“Relationships still matter” is an overused phrase in the insurance business, however its importance has never been stronger, though not for the reasons most usually offered. Agents and insurers alike are quick to stress their commitment to better relationships with policyholders, yet the lure of technology and “big data” to streamline the insurance process can appear to marginalize the need for personal touch, at least on the surface.
Technology vs. Relationships
The technology vs. relationships debate is not, however, a zero-sum game. Some agents defend their old-school, only face-to-face or telephone approach, dismissing unmet predictions of the demise of the independent agent or citing studies showing millennials prefer a personal relationship with their agents and insurance companies. At the same time, insurance buyers do want, for the most part, a simpler, less time-consuming process when negotiating, purchasing, modifying and filing claims on their insurance policies. Further, competitive pressures push insurance companies to look continually for ways to simplify procedures and cut costs to keep premiums in check.
Technology innovations such as telematics, online rating platforms and predictive analytics do make insurance processes more precise and even faster. Predictive analytics, for example, is more of a predictor than a decision-maker. Technology will never replace the need for actual conversations between policyholders, agents and insurers. What technology is changing is what those conversations cover and why strong, give-and-take relationships are more important than ever.
Coverages are becoming more complex because our society is becoming more complex. Agents need more time to provide counsel to their clients so they should be spending less time with administrative tasks via the automation of workflows. As a company, we need to be supporting agents in this process so the agent-insurer relationship is as important as the agent/client one.
The bottom-line is that conversations of the human kind do produce better results. Technology is not the enemy but a crucial and indispensable ally.
*Patriot Underwriters, Inc. conducts insurance business in all of its licensed states as PUI INSURANCE AGENCY