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March 31, 2015

The Secret to Becoming the Agent's Carrier of Choice

By: Patrick Masi

It's a topic that's trending among insurance leaders: How can you improve the experience you provide for your first customer, the insurance agent, to increase placement rates and get them selling faster?

It's a tricky concept if you think about it. A "better experience" can mean a lot of different things, which, for a business, means a lot of different areas to place your bets on. Better commission rates? More marketable products?

Sure.

But those are obvious choices, and you can bet your competitors will be focusing on the same. It then falls on you to do something that makes you truly stand out as the carrier of choice for agents.

The Back Office Curtain

The secret to attracting the best agents and increasing placement rates lies behind the curtain, in the parts of your business that your agent and agency partners currently are concerned with, but shouldn't have to be.

We'll talk about boosting placement rates later in this article, but first let's talk about the secret to keeping what you have. In order to do that, let's place the concept of an improved agent experience into two categories: retention and attraction.

Keeping What You Have

As a business leader, it's your job to decide what levers to pull to get the biggest results. Well, here's some good news: there's a lever you can pull to keep your existing agents happy and get them selling faster.

The secret to retaining agents: Proactive sales authorization.

Confusion and misinformation about appointments and licensing are an ongoing source of friction in your sales channel. Not only do they slow down sales, but they pose distractions for your selling agents. As your carrier competitors find creative ways to let agents focus on what they do best, selling, take a serious look at an issue that's a huge headache for agents: licensure. SirconTime

And make licensure a non-issue.

There are a number of ways to do this, but the best practice for modern carriers is to verify agent credentials at each sales event. By ensuring their selling credentials are up-to-date with the Nation Producer Database (PDB) on an ongoing basis, you will smooth out a major wrinkle in your distribution channel and build on your reputation as a carrier that's easy to do business with.

The Secret to Attracting More Agents

The agent's first impression of your business occurs during the first interactive experience they have with you. This is when you reel them in.

So the secret to attracting agents is: A faster, easier onboarding process.

When we surveyed carriers, we found that less than 1/3 are focused on improving their onboarding processes. This result becomes interesting when you also look at the different amounts of time it takes carriers to complete their onboarding processes.

Some were taking 1?2 days, which is serviceable, but others were taking 5?10 days, which is probably frustrating for the agent. Who wants to wait that long for anything these days?

Would you wait two weeks to start doing business if you knew there were faster options available right down the street?

Nailing the First Impression

Take a look at your onboarding process and see how long you're making new agents wait to sell. Anything more than a day could be a red flag and an indication of what the rest of the experience will be like selling for you. 

The onboarding processes is not only the first impression that agents have of you, but also fertile land for increasing both revenue and retention rates. Agents who get onboarded quickly will immediately begin selling business and servicing clients without spending several days in the waiting room, which is where your competitors really start to look appealing.

Improve the agent's first experience with your business and you will leave a lasting impression and nurture your reputation as a carrier that's easy to do business with.


Patrick Masi

Patrick Masi is a Senior Product Manager for Vertafore where he works with developers and sales to help carriers deliver outstanding agent experiences. Patrick is a graduate of the University of Michigan, a former software developer, and an avid hockey player who makes the best out of the seemingly endless Michigan winter. Follow him on Twitter @pjmasi and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/pjmasi/.