The Path to 24/7 Service for Independent Agents: The Role of Client Portals

Part two of a three part series. Part one looks at the challenges of becoming 24/7 and part three explores mobile apps.

Today's customers are accustomed to on-demand access. With mobile and online banking, they no longer have to walk into a bank to transfer money or deposit a check. From movies, to furniture, to groceries, consumers can buy almost anything they want anytime of the day or night thanks to sites like Amazon. Smartphones and computers provide people with access to a variety of different services like buying airline tickets, checking credit card balances, or changing their cable plan - and they want the same kind of ease and accessibility when conducting their insurance business. But many agencies are falling behind. According to the Insurance Digital Transformation Survey only 23% of respondents offered client portals.

Client portals provide customers with easy, 24x7 access to a variety of information including:

  • Insurance policy information
  • Claims filings and processing
  • Premium payments
  • Insurance documents
  • Ability to verify coverage
  • Requests for policy changes
  • Auto ID cards
  • Certificates of insurance

And, in fact, a client portal can enhance the customer's insurance experience, giving them independence and flexibility. For example, maybe your client needs to reprint a copy of an auto ID card. Instead of sending an email or calling the agency and waiting for a response, your client can log onto the client portal, pull up the card and print it immediately.

In addition to providing clients with access to insurance information outside of normal business hours, portals can also keep them in touch with the agency during times when they need them the most - such as during natural disasters. More often than not, a customer's independent agency is located within the same community. If a customer is affected by a natural disaster, most likely the agency is experiencing the same disruption. The power could be out and the phone lines down. But if the customer evacuates to a safe area with internet access, it's possible to log onto the portal and start the claims process. This information can then be accessed by the agents, and even carrier claims representatives, working from other locations.

Customers are not the only ones reaping the benefits of client portals. For agents, this tool saves them valuable time. Since customers can easily and instantly access their insurance information, agents no longer have to pull and email requested documentation. This allows agencies to increase efficiency and spend more time boosting sales, finding the right policies for their customers, and servicing clients' claims.

getting started

The good news...your agency management system might already offer a client portal service. Often these portals can be branded for your agency. You can change the color, font, and include your logo so it doesn't look like you are sending your customers to an outside company. Here are just a few offerings throughout our industry:

And there are many others.

Even if your vendor is not listed here, it's important to ask your vendor first. This might be a development area for them, and your request will help make it a priority.

But deciding on which service to use is only the first step. No agency can decide to implement a client portal one day and then launch it the next. You will have to get your colleagues, customers, and most importantly senior management onboard. So where should you begin?

Select the platform

Once you select which client portal platform you would like to use, gather as much information as possible. If the company hosts events, conferences, webinars, etc. attend everything you can so you know exactly what this service offers and how it will affect your company.

Create the implementation plan

Next, develop a plan and take into account how it will impact your agency from all touchpoints. Will you have to change any processes such as how documents are entered into the system? How will you inform your customers? How much training will your staff need? If staff or customers have questions, how will you address them?

Get the funding

Once you have the plan, convince senior management. You need to make sure everyone is onboard before implementing. Let them know the benefits of utilizing client portals and how it is not just an advantage for customers but the agency as a whole.

Put training and communications into action

Finally after everyone signs on, get your customers excited about the new service. Even if they haven't asked for it, you will be surprised how much they appreciate having the capability to access their own policy information. Answer any questions they may have. Ensure them that this tool is for their convenience and that it is not replacing the same personal service the clients have come to know and expect.

 


for additional information:

Going Digital: Insurance Anytime, Anywhere: Real stories from agents about how they became 24/7 and utilized client portals

Self-Service Web Portals for Clients Give Indie Agents an Edge: Benefits of using client portals