For years insurance technology experts have been nagging the industry’s leaders about the importance of keeping websites up to date and working smoothly. Technology is evolving and you need to evolve with it. Those are the technology experts. Marketing experts are preaching from the same pulpit. The chant goes something like: keep up, keep up, keep up.
But independent insurance agents — at least most of them — don’t appear to be hearing the call. Or if they are hearing it, they aren’t acting. A poll done by Insurance Digital Transformation says 60% of independent agents say their websites are “average to poor.”
Just 8% brag that their website is up to speed and rated excellent.
PIA National administered the survey with ACORD User Groups Information Exchange and the IIABA’s Agents Council for Technology. The poll found 70% of agents have plans in place to raise the level of their websites.
But — as they say — the best laid plans of mice and men…etc. These independent agents and agencies are not following their plans.
The report generated from the survey shows less than 25% of agents have comparative raters to help customers quote home and auto. Just 16% use chat or instant messaging to communicate with potential customers or with current customers.
As to why? No one is quite sure and the report puzzled out this comment: “This is a relatively inexpensive technology and easy to implement, so the low percentage is surprising.”
Cal Durland is an industry consultant and advocate at Insurance Digital Revolution. He said agents and agencies are also failing to update their websites to give consumers access in the format they prefer. “Whenever I need to find something, I take out my phone and Google it. So does someone who is perhaps new to the area and is looking for insurance — but these agency websites just aren’t robust enough to keep them.”
And with that he gave some important advice to those same agents and agencies. “Your website needs to be more than just a brochure. It needs to host everything from the ability to quote car insurance or chat with staff, all from their phone. There’s a whole slew of functionality that’s just not reading,” he said.
PIA National Executive Vice President Mike Becker said consumers want to use mobile apps to help them with their insurance needs. Yet just 21% of agencies say their website has that capability. Just a few more — 23% — say they have a client portal on their website. He said independent agents ought to make these functions a high priority even if their clients are demanding them or asking for them directly.
“Agents can’t assume that no news is good news. When it comes to customers’ digital requirements, that’s never true. Look at banking — many institutions did not know how popular online and mobile banking would be with their customers until they adopted it. The same is true for insurance. These technologies provide quick, easy and on-demand access to policy and billing information, quoting and rating,” Becker said.
Here are some other findings from the survey:
• Agents and agencies need to add automation tools that improve work flow.
• 40% of those surveyed say disjointed work flow is a huge challenge.
• Carriers not making their sites available through agency management systems is also problematic.
• That said, agents aren’t really taking advantage of those carriers that do make them available.
• 60% of agents say they are not using claims download programs.
• Just 6% are finding ways to add quoting to the website for commercial lines.
• For personal lines that figure is 16%.
That means — Durland said — many agents are manually reentering data when they switch from a carrier portal to their own management system. That not only slows down the process but it increases the risk for error. “Years ago, you heard a lot of push for a single-entry, multiple-company interface. The industry is still stepping into that,” he said.
ACORD’s Greg Maciag and the PIA and others involved are encouraged by the results. “Many agents want to become digital, they just need guidance on where to start,” Maciag noted.
As to the need to for agents and agencies to keep websites current, Laird Rixford — Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC) president — said all agents who know anything about anything know a strong website presence is critical to agency success. These successful people know Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are important, too but that an optimized website is where the rubber meets the road.
“Whenever a consumer is looking for insurance they start with internet — that happens whether they’re looking at the big insurance firms or local agents. The first thing that someone wants to do is research, that’s where the online experience begins,” he said.
So it’s important — he said — to not make these three critical mistakes.
A design that is outdated: Rixford said your website can’t look like it was done a decade ago. That puts you at a distinct disadvantage. “The design has to capture your attention and have a good call to-action. Companies with modern sites look like they know what they’re doing; they look like they’re on the ball.”
A current looking design is even more critical when you consider how long you have to snag the viewer. Rixford said it’s three seconds. If they’re not impressed instantly, they’re gone. “If they decide your site is worth staying on, you have another four to five seconds to convince them to stay. Having good design, layout and call-to-actions will help you do that.”
Blog, blog, blog: Rixford wants you to think of a blog this way. It’s like talking with and educating your clients and prospects about the business of insurance. “Having stories published on a regular basis shows that you care. Not just about the future of your prospects and clients, but about your web presence because nothing is more detrimental than an abandoned website or blog,” he said.
Plus, search engines — like Google — are much more sophisticated today than they were a decade ago, or even a couple of years ago. So you must publish fresh, unique content to end up higher in the results when someone does a search. A regularly updated blog makes you seen as a valuable content resource for search engines.
Never, ever have an About Us page that is blank: This is where you get to tell your story. That page says:
• Who you are
• What you’re about
“By leaving this section blank and not telling your story, you’re missing the chance to create a personable impression of your agency,” he said.
And — pullleeassseee — don’t have an About Us page packed with boring content about when the agency was founded and what services you offer to your clients and potential clients. Rixford said do this:
• Share your history as a human story
• Make it something clients and prospects and random visitors can relate to
• Showcase your employees with a head shot and a personal, well-written bio that says who they are as people and not just as insurance agents
All of that is a nice personal touch that gets you noticed.
Last — and not from Rixford but from the PIA sponsored Insurance Digital Revolution survey — do something and do it now. Stop putting off updating your website. This is critical to the success of your business going forward.
Source links: Two from Insurance Business America — link 1 and link 2