With the recent announcement of Walmart selling insurance (as well as Overstock.com), you would have thought someone had discovered conclusively that the world was, indeed, square.
The reactions from the insurance industry have been swift and agents have been at the forefront, as they should be. But mostly from the angle of panic, hysteria, gloom & doom, the works. (You can read the original articles- Walmart begins selling auto insurance online and Insurance Agents Urged to Follow Overstock.com, Insuritas Online Sales Model)
Get Over It.
The truth is, there is nothing you can do to stop the Walmarts, Overstocks, Amazons, etc. of the world from doing this. NOTHING.
The move to simplify the insurance distribution system has been in the works for many years now- no big surprise. We’ve been battling it for years.
Here’s the reality- the reason these new distribution systems are becoming so popular is two-fold- the consumer is demanding it and the way insurance agents are still handling policy issuance & transactions is cumbersome (and the consumers want something easier.). Yes, this includes me too.
So if you’re an insurance agent that doesn’t want to feel uncomfortable, you need to stop reading this post. If you’re not willing to face some hard truths and then do something about it, please go update your Facebook status with the latest cat video. None of what I say is meant to make you shutter your office or jump off a bridge. It is meant to make you aware of what is happening in the marketplace. When you’re aware, you can take action. And that’s what I want you to do. Because this truly is the best industry in the world. And I’m here to fight to the death.
Here’s 4 reasons insurance agents are scared of Walmart selling insurance
#1- It forces you to see how much your own technology is lacking
It finally shows you that your own technology and internal distribution systems are severely lacking . It shows that you need to step it up several notches. It forces you to move the needle. It forces you to get off your ass. And that’s far from easy.
And I’m not talking Star Wars/Star trek technology here- I’m talking about the basics
- Central customer database
Yes, some insurance agencies don’t even have a basic website. Websites are not luxuries folks- they’re a basic necessity. I won’t beat that dead horse anymore.
Beyond the basics, here’s additional technology items you need to consider to make the process easier
- Facebook page
- Email marketing system
- Electronic signature (one of my next projects)
- Mobile app (ours is launching soon)
- Texting (our newest producer uses this to communicate with customers and receive quote requests)
Today’s consumer wants to do business with companies who at least attempt to make things easier on them.
And for those that ask- “What do I write on my agency’s Facebook page?”, please read this post. As for what to do with email marketing, start a campaign of collecting your customers email addresses and then send them periodic messages. Agency news, special events, invitations, community news, pictures and fun facts about your staff, other newsworthy items- the list is endless really. Just like Facebook, you don’t ALWAYS have to talk about insurance. Please don’t!
#2- It makes you acknowledge there is a whole customer base who prefers to use technology for their insurance.
Let’s face it folks- the big players in the industry (and big players in other industries) have studied the market. They know that many consumers are demanding convenience of access and use. Yes, they really WANT the tools to make the experience from start to finish seamless and pain-free. I’m a consumer and I want an experience like this. Doesn’t everyone?
I’ll be the first to admit that I will never be able to afford to install backend systems and infrastructure like Walmart or Amazon. Their tech budgets are basically similar to a small country’s Gross Domestic Product. So be it. You’ll never out-GEICO GEICO. You’ll never out-AMAZON Amazon. So don’t even waste your time.
But I CAN do some research (which entails work- and some don’t want to do the work) how I can scale their systems into something I can use and afford. You may not need the $1 million dollar Customer Relationship Management System that Walmart has. But there are much simpler, significantly less expensive solutions out there.
And perhaps the smartest of us will investigate partnering with these distribution platforms to increase our customer base. Certainly worth consideration, don’t you think? Never overlook opportunity.
And you must acknowledge NOW that potential customers (and even current ones), are calling the shots. Which leads in nicely to #3…….
#3- It demonstrates that you’re no longer in control
Yep, the customers are telling us what they want. So you’ve always done things this way? Too bad. This is how we do things, so potential customer you can suck it up? Um, then don’t wonder why you’re not getting any customers.
What all this hubbub demonstrates is that now is the time to reevaluate your processes. And yes, you’re going to be forced to re-write your processes. And learn new processes. And be willing to accept when an existing process isn’t working. And make changes.
Trust me, the last year has been full of studying our processes, writing new ones, trashing old ones that weren’t working and going through tons of changes. BRUTAL. But necessary.
When you can establish processes that are workable for you, but also take into account the customers needs, that’s gold. But it takes work. And you have to be willing to do the work.
#4- Lastly, it questions your own worth in your industry
So yeah, when we hear about systems that are designed to cut out the typical Main Street insurance agent, it kind of makes you feel like shit doesn’t it?
It makes you ask yourself, “Do I matter? Do my skills matter? Am I worthless and no longer relevant?” (yes, I’ve asked myself these very questions)
The answers are- Yes, yes, and of course not. You just need to realize there is a whole population out there that prefers not to use your services. They don’t see value. They don’t understand agents roles in the system. You can beat the value train until you’re blue in the face, and nothing you say will ever change their opinion.
But it has absolutely NO reflection on you as a person or your work. What insurance agents do is nothing short of magical. But not everything thinks that. And you have to be OK with it.
Do I like this answer? Of course not. I’ve been an insurance agent for nearly 18 years. Insurance is a craft and a skill that I exercise all the time. I’m confident in saying I have more insurance expertise in my little finger than the majority of call centers across the world.
And here’s the question no one wants to ask- “What if our society eventually morphs into one where insurance agents are no longer seen as relevant?” Well, then so be it. It happened with many other occupations. We have to be willing to accept that possibility.