I recently heard an agency owner explain that they are NOT a “technology company”, but instead are a consulting company that happens to be strongly enabled by technology. What a simple but profoundly powerful perspective on what today’s business owners really need from their insurance advisor.
I spoke as part of a technology panel recently and one of the questions posed to us was, “What technology do you feel is a must in order to service our clients in today’s ACA crazed world?’
One of the many client-facing technology solutions seemed to be the obvious answer. By now, we are all painfully aware that employers want a ben admin system to make compliance, administration, and reporting easier. HR departments are demanding technology solutions that will help them with ACA-required reporting (1094/1095, 6055/6056), benefits, payroll, and time & attendance. I’m by sure every agency reading this is well on their way to finding the right technology solution(s) to help their clients meet these challenges. If not, you better get on that one quickly.
However, as I thought about the “must have” question, my focus went the other direction; I focused on the internal technology (effective CRM, project management programs, communication tools, etc.).
Agencies must realize that they are not in the product (insurance, technology, etc.) business, but are in the advice and results business.
Approaching technology as an advice-giving business
Technology solutions for clients are an obvious deliverable for agencies to take to clients. However, it is not the difference maker agencies MUST have in order to succeed in a post-ACA world. Before taking technology to their clients, agencies have to understand how to use technology internally in order to support their ability to give the right advice and deliver meaningful results that their clients need now more than ever before.
In most agency environments, the team gets so mired in transactional activities that they don’t have time for more meaningful client engagements. If you have the right people on your team, they are incredibly frustrated by this reality. Worse than that, your client’s businesses are missing out on the untapped potential of your team’s advice and insights.
As I see the future of our industry, there are two distinct broker models evolving: those who focus on a commoditized deliverable and those who focus on a consultative deliverable. The smaller, independent agencies need to embrace the latter.
Any business in the advice and results business must ensure they are hiring for knowledge in every role. With the right knowledge in the right seats, they must also invest in the technology to take care of as much of the transactional activities as possible so that their team members are freed up to put their knowledge to work and focus on the more strategic needs of their clients.
Transactional activities usually represent the minimal expectations of the client (getting quotes, addressing claim issues, responding to customer service issues, etc.). By definition, minimum expectations are expected; if you can’t do these well you get fired. Even when you do deliver the expected, there is rarely an opportunity to differentiate or provide a “wow factor”.
Remember, in every engagement, there are two types of value: the value we expect and the value we don’t expect (but are “wowed” when it’s delivered).
Use technology to automate the expected so that your team is freed up to deliver as much of the unexpected as possible.
Companies who think their value lies in their technology solution are going to be crushed by those agencies who realize technology is merely a tool that enables real value to be delivered.
Photo by michael davis-burchat.