The “cloud” refers to software and services that run on the internet instead of locally on your computer. By learning about available business tools and moving operations to the cloud, your agency can become more efficient and responsive to your clients’ needs.
In some ways, the COVID-19 crisis was a wake-up call for many insurance agencies and providers. Not only has it made industry experts better appreciate—and possibly upgrade—their home environments, it also emphasized how technology can keep people connected even when they’re apart.
Regardless of the pandemic’s effect, however, leveraging technology is and will still be important for enabling your agency to better serve clients where, when, and how they prefer. A study conducted by Rocket Referrals found that 81 percent of insurance client defections weren’t due to the price—but to a lack of communication. In fact, clients have indicated that they’re willing to pay a higher premium if they feel that they’re getting increased value for that investment.
Reaching and retaining clients is crucial to your agency business, and technology makes staying in touch easier. Even if you’re happy to continue relying on paper files and sticky notes, technology can make you much more efficient and make it easier for clients to work with you.
7 steps to move your agency operations to the cloud
While researching and implementing technology can be daunting, odds are there’s a solution out there that can better solve at least one of your most pressing business problems. Start with a problem that you have or an opportunity for improvement that you recognize. Ask yourself, “If I can find a tool that can help me do this, will it make things easier for me, my agency, or my clients?”
1. Use video to communicate
More agents are choosing to sell over the phone, but sometimes a face-to-face meeting can better instill trust and credibility. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to physically sit down with your prospects. Video conferencing can help. Virtual meetings are also perfect for pulling together a quick staff meeting or reviewing budgets with your team while working remotely or in different branches of the company.
Services like Zoom, RingCentral, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet are becoming increasingly popular—and for good reason. With both free and paid options, these platforms provide a secure connection for video conferencing, screen sharing, conducting webinars, chatting, sharing files, real-time document collaboration, and more. Embracing these types of technologies can make working and collaborating with your colleagues easier while providing a high-tech—and high-touch—way to serve your clients.
In general, you’ll download the app on your computer or phone, schedule a meeting, send your client a link to the meeting, and they can meet with you privately online at the scheduled date and time. This may not be appropriate for all clients, so go with what communication method they prefer.
2. Level up your email communications
In the 1990s, email technology pushed fax communications out of the way and never looked back. Now, email is the backbone of our personal and professional communications. With an email software program, you remain top of mind for potential and current clients by pinging their inbox at more regular intervals. Offerings from companies like Constant Contact, Sendinblue, and GetResponse allow you to create compelling campaigns to follow up with prospects.
For current clients, you can automate birthday emails, contract renewal notices, or holiday messages, create an e-newsletter with relevant information or links to important notices, or send emergency alerts to clients in specific towns or industries using list segmentation. Whether you’re reaching out to touch base on their current need for insurance or offering helpful content through a newsletter, leveling up your email operations can help you help your clients.
3. Reduce your dependence on landlines
Landline technology is becoming more obsolete by the day. Traditional telephones use analog lines to carry voice signals. If you want to make calls, you need to have the appropriate wiring installed. Many businesses rely on specialized hardware to connect internal phone extensions to the public telephone network. This process is generally quite costly to set up and maintain.
Cloud-based voice-over IP (VoIP) services like RingCentral, Nextiva, and Grasshopper use high-speed internet and include powerful features not found with standard phone services. Auto attendants, call recording, custom caller ID, and other features can help you be more efficient and responsive. Plus, you can take calls from computers and cell phones—and work from anywhere where there’s internet access.
The benefits of VoIP include:
- Reduced cost
- High-quality sound
- Advanced features, like call queues and voice-to-email
- No technical setup is necessary to work from home
- International long-distance rates as low as $0.04 per minute to Mexico or $0.01 to the UK
4. Connect on social media
Many people use the internet to stay in touch and learn more about the things they’re interested in. Another way you can likely reach current and potential clients is through social media. LinkedIn is ready-made for online networking and sourcing new clients. Having a business page on Facebook can help provide legitimacy for your agency and enable you to expand your reach. In many ways, connecting on social media is the new “handing out a business card.” Agencies can also use these platforms to post Q&As for frequent questions your clients have and share content they may need. Social media can give your agency an edge over your competition and provide a new means of attracting clients.
5. Access files from anywhere
Is the file you need at the office in a filing cabinet? What happens when you’re working from home and forgot them at the office? Consider taking your forms and files digital and saving them to a cloud-based drive that’s accessible to anyone on your team from anywhere. Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and similar services provide a secure, cloud-based drive to save, access, and share your files from any location where there’s internet access.
6. Keep track of clients in a CRM
If you have a lot of clients, remembering and organizing every detail of each relationship can be difficult. Implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can help. With CRM software, you can store your client’s information, including contact info, policy info, notes, reminders, documents, and even copies of email communications. Once the system is set up, you can program it to remind you of important dates and tasks, like renewals and birthdays, for example. Instead of searching through files and folders, you can type a client’s name and access everything about that account. Loose papers can be scanned into the system and stored for instant access.
There are many CRM systems, and while a general CRM will likely meet your needs, some experts in the industry recommend finding one that’s specifically made for insurance. AgencyBloc and NextAgency are two to consider.
7. Allow clients to schedule appointments online
If you have a website or a Facebook page, make it easy for clients and prospects to schedule an appointment with you online. Several tools do this—Calendly and Acuity Scheduling are two popular options—and some CRMs even have this functionality built-in.
You can direct people to the scheduling system by including a link in your email signature, or linking to or embedding the scheduler directly on your website or Facebook page. Once you connect the scheduler to your calendar (Google Calendar or Outlook, for example), you can indicate the times that you want to make available for clients to request appointments. When someone requests a meeting, that time will get blocked out on your calendar and you’ll get a notification via email and/or text message with the particulars. Some systems allow you to set follow-up reminders, too.
Thanks for reading our educational resource! Any above reference to a specific company, method, or product is meant for educational purposes only and is not specifically endorsed by Pie.