Technology will forever continue to be a dominating force in the world, but as it becomes more advanced, more people, particularly in the insurance industry, are becoming concerned that the computer will soon replace them in the job market.

To debunk this myth, Steve Anderson, insurance company underwriter, insurance agent, producer, programmer, writer and speaker, held a webinar as part of the Insurance Agent Summit on the strengths of automated technology and how it can be used as an asset.

“The term ‘machine learning’ is not well defined, actually. Yet, it encompasses a lot of different things,” Anderson says. “We have artificial intelligence, machine learning and some other cognitive, knowledge engineering, machine teaching and some other terms swirling around what that might mean.”

Bloomberg/file photo

Also see: 12 ways to break through the barrier of financial inertia.”

Passing down knowledge
Anderson added that for agents, the beginnings of machine learning can be beneficial to them such as demographic changes in the industry and the ability to pass along knowledge and information from generation to generation.

“How do we capture that knowledge, skill and ability of staff [who] have been with agencies for 10, 20 or 30 years with a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience,” Anderson says. “Machine teaching actually allows individuals to capture that knowledge in what is called decision tree processes.”

Through these processes, new agents coming into the insurance industry can access information from previous agents to assist with questions or obstacles that come up that they may lack the experience in handling, allowing the new agent to solve the problem efficiently without stumbling through a trial and error process.

Agent customer interactions
Many insurance websites contain a page for frequently asked questions, or FAQs, in an attempt to answer immediate questions that clients may have. Anderson says many of these questions are based on a person to person basis and may not hold all the answers for each individual problem.

“A common question an agency might get is, ‘Should I buy the rental car collision damage waiver?’ and right now the standard answer is yes because nobody has time to actually go through the process,” Anderson says. “Well, answering that question is fairly complicated because you have to ask some questions like, ‘Is it a personal or business trip, is it a personal credit card or a business credit card, and what kind of coverage do you currently have on your policy?’ So a guided decision tree conversation may ask those questions and then make a suggestion.”

Also see: How brokerages make tech spending decisions.”

Annual account review processes
Every agent knows they need to pick a time in the fiscal year to do a review of their accounts, but Anderson says many tend to wait to the last minute to do so or never get around to doing the review at all.

Through technology advancement, Anderson says an A.I. or other smart program could do this review for the agent, allowing them to use that time to make more sales for the company and not risk missing that review deadline.

“For retention, for upgrading, for up-selling, it’s a huge benefit and [not to] mention the E&O protection that it can provide back to the agency,” Anderson says.

Taking the first steps to advancement
Running through all of these possible scenarios sounds like strong positives toward using technology to grow the insurance business, but having these luxuries doesn’t come at the snap of a finger. Anderson says many agencies think the technological prowess needed to comprehend these programs is too difficult or time-consuming to put into motion.

Anderson says this is where a tech start up can come in handy to install and integrate the processes and programs into the agency’s day to day routine.

“There is a growing groundswell of innovation and programing ideas out there,” Anderson says. “In the insurance industry, we are seeing more and more of the start-ups actually looking at these types of things.”

The penalty for lacking technology
Having access to technology requires agents to have it at the tips of their fingers no matter if they are in the office, on the road or sitting on the couch at home. Anderson says if insurance agencies do not jump on the tech bandwagon, then clients will begin to question if their insurer is handling them appropriately.

“Our agents, by not embracing technology, are actually hurting themselves with clients,” Anderson says. “I think more and more clients will look at the agency that doesn’t have what is considered now standard tools like interactive website, mobile responses, maybe even ways to automate appropriately, they will ask what does the agency know about insurance if they don’t know about this [technology]?”

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