For producers, few decisions are as important as choosing the makeup of your portfolio. Whether you’re a wise veteran of the industry looking to strengthen your offerings, or you’re just getting started, finding the right company to write business with is a crucial decision that can have a significant impact on your success.
So what should a producer look for in an insurance company? You may be thinking, “That’s a no-brainer: quality products and financial strength and stability” (of course, good commissions are a plus, too). Make no mistake, those are great places to start. But you have to dig deeper; how can a company help you with your day-to-day responsibilities and take your business to the next level?
Finding that answer is not as simple.
There is a lot to consider in today’s environment. From recent national and global financial crises, to the loss of consumer confidence and federal regulations that are impacting commission earnings, agents must make sure they are efficiently conducting and growing all aspects of their business. That’s why finding the right mix of service and support from an insurance company is absolutely vital.
LIMRA recently released a study that examined the types of service and support that producers value most from insurers. It found that 32 percent of those surveyed chose training as the most important, followed by technological support (20 percent); point-of-sale support (17 percent); business development support (16 percent); and operational support (15 percent).
Although it landed in second place in the study, in my mind, if you are looking for a company that can help you succeed, begin by determining if they have technology based support. Ask yourself how the technological support offered can make life easier for you.
This could include things like access to client records, acceptance of electronic policy applications, and expedited or instant underwriting. Other advancements to keep an eye out for are innovative ways that a company allows you to better manage your book of business online. The way a company leverages technology in all service areas is a key indicator to how well they can support you overall as an agent.
Consider agent training, which was the most popular answer given by agents in the LIMRA survey. Of course, product training is typically most important to agents, but today’s insurance companies must offer the full gauntlet of training, from products to professional development. This should go far beyond standard sales training to include skills like prospecting, where you can learn new and improved methods to efficiently target potential clients.
Whether it’s through webinars, online chats or other web-based tools that provide one-on-one coaching, mentoring or group development, companies that offer technological innovations are better able to provide you with the training you need to increase your effectiveness in all aspects of your business.
Point of Sale
In terms of point-of-sale support, the same principle holds true. An agent should expect top-notch support and instant contact with a company both before and during a sale. Many companies recognize the importance of this support by providing agents with on-demand consultants via online web chats or over the phone to answer or clarify any questions that come up during a sale.
Other more enterprising companies have integrated marketing principles in their online tools. Look for tools that allow agents to walk prospective clients through product demonstrations to show how different policy options affects things like coverage, benefit amounts and premiums. This can make it much easier for an agent to explain a product, help a client understand its value and, ultimately, close a sale. A company with a strong technology platform truly facilitates this valuable service.
Technology also goes a long way to aid another overriding theme that is crucial to agent service, and that is the relationship between a producer and the company’s home office. While it can often be overlooked by both sides, its importance should not be underestimated. A company simply must be responsive to an agent’s needs, and it begins and ends with ease of contact.
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to reach out to a company when you have a simple question that needs a quick answer and only hear an endless ring on the other end or have to leave a second or third message. A company should never be too big to listen to a producer or meet their needs (if it’s within legal and ethical standards, of course). Whether it’s picking up the phone, being available via online chats or accessing information and resources in an online portal, a company should give their producers welcoming, personal interactions with the feeling of face-to-face communication.
Technology impacts every area of support and touches every part of your business. With as fast as the insurance industry is changing, technology will only become a more important part of the way we do business. The company you choose to do business with should be innovative and continually staying ahead of the curve, or else you will run the risk of getting left behind by doing things the old way. By choosing the former, you will work with a company that can help you grow professionally and foster greater success.