| ||Fast Focus|
It’s a widely held notion that technology in the
insurance brokerage industry is behind the times.
Our industry has surprisingly few options for automating our
When you focus your technology on your customers, you can
change entire models of doing business.
Pointing in the Wrong Direction
Here’s what’s wrong with
today’s agency technology. Banking changed while we were
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Ten years ago the banking industry was in a similar state.
Technology was focused on creating efficient transactions.
Branch models with tellers were made more efficient with faster
transactional systems. Customers were given telephone access to
handle simple transactions and ATMs to handle cash needs.
Fast-forward to today. With the advent of smartphone apps,
all banking needs can actually be completed via your iPhone.
These features were developed to directly benefit the customer. The end result actually
created more internal efficiency almost as an afterthought.
Retail shopping is on the verge of a similar revolution.
iTunes has made the old way of buying music obsolete. Amazon
makes a great case for buying even seemingly trivial items
online. Retailers such as Argos in England are merely pickup
stops. They contain no showrooms or displays. You shop online
or at a kiosk and drop in to pick up your items. Stateside
retailers are planning concept stores that reverse this model,
serving only as a showroom and shipping products overnight when
a customer makes a purchase.
While the ultimate acceptance of these changes is yet to be
determined, one thing is clear. When you focus your technology
on your customers, you can change entire models of doing
As brokers, we are the distribution channel and the direct
link to the insured. We fill the role of trusted advisor and
serve as the first link in the chain when a loss occurs. Our
customers bank online, buy music online and track their kids
with their smartphones. They deserve a similar experience when
dealing with their risk-management programs.
When it comes to options for automating our agencies, our
industry is faced with surprisingly few choices. The early
innovators have risen to the top, basing their businesses and
our industry’s automation choices on the “make the
CSR efficient” model set forth decades ago. Most agencies
operate systems from both Applied Systems or Vertafore.
Unfortunately, as with most industries, we are slow to
recognize and adopt innovation. Decades of legacy systems do
not create an environment ripe for innovation. This story has
already played out in another industry.
By the mid-1990s, Microsoft had won the PC desktop wars. The
Windows operating system was firmly rooted as the way of interfacing with your computer,
especially for business. Apple Computer was relegated to a
niche market. The only real choice left for businesses was to
decide which brand of computers to buy, mainly HP, IBM or
Then something interesting happened. Apple released a
cellular phone. And not just a cellular phone. The iPhone was
nothing like any cellular phone on the market. It had more
processing power than a desktop had just a few years earlier.
Its touch-screen device required an entirely new way of
thinking about interfacing with a computer. Without abandoning
its flagship operating system, Apple cleverly developed an
entirely new one. Microsoft viewed cellular phone operating
systems as a tangential market and banked on its desktop
dominance. It made only half-hearted entries into the space.
The rest is history.
Then Apple made its smartphone bigger and released it as the
iPad, which immediately began eroding laptop sales. Google
followed with Android. Amazon jumped in with its own version.
Finally, this year, Microsoft is releasing its own tablet
computer along with Windows 8, a complete software redesign
following a touch-interface design.
After decades of dominance, the market leader was last to
the party. Today, Microsoft is scrambling to define its place
in a market that is completely defined by Apple. By providing
more choice, Apple fundamentally changed the way all
communicate and collaborate.