While many brokers see the benefits of technology to help their businesses, there is also a downside - seeking information too quickly, which can lead to mistakes and misunderstandings.
Technology helps brokerages to meet their customers where they are - online. But with this Twitter, Facebook and Internet generation, clients tend to want information at such a fast pace that sometimes things get missed, says Chuck Rosen, owner of Simi Valley, Calif.-based CPR Insurance and Financial Services.
Rosen, president of the California Association of Health Underwriters, says that today everyone talks in "sound bites," and clients often believe at face value what they read on the Internet, which can contain false or misleading information. Additionally, it's easy to get insurance quotes by plugging in basic information online, but that can be misleading as well, as it may not provide what the consumer really needs or wants.
"Sometimes people use technology so much that I think they use it as a crutch without talking to their adviser [first], so their adviser can really advise them about the caveats of whatever they are looking at," he says.
Rosen adds that many clients get quotes on the Internet, and then are upset when a quote from him is not the same. He often must explain some of the things they might not see from the Internet quote.
"They make [rash] decisions sometimes," he says. "Customers are demanding information so quickly, but I also think technology scares some clients."
These actions will come into play further along as health care exchanges take shape, he adds. California has one of the most developed exchanges in the country and Rosen says many consumers think of the exchange as an Amazon or Expedia for health care. "I can tell you from experience, it's not going to work that way," he says.
Many brokerages are also seeking data to help reduce costs, but sometimes they demand it so quickly that the information is wrong, says Mike Wheeler, director of data governance solutions at data management software company Kalido in Burlington, Mass. He says there is often a blind reliance on the data that comes in with an unknown level of quality.
"Having wrong data at your fingertips is worse than having data quickly," he warns. "Those risks include incorrect or incomplete data which causes a false sense of security ... or sometimes, counterproductively, it causes the need to go out and verify data that is now in hand."
Many brokerages, he says, have received so much wrong data that they have internal office processes to validate the data, "which takes more time out of the day."
Good, strong data also helps increase profits. "Getting more out of the investments you already made, a number of data analysts are able to accomplish more with the same level of investment," Wheeler says. "So while there may not be a direct revenue increase, you are seeing more productivity in general."
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