These Are Confusing Times

The insurance industry has gone crazy! What was once a conservative, well organized method for protecting people, their belongings and their business has exploded. A marketplace full of direct to consumer coverage, peer to peer insurance, marketing based on buying preference and 24/7 customer service using chatbots is reality. Technological support for the insurance process has exploded and artificial intelligence is rumored to replace real people in most of the process going forward. Consumers, especially the younger ones, are attracted to buying protection where it’s convenient and cheap without concern to the level of protection they buy and whether it will protect them should something happen.

If you’re an independent insurance agent and this stuff isn’t keeping you up at night, then you’re either on the edge of selling your agency or you have your head stuck in the sand. These are tumultuous times!

As I travel around and speak with various agents, the level of concern and reaction to what is going on goes from oblivious to fully engaged in dealing with today’s marketplace and what the future will bring. I have to say there are probably more leaning toward oblivious and shell shocked about what is going on, than there are those making the necessary changes to stay relevant and compete in today’s world and beyond.

Read any insurance article or listen to any speaker and you’re going to hear the times are changing and you need to get on the bus or be left behind. I spend a fair amount of time reading or watching videos, most made by young people a third to half my age, talking about how to effectively operate an agency and sell insurance protection to today’s consumer. Social media, digital marketing, mobile apps, data analytics, video marketing and customer experience are the buzz words of the day.

If you’re an average agency, trying to help people buy adequate protection and assist them with a claim and grow your agency, this is the stuff that nightmares are made of. You’re probably asking yourself how can I afford all of this, how will I train my staff to use it and if I don’t do it how long before I go out of business.

Well the good news is: relax, take a breath and remember how to eat an elephant sandwich, one bite at a time. That doesn’t mean sit back and do nothing. You’re going to have to assess where you’re at and make a game plan to move forward and start the process of change. Like any good plan you should attack the weakest part of your operation first. Once you figure out how you will improve that area, implement the changes and move on to the next weak area.

There are really two ways you can go about identifying and implementing the changes step by step. As with any independent business you can either do it yourself or hire someone to help. That’s a personal decision. Just remember the time you spend researching, identifying and implementing the necessary changes is going to take you away from your normal activities at the agency. They may mean some lost revenue. The alternative is to focus on writing more business to generate the money necessary to get the outside help you need.

Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. If you’re member of IIABNY we can assist with information and direction on where you can find the resources you need. If you are in a cluster or friends with other agents maybe you can work together and share your information back and forth. There are plenty of resources available–the key is to focus on the most important issues first.

I honestly believe way too many agency owners don’t take the time to really assess their overall operation and develop a game plan for improving and modernizing it. If you believe you can’t afford to take the time, you’re wrong – you can’t afford not to take the time and make the effort. I’ll bet there are already areas of your agency you know need fixing, and did you ever wonder what that has cost you already by not taking the time to fix it.

Just remember you have time to make the fixes necessary, your world isn’t going to crumble overnight. Start by making an honest assessment of your operation. If you are unable to do it there are people who can help. Once the plan has been developed begin with the most important and pressing items first. Ask for help and take advantage of all that is available. Keep in mind it’s a process and very likely it should be a regular ongoing process.

Like Nike says, the real key is to “JUST DO IT.”