Disruption is changing the insurance industry at a rapid pace, and with that, comes the ability for improved productivity, better transparency, and improved bottom lines. John Harrold, Vice President of Insurance Office of America and insurance producer, is familiar with the industry’s rapid changes and encourages those within it to embrace those opportunities.
Insurtech is a fast-growing component of the industry. It is also one of the most controversial aspects of the rapidly changing tech world – can insurance companies really employ technology that speeds up service and uses things like artificial intelligence and intuitiveness – to reach customers more effectively and efficiently? John Harrold and the company itself recognize there is an important balance to be met here. They believe that new technology, which is moving into the industry rapidly, could help companies stand out.
Technology is changing virtually every industry in some way. Organizations embracing it are growing at a record-breaking pace. The insurance industry could see some of those benefits if it embraces technology fully. While that is starting to happen, it has not always been that way. In fact, change in the industry has been downright slow.
Resistance to change can be due to the fast pace in a risk-averse industry. Sometimes, change is difficult and costly, and involves a myriad of moving parts for these larger, complex companies. Change and evolution can be powerful, though. Heath Ritenour, who is the Chairman and CEO of Insurance Office of America, recently pondered the slow move to innovation in the industry, stating “I guess the reasoning, frankly, was, it isn’t broken, they were profitable, they were making money.”
While this may be the case, there are still significant downsides to not evolving. For large insurance companies, a big part of that is poor customer experience. Insurance companies routinely ask their customers to provide incredible amounts of information – but that information is already readily available without asking a myriad of questions. More so, the process of obtaining insurance is far more complex than it has to be, thanks to available technology and resources.
The views shared by Heath are mirrored by long-time producer John Harrold of Insurance Office of America as well. That includes the need and opportunities that disruption of the industry can bring.
As technology infiltrates the industry more so, the most likely group to benefit will be customers. Improving the process of purchasing insurance, which is easily considered difficult now, enables the consumer to benefit from a better investment. Removing the friction in the buying process ensures customers get a better product.
Implementing change using insurance technology doesn’t have to be difficult or hard to manage. It just needs to be implemented soon.
Here’s a simple example, according to a recent interview with Insurance Office of America. When a consumer wants to purchase homeowner’s insurance, he or she has to answer about 70 questions. For an auto insurance application, they have to answer about 50. Then, depending on the answers to those questions, additional questions come up. That makes the process that much longer.
What Insurance Office of America is doing is changing that up, eliminating the cumbersome nature of the traditional process. The user provides their name and date of birth to the system. Then, the technology automatically pulls up the home that they live in, their address, the year it was built, and other data – from when the roof was put on to when the plumbing was updated. For vehicles, the VIN is provided, and the history of the car is then sourced automatically.
All of that information is displayed. The consumer needs to simply check “yes” if it is accurate. That takes a few minutes compared to the hour or more of filling out answers to questions. They instantly have access to bindable options to choose from, including options from the largest carriers. They can do this from their phone in about three minutes.
Some in the industry worry about automation like this. To them, the process is very much about the insurance industry’s personal touch, being able to reach out and talk to someone about their specific needs. Is there a danger in removing that personal touch from the interactions with customers?
One way around removing that risk is by utilizing live chat, which enables people to provide information and get one-on-one support when they have a question. That gives them something to direct dial the insurance producer for more information.
One way that the company is working around this is by having live agents available to talk. If someone has a question about purchasing a higher limit policy, for example, while they are going through the process, they can use live chat features or even head to the phone to call.
Heath Ritenour previously noted, “We realized in some policies, there’s just not a whole lot of complexity to it and there’ll be a lot of consumers that don’t really need to talk to anyone. We want to meet the consumer where they are. Obviously, in 2021, much of what we purchase is able to be done online with very little interaction from people. We want to provide both options. We want to be there if they don’t feel that they need that. But we also want to be there to consult if they feel that they do.”
One of the ways John Harrold and Insurance Office of America are changing the industry is by encouraging more insurance organizations to participate in technology. There are many who simply do not want things to change. There are others leading the industry that are their competitors. This organization seems to be the ideal blend of both.
It’s true that some insurance organizations are just not ready to implement technology because they don’t want to invest in or see the change. Yet, it is critical to become educated on how to best meet the customer – if they fail to do what the customer expects and needs, that’s going to cost them in the long term. In every business, this is true. If they don’t meet the customer, it costs them money.
Insurance Office of America’s John Harrold is working to help propel technology into the insurance industry while still working to meet traditional companies’ needs and goals. Finding the right blend – and more specifically, the right level of comfort – for companies that are too big to change in utilizing technology is essential.
John Harrold believes that intuitive tech, automation, and artificial intelligence can assist insurance producers in doing their jobs – not taking away from their ability to provide a personal level of service or even eliminate positions. These technologies are already very much present in the industry by younger and more agile companies looking to capture the new consumer. Organizations that do not do this may find themselves unable to reach those customers effectively in the near future.
John Harrold and others at Insurance Office of America continue to work toward creating new opportunities for technology to reach the needs of both the insurance company’s producers while they are also working to improve customer access, experience goals, and needs.
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