The general agency business model, as it relates to health insurance and employee benefits, has remained largely unchanged for decades. But those days are coming to an end. Technology is seeing to that. General agencies are coming to the conclusion that their technology offerings need some serious updates.
BenefitMall is one general agency that jumped on the technology train more than a year ago. Their insurance broker services now include a number of important technologies, including a state-of-the-art self-service portal that gives brokers access to nearly every tool they need to do what they do.
Unfortunately, general agencies tend to be hamstrung by a combination of technology-resistant management and insurance carriers that are still not up to speed. That’s a shame. The world is moving on with technology even if the insurance industry isn’t. Carriers and general agencies that do not keep up will ultimately be left behind.
Spreadsheets and Databases Are So Yesterday
Believe it or not, there are some insurance carriers still working with pen and paper. Fortunately, their numbers are few and far between. There are far more still using old-fashioned spreadsheets and locally hosted databases. Those technologies are so yesterday. They have very little place in a cloud-driven world.
Likewise, general agencies continuing to work with locally hosted websites offering very little functionality don’t provide sufficient motivation to visit them. If a general agency’s website serves only as a directory to insurance carriers, so what? Insurance brokers can find that information elsewhere.
Spreadsheets and databases are yesterday’s technology. So are locally hosted websites. General agencies committed to keeping up are moving to the cloud. They are offering cloud-based applications with direct access to carriers. Those applications provide brokers with tools to help them generate leads, close deals, and serve existing clients with better information and new products.
The Need for Speed…and Mobility
Technology is also making it painfully clear that general agencies need to pay attention to speed and mobility. In terms of speed, insurance brokers no longer have the time to wait around for slow loading websites and document downloads. They need access to information at a moment’s notice. They need to be able to do their work as quickly and efficiently as they enjoy their leisure activities.
Where mobility is concerned, the need should be obvious. Billions of people now use smartphones to access the internet. Companies are developing smartphone apps for their employees. Your average person depends more on a smartphone for online access than a desktop or laptop computer. Insurance brokers are no different.
As sales professionals, brokers are always on the go. When they are not meeting with existing clients, they are tracking down new leads and setting up meetings with potential clients. They spend less and less time in the office with every passing year. They need access to mobile platforms. If their general agencies are not offering mobility, the temptation to go elsewhere is significant.
Paring Down Carriers
So where is all of this leading? Unfortunately for carriers, it is leading to a scenario in which general agencies are going to start paring down by eliminating those insistent on doing things the old way. Any general agency putting the time and effort into updating technology expects the same from its carriers. It is not going to stick with paper and pen businesses any more than insurance brokers will stick with outdated general agencies.
Technology has come to the general agency sector. It is forcing agencies to move into the 21st century. That is good for insurance brokers, clients and, ultimately, the entire insurance industry.