When it comes to digital convenience in the insurance industry, leaders listen to their customers. By 2024, the insurance tech market is expected to reach $10.14 billion — up from $2.72 billion in 2018 — according to statistics from Zipdo.
A leading factor in this massive growth is to meet changing customer behaviors and expectations – many of which have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Covid pushed technology ahead in insurance,” said Rhett VanScoter, CIC, CPA, independent agent/owner of VanScoter Insurance Agency in Greece. “We used to have a lot of traffic in the office, but we get very few people in the office on a daily basis now. Clients can do so much more digitally.”
That is not to say VanScoter doesn’t welcome or enjoy when clients come into the office, but for most, it’s no longer their preferred method of communication.
“People like to know we’re here and like to have a local agent, but they also like to do things at their own convenience,” said VanScoter, who founded the agency in 2005. “We try to make communication as easy as we can.”
VanScoter’s customers have embraced texting, a means of communication his agency adopted pre-pandemic but has seen grow considerably. A dedicated business text line is staffed by all members of the office and questions are responded to quickly.
The agency also offers video proposals for auto and home quotes and an online calendar scheduler which clients can use to schedule phone or video calls with agents.
Like many insurance agencies, VanScoter’s works with several different insurance carriers, including ERIE Insurance, where customers can get an auto quote online or pay their bill through the VanScoter website.
“Each carrier is different in what their apps and platforms can do but most allow clients to go in and make payments, review policies, print ID cards, file a claim, and track the progress of a claim,” VanScoter said. “Some allow clients to make changes to policies themselves, but that’s not something we recommend.”
In deciding what digital tools to offer clients, VanScoter thinks about what he would want personally – ease of communication, efficiency, and ability to conduct business outside regular work hours is key.
At Paychex Insurance Agency, a wholly owned subsidiary of Paychex, Inc. that offers comprehensive commercial insurance, technology-enabled solutions for businesses are a top focus.
The agency will soon be offering a new capability to quote business insurance online where clients and prospects will be able to streamline quoting and work with a licensed professional who will help guide them through the process.
“Typically, a consumer has to go directly to the insurance carrier website in order to get a quote,” said Deb McGuire, vice president and general manager of Paychex Insurance Agency. “This digital platform will provide a comparative rater experience where they’re getting more than one quote. It’s a time saver.”
Another way Paychex Insurance Agency uses digital innovations is by harnessing data to provide insights to business owners that aid them in areas such as operations and employee retention, McGuire said.
Other digital time savers and educational pieces for clients and prospective clients on the agency’s website include a chatbot, a simple online quiz to help find the right business insurance, an online free quote tool, and a library of articles, podcasts, webinars, and interactive tools about business insurance.
At Tompkins Insurance Agencies, “We’re always trying to make it easier for our clients to do business with us,” says Kim Nevinger, CIC, vice president, commercial lines manager.
In the commercial space, the agency does this in part through a client portal that works both ways. If a commercial client wants to add a new vehicle to their policy, for example, they can do that right through the portal.
“The other thing that we’ve done with our commercial lines is because there are so many renewal applications we’ve gone out and partnered with a vendor to digitize the carrier applications,” said Nevinger, who explains this saves quite a bit of time for the client because much of the information can be pre-populated.
Other digital tools the agency uses for both its commercial and personal clients that desire them include the e-signature tool DocuSign and Zoom meetings. There is also a portal for personal clients and all clients have access to their carrier’s online portals and tools as well, where they can often start such transactions as filing a claim.
“Digital claims settling has been something many of the carriers have adopted and that has helped our customers,” said Louis Atti, CPCU, senior vice president, personal lines manager, Tompkins Insurance Agencies. “They can take pictures of their loss and through the app, they go directly to the carrier. It’s a lot quicker than trying to get somebody to get out there to look in person.”
Carriers are also offering more and more digital tools for personal and commercial customers that can potentially save them losses and money, such as water detection smart sensors and telematics devices for vehicles that collect data on things like hard braking and rapid acceleration.
Both Nevinger and Atti have worked in the insurance industry for over three decades and have been amazed to see the growth in digital tools. When they started, some of the tools of the trade were physical file cabinets and fax machines. Today’s digital tools like electronic file cabinets and portals allow them to be more efficient, organized, and present for their customers.
“The technology makes it easier for us to take care of the customer more efficiently,” Atti said. “It gives us the opportunity to talk to them about other things.”
Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.