What is an API and how can agents leverage them?

Buying and selling insurance can be a very personal interaction. Clients trust agents to provide sound advice, competitive quotes, and appropriate coverage. You likely have a good rapport with your customers, but what if you could deliver an even better customer experience? Leveraging technology can help.

What is an API?

An API is an application programming interface. If you have a smartphone, you’ve used an API. APIs are lines of computer code that make it possible for digital devices, software applications, IT systems, and data servers to communicate, share information, and tap into each other’s functionality.1 Some of our partners connect to Pie using an API.

In general, there are three types of APIs:

  1. Public APIs can often be implemented by checking a box on the back end of your website. If necessary, many public APIs can be customized to change what information is displayed and how. For example, a popular public API integrates Google Maps on a business website so customers can generate custom directions to a business location.
  2. Partner APIs can be implemented like public APIs, but you’ll need to find a willing partner. For example, partnering with a real estate agency to generate leads for homeowners’ insurance buyers, or an auto dealership for auto insurance leads. However, you may need to pay a fee to use a partner’s tool.
  3. Private APIs are developed by your internal IT team, or you can pay a vendor to develop a proprietary API for your agency based on your custom specifications.

The benefits of APIs

Not all that long ago, information technology in the insurance industry relied mainly on huge central databases that contained all of the policy, accounts, and claim information, and handled all of the back-end processing tasks. But this type of closed system limits agencies’ ability to deliver a responsive customer experience in real-time and hinders the ability to talk to other systems that can make your job easier.

In the insurance industry, APIs can connect disparate technologies to:

  • Improve cost-efficiency
  • Increase revenue
  • Provide a better customer experience
  • Increase business opportunities and grow partner channels
  • Improve agents’ workflow and productivity

How APIs are improving the insurance industry

According to technology gurus CB Insights, there are four main ways that insurance companies are using API technology:

  1. Data aggregation
  2. Workflow
  3. e-Commerce
  4. Quoting

One of the most common ways agents have implemented an API is online sales. First, the broker or future policyholder uses a website or app (front end) to input data. Then a back-end system calculates premiums, produces relevant documents and account files, and securely stores policy data. For this system to work, an API is needed to enable the front end to “talk” to the back end and facilitate the pushing or pulling of data.

Other examples of APIs in insurance include:

  • Chatbots for customer service
  • Artificial intelligence to calculate premiums
  • Cloud storage to store files and data
  • Mobile APIs to keep policyholders and agents connected 
  • Blockchain for cryptocurrency-based transactions
  • Google Calendar for client appointment setting
  • Lead generation APIs that bring visitors from a mass email to a client portal
  • APIs that upend form data using a risk database
  • Data warehouse APIs that let agents view their entire portfolios, gain insights, and make changes to products
  • Sending automated emails to agents when someone completes a form on the website
  • APIs that integrate credit card processing capabilities 
  • Displaying policy quotes from different insurance carriers in one location
  • Aggregating social media marketing data into one location
  • Client self-service for first notice of loss (FNOL) and claims management
  • Fraud detection
  • Accepting images from customers to log an auto accident claim

APIs are a simple, cost-effective way to share information, boost productivity, and enhance customer service. 

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.

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