When it comes to the best and most productive agents, they understand intuitively that billing statements and other efforts that don’t result in new business shouldn’t be part of their job. And because they have the power to direct business where it makes the most sense, the technology that insurers offer them had better make their jobs easier.
That in mind, dealing with billing statements and customer payments are areas that absolutely must not distract them from selling.
After they sell a policy, any time spent on it is overhead, and that’s why agency billing technology can be such an important differentiating factor in an insurance provider’s relationship with agencies.
The Customer Experience for Agents and Insurance Providers
From the agency’s perspective, reconciling billing statements is time-consuming and difficult, plus there’s the pressure of smaller staffs, fierce competition, declining premiums and slimmer margins adding to the challenge.
Even now, far too many agents are literally handwriting notes on statements and faxing them back to insurance providers. For independent agents, this is an even bigger challenge. They have to contend with multiple carriers, systems, and processes. Considering all that, would agents choose to place business with you?
From the insurance provider’s perspective, it’s not much easier. They have to manage agency statement production, reconciliation, and inbound matching. For many, even now, those are still very manual processes. But imagine that you could automate the production of statements and the insurance provider’s receipt, processing, and reconciliation while offering agents a billing statement that’s easy-to-read and reconcile. The agent completes two boxes, one indicating a discrepancy — if there is one — and another to supply the reason for it. How easy is that?
Billing and the Customer Experience
While agents may want to own the customer relationship it doesn’t make sense in many cases, especially in the personal market. Agents don’t get paid on a tail forever, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to continue servicing a policy or customer they don’t get paid on. Insurance providers, though, want to keep that business and service it as efficiently as possible.
A novel form of agency billing can help. Many insurance providers are looking to offer what I’ll call a “White Label Direct Bill” that—for all intents and purposes—has come from the agent’s office. It has the agent’s name and picture on it, for example, and contains great cross- and up-selling opportunities that are specific to the customer. When the customer looks at the bottom of the payment stub, they’re directed to the insurance provider’s processing center. If they call the 1-800 number, they’re directed to the insurance provider’s customer service representative. The bill offers all of those value adds that contribute to the best customer experience while liberating the agent from these administrative burdens.
For the commercial specialty market, where the customer relationship typically is more important, imagine some subtle variations: the agent could do a hot transfer, sending the customer to the servicing department, or decide to manage the issue themselves. Properly implemented, it’s completely smooth, efficient, and enhances the customer experience while taking the agent out of the scenario as much as possible.
By enabling automation, electronic communication and allowing agents to reconcile and pay at their convenience, you can eliminate delays due to telephone tag, paper processing, and mail delivery. It also creates self-service opportunities, including access to policy documents, commission statements, 12-month payment histories and other relevant data.
If you’re looking to increase the amount of business coming through agencies, you need to do more than just offer the lowest price; you need to be easy to do business with. With the right solution, you can clear away as much of the administrative load as possible, so agents can focus on sales and get paid quickly.
That’s being easy to do business with.