry worked diligently on paper-free processing and automation for agency commission invoicing.

Were we now in the digital era?

No, albeit closer. By scanning and moving to digital documents, we became more environmentally and economically friendly. Increased usage of email allowed us to move work quickly but not effectively as email ‘spam,’ and the proliferation of ‘cc’ messages caused us to step backward in productivity.  Information was timely, but we were (are?) inundated with redundant information.

As improved workflow automation alerts us to process actions, the question becomes, ‘Are we digital?’ Many of us are slow to trust the data and use exception management workflows.  We spend hours reconciling and auditing transaction.  We continued to digitize, but not be digital.

Now in the 2010s. Surely, we have achieved digital processing? 

Finally, progress in digital policy images (eDocs) and online policy and payment processing portals! How about now? Are we digital?

The industry erred in keeping the same workflows. eDocs are often the agent/broker copies including commissions. We never questioned why the brokers and agent need copies and data. Instead, download the client image for portals, emailing or reprinting and separate commission notices. 

Portals follow old processes; re-key or upload the data then validation questions outside the application, then completing the transaction. Extra data elements often ask clients questions that are outside their scope (e.g., backflow valves and electrical panel ratings). 

 


In the rush for data and striving for exact pricing, we lost sight of the importance of ease-of-use and consumer experience. We ask clients for data we already know creating a relationship of mistrust (I knew you were lying about that accident!) instead of data confirmation.   

“We see an accident on your records, please confirm this is your incident date.”


 

Going forward, we need to continue to leverage technology to process transactions, develop better product matches and offerings, and tailor client experiences.

 


In the rush to price each risk, we lost sight of what we are providing the client – risk management and transfer services as part of a financial portfolio. 


 

What would a truly digital experience look like?

Let’s imagine that transaction data is compiled and presented with minimal intervention.

  • From a website or mobile device, a client selects ‘new vehicle purchase’ and scans/photographs their purchase receipt. The transaction completes after confirming basic validations, such as the drivers and usage are the same, then advises the new ID slips and payment plan are ready for download.
  • A client selects ‘A new driver is in my household’ and enters the driver’s license number for their new spouse or child, confirms the driver assignment and usage then download the new payment plan.
  • We prompt a client for confirmation “Congratulations, our records show your home value is now over $X. We recommend customers achieving this goal increase their liability cover, protecting their growing net worth. We can offer you this for $Y. Please confirm and we can adjust your payment plan.”

These user experiences need to continue through the back-end systems – no touch wherever, whenever possible and true exception management checkpoints versus checkpoints because we don’t trust our data.

Technology is finally available to go further in automating our processing and experiences throughout the transaction from consumer to agent/broker to underwriter to adjuster. Artificial intelligence and automated workflows can create experiences where all of us - consumer, agent, broker, underwriter and adjuster, trust the data and processing is consistent, fair and accurate for all while offering value-added personal touches handled personally.