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9 Key Questions Insurance Agents Need to Ask Themselves About Big Data

Posted on September 13, 2016 by Joyce Sigler in Digital Insurer

big data web analytics vertafore technology modern insurance agent independent

Data, data, data everywhere…

Big data figures are astonishing when you start looking at the volume of data insurers collect. The trends, predictions, and the resulting analysis can be overwhelming – but nonetheless, big data is creating opportunities for companies in every industry and allowing those with the right tools in place to carve out a competitive advantage.

The question is: are you USING big data?

Either you’re using it knowingly (and making it work for you!) or it’s using you (unknowingly).

But the reality of big data is that it can become invisible – unseen, but not unfelt in an insurance agency. The consequences of big data can be as simple as an explanation of a new kind for your insureds that’s now 100% necessary, yet never was in the past. How does an agency explain to an unknowing applicant that we can or can’t write their coverage because big data has found they haven’t paid the unearned premiums on their last policy outside of your agency? Consumers are JUST starting to realize that they’re all statistics in one way or another in the big data analytic collections. Imagine yourself in a conversation as a customer of an agency whose carrier is giving a nice discount for Company A because they have an “internet of things” thermostat and Company B and Company C are not recognizing those monitored benefits presently. 

When I think about disruption and the insurance industry, there are many times when agencies are force to change the way they think about their business and “this is what we have to do” becomes “this is what we MUST do in order to get the job done.” If we don’t have eyes on the really big important rocks, the “this is happening and this will affect us” changes in the industry, we may be left to catch up to our competitors. If we (agencies) can start to position ourselves differently by thinking strategically about the challenges and opportunities big data will bring, we start to gain ground and allow the conversation around big data to become a useful tool in our agency growth toolbox instead of just another piece of complexity.

Managing Internal and External Stakeholders in Your Insurance Business

Let’s take a peek into the WHY we must change the way our employees (internal) think about big data and prepare for the changes in our customers' (external) habits as a result of their ever-increasing interaction with a connected, data-driven world. Are we “seeing” what is happening around us? For example, statistically, it’s proven that mobility and access are key desires to today's buyers. If your site is easy to use, folks will use it. Is your mobility enhanced? Do you make it easy for customers to communicate with you from their mobile phone?   

Do you know WHO your customers are? What about the customers who not only need, but demand different ways of communicating with you?  Is that market segment moving on because you haven’t reacted? Big Data disruption isn’t just outside your business, it's within your organization as you realize that in order to serve your clients, your own staff needs training to accept and adopt new and different touchpoints. 

Customer Data Touches Much More Than Our Database

When you look at the volume of data contributing to the changes we're seeing in the insurance industry, you can’t forget to look at all the connecting points that insurance touches. Insurance is NOT an island on its own; the insurance for ‘Customer Jones’ is connected to his banking, a web payment plan elsewhere, their travel apps on that smartphone, and to the state-dependent insurance requirements. While we, as agencies, can’t determine the timing for adoption of big data externally, we can have our eyes wide open to our processes and take charge of data changes. Something as simple as submitting an application is now subject to the influence of big data from automated underwriting, to identification of risk, and identification of your potential or renewing client. Client-facing changes, such as how we look at risks, are resulting from data that can be streaming from the “internet of things (IOT)”; things such as wristbands that are feeding health information and thermostats that are streaming indications of risks, all of which have never before been available for consideration.

9 Key Questions You Need to Consider When it Comes to Big Data

Awareness and preparation are key to realizing gains in the way the insurance industry is looking at data and adopting and changing valuation factors; both from a client facing and agency facing perspective. Carriers now are looking at agencies and how they are positioning themselves to adopt social media, website/SEO stats, and other data figures that contribute positively to the agency’s future and bottom line. Such as: whether agencies are found on web searches and if agencies have business plans; two of many new evaluation points that loom over principals today. The technology bust in the insurance industry is driving many aspects that have never been considered before. Looking at, evaluating, positioning, and choosing business partnerships well has never been more important than now as data is a larger part of shaping the independent agent destiny. Big data will continue to grow and evolve as will adoption with carriers, vendors, customer, financial institutions, and even governmental entities.

As you think about WHERE WILL YOU BE IN FIVE YEARS here are 9 questions to consider:

HOW are your carriers are looking at big data for customers?

WHAT does your carrier look at for your agency?

WHAT plans do your carriers have in offerings using big data analysis?

WHEN will your carriers be changing underwriting because of data and statistical elements?

WHAT and WHEN will those changes drive how your agency changes internally and externally?

HOW will you transition with your various carrier and vendor partners?

WHAT is the rate of change…months or years?

HOW quickly can vendors turn around software developments? Is this a key element for consideration as you choose the key partners that are going to move you forward?

WHY is technology changing… is there a transparency with your vendors that is educating you on growing trends and needs for your agency growth?

Notice there are no IF’s in those statements… Are you thinking today, tomorrow, or futuristic? Big Data is happening around us. We’re all statistical points that are changing our relationships, shaping our customer needs and mandating the MUST HAVE needed changes to succeed.  

I don’t have all the answers to the nine questions I posed above, and you don’t have to have them figured out by the end of the week either. The important thing is that you’re starting to ask yourself the tough questions and think strategically about how to grow your insurance agency in the midst of disruption. Keep educating yourself! And start here, with Vertafore’s latest e-book on big data analytics:

Moving Your Business Forward with Data Analytics: Strategies and solutions to help companies of all sizes derive big value from big data


joyce sigler bio indepedent agent producer principle

Joyce E. Sigler, CISR, CPIW,  CPIA, NcAM, NcIA, NcSA
Vice President
Jones & Wenner Ins. Agency, Inc.

Joyce is active throughout the industry, speaking, teaching, volunteering and chairing a number of committees at National, Regional and Local levels.  Currently co-chair of the Real Time/Download Campaign  as well as a number of committees for NetVU.  Joyce is also active in a number of NetVU, Vertafore, ACT/AUGIE and ACORD workgroups and industry projects.




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