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Carrier-Agency Collaboration: Boundaries and Bridges

Bonus Feature: ACT Meeting Report from Cincinnati

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Earlier this year, during the May ACT Meeting Town Hall, agents had an opportunity to send a clarion message to carriers: we are happy to collaborate, but there are clearly demarcated proprietary boundaries. Chris Ross (Travelers), Joe Clabaugh (Cincinnati), Howie Barber (Ohio Mutual), and Chris Cline (Westfield) discussed the importance of carrier-agency partnerships in insurance technology and addressed several questions relating to how their companies keep agent and customer engagement top of mind as insurers move forward on digital upgrades. Here is a peek into the discussion.

The following is a synopsis of the salient points of the presentation captured by the ACT News Team.  

What are you doing to leverage customer engagement? 

Chris Cline (Westfield): We're in the process of reengineering Westfield's architecture to include a customer-centric brand. Customer-driven. Agency-enabled. A customer-facing portal is the first step. Customers are looking for the quickest way to accomplish actionsbilling, simple queries. One example of improving the customer experience is to have the first notice of loss go directly to the carrier. We understand that it's hard for agencies to let that go, but customers do prefer it.
Joe Clabaugh (Cincinnati): We bring 12 agencies onsite every year to get their input and advice on what they want. This is part of Cincinnati's tech council. [Note: A new agent portal was set for piloting in July.]
Chris Ross (Travelers): Easing the rate/quote process was our initial focus. We are now working on customer self-service offerings, such as billing as well as additions and changes to auto policies. It is important that there is a channel to provide feedback to agents about such customer actions.

Are you using chat or automated guided conversations? 

Howie Barber (Ohio Mutual): We're looking at all those and may have a chat pilot soon, but agents don't seem to be anxious for it just yet. We may look at chat robotics as a pilot, but there are no guarantees. We will look at agents talking with underwriters as a first step.
Clabaugh: We've looked at this but need to find it's valuable to the customer. We haven't moved on anything yet. The guided chat needs to answer the questions and be easy to use. If they have to talk to someone at the end of the chat, it's not going to work for us.
Ross: We have pilots going on. We can learn from human conversations for AI. For tech integration, it has to be seamless so, if the conversation has to go to a live person, that CSR knows what has already transpired in the conversation.
Cline: We're thinking about it. Execution is key - We don't want the intrusive chat popups. We'll have a chat portal sometime this year. We're looking at how we do the chat inside our own buildingespecially adjusters talking to the home office. Maybe that could also work from agent to carrier.


How do you keep the agent in the conversation when you use an app? 

Clabaugh: What is the best method to enhance the customer experience? Most apps are not used to transact complex transactions. They are more designed for routine actions. We have an app. Auto claims is a good example. But it is not built out fully yet.
Barber: We had the Instant app about five or six years ago. It wasn't as robust as it could have been. Login, PIN, user IDall create headaches when there was a need to use the app. We've turned to agents to get valid email addresses, but response hasn't been very good.
[Editor's note: The previous comment generated some audience feedback, met with broad applause, that indicated agents are hesitant about sweeping plans to share agent-collected data.]
Audience feedback, Brian Bartosh, president, Top O' Michigan Insurance: We have valid emails, but we are not sharing those with carriers. We (agents) do the service side You (carriers) do the policy and price side. Customers can use my portal. When a client logs into our portal, there is integration for carriers who use eDocs, Download, etc.


One agent in the audience asked the question: "What is the benefit of a carrier having emails?" 

Barber: We use it for surveys but not marketing. It comes down to a trust level. We are not soliciting business from your customer.
Clabaugh: Going paperless is the biggest reason.
Audience feedback, Matt Aaron, co-founder Insurance Agent App: There is nothing connecting all three players (agent, carrier, customer). That's what we need.
Cline: We are all trying to get to that place. We are trying to give customers options. These next 18 to 36 months are going to be transformative (from a carrier roadmap perspective).
Ross: One challenge is to internally make the connection between the commercial and personal lines activity of a customerget silos within the carrier to inform each other. We want it to be seamless for the consumer.
Audience feedback, agent: A lot of carriers want one way to handle a client, but that is folly. A small agency is going to service a customer differently from a large agency. FNOL might work for one agency, but my clients like to go through me because they want my expertise on actually filing a claim.
Cline: We know that agencies are different. We want to provide the tools for the toolbox, not force the method of FNOL or other customer interactions. For example, a small-business benchmarking tool that agencies can provide to customers. The agency can decide which tools to give clients access to. Windshield and deer strikes are good examples of direct contact to carrier. It doesn't waste agent time, and it's fast for the customer. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Additional details from the May 2019 ACT Meeting can be found in the June edition of ACT News, and PDF versions of presentations are always available on our 'Past ACT Meetings' web page.

Agents will have another great opportunity to interact with and provide feedback to carriers and vendors at our next ACT Meeting on Oct. 23-24, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. Join us for enlightening presentations and lively conversation. 

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