In the modern era of agency management, many businesses wonder if going virtual is right for them. As social distancing and online shopping become the norm in today’s life, insurance agents are discovering that they can save money and attract talent when they work from home.However, setting up a virtual insurance business requires more than just making sure each member of your team has a laptop to work from home. It takes a shift in mindset, management, and tools to make it successful. Those who don’t adequately prepare may find that they waste valuable time and resources trying to be efficient.
Read on to find out why you should consider adopting an online model as an independent agent, and tips for finding success running a virtual insurance agency.
HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT AS A VIRTUAL INSURANCE AGENCY
Many agencies are finding that offering insurance services virtually instead of from an office has improved their bottom line for multiple reasons.
Finding quality talent can be a struggle for many independent insurance agencies. In fact, one survey of managers found that 62% were forced to create a more flexible workforce because of a lack of talent in their area, especially good sales agents. Remote work opens up the talent pool of workers to choose from for your business. If you are in a rural area, you can hire talent that prefers to live in the city. Likewise, agencies based in the city can allow their full time workers to take advantage of the lower cost of living outside the city.
Beyond a wider talent pool, virtual work is a powerful advantage for many workers. If you state in your job alerts that you are hiring remotely, you will be more likely to get applications from the top talent. In one survey, two-thirds of the respondents stated they would take a new job if the commute were better. The same study found that 36% said they would even consider it over a pay raise.
Companies that hire virtual workers experience an increase in diversity, which can have a powerful effect on your overall business. One 2018 study found that ethnically and culturally diverse teams were 33% more profitable than ones who are not. Virtual work helps undo the unconscious bias and eliminate barriers that may keep your business from achieving diversity.
"Virtual teams also end up being both more productive and loyal than those in an office setting."
The office setting can be distracting, while working from home has fewer interruptions and happier workers, which adds up to about 20-25% more productivity.
Hiring and training new talent can also become a significant drain on resources. It takes time and expense for agents to acquire the necessary insurance license, for example, before they can start working in life and health insurance sales. Almost 95% of companies surveyed found that remote talent improved their retention rates. Better retention not only means less money spent recruiting but a more experienced staff that can create a better customer experience.
Beyond better talent, agencies can save on overhead by moving virtual. Rent, utilities, and other location-related expenses can be a big drain for businesses. Even when accounting for the increase in software and IT expenses, most agencies still find that their total costs are lowered.
Agencies can find even more savings when they decide to go virtual. Outsourcing their insurance customer service, for example, allows agencies to provide a quality customer experience while lowering expenses.
TIPS FOR RUNNING AN EFFECTIVE VIRTUAL AGENCY
While there is a clear advantage when running a virtual insurance agency, it required working differently than a traditional agency. Here are some tips to make sure you are working as effectively as possible.
STOP MANAGING FOR ACTIVITY AND MANAGE FOR OUTCOME
The issue that many agencies run into is how to manage remote workers effectively. A remote team requires different oversight and outreach than in-office. Leadership can simply walk around and see that everyone is working to make sure they are doing their job. An online team, though, requires understanding the outcomes of their work to improve effectiveness.
For sales and producers, monitoring outcome is straightforward. You can check their sales quota to make sure they are on target. You can even use the data to better segment sales and reward those with better commissions and fees - say, how many property/casualty sales vs homeowners’
For your customer service team, though, it can get more complicated. It means investing in tools to track the quality and quantity of customer communication.
"Also, customer surveys are essential for online oversight."
You can get the customer’s perspective to make sure that your team creates the right experience.
LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO MANAGE YOUR TEAM’S SUCCESS
When you work virtually, communication is essential. Being able to chat virtually not only ensures that tasks are completed promptly but maintains company culture as well. You’ll need tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack to ensure that everyone can communicate in real-time.
Video conferencing is another critical aspect of communication. Zoom is a popular option, but there are others if that doesn’t work for you or your team. UberConference and Google Meet both offer high-quality video conferencing tools.
If you don’t have Agency Management Software (AMS), now is the time to get it. It keeps all of your information in one convenient location for better communication, insights, and more. An AMS is specifically geared to handle the unique needs of a virtual insurance agency.
For marketing and sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software will also be a valuable tool. Salesforce and HubSpot are excellent tools, no matter what your agency size.
SHIFT TO A VIRTUAL MARKETING MODEL
Marketing for a virtual business requires a different approach than in-person insurance services.
"You have to stop thinking locally and start thinking about a niche that you can target instead."
It can be broken down by a target market, such as new parents or soon-to-be-retirees, or a specific type of insurance, such as health insurance or life insurance.
Cultivate your online presence to reflect your niche and expertise. It takes significant time and resources to create an online reputation and attract the right prospects. Share articles and information that is relevant to your followers, whether about insurance carriers and related information, or general information not about insurance that would interest your target audience. Create social media pages, develop a blog, and videos so your prospects see you as an authority figure they can trust.
CREATE A STRONG VIRTUAL INSURANCE AGENCY
Virtual agencies can be a profitable agency model if you know how to do it right, and insurance companies are starting to reward early adopters. Expert help can ensure that your business succeeds. If you want to talk about your specific situation with one of our experts or me, let's connect.
Always keen on helping others make their dreams come true, Tony and his team have helped independent agents grow into more than 250 independent agencies. This has made OAA the number one ranked Strategic Master Agency of SIAA for the last 5 years, and one of Oklahoma's 25 Best Companies to Work for.
Tony loves to share his knowledge, insight and wisdom through his bestselling books as well as in free mediums including podcasts and blogs.
Tony and his family are members of Crossings Community Church, and he is very active in community initiatives: he’s chairman of It’s My Community Initiative, Inc., a nonprofit working with disadvantaged people in Oklahoma City; and chairman of the Oklahoma Board of Juvenile Affairs., and he has served through many other organizations including the Salvation Army, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Rotary Club.
In his spare time, Tony enjoys time with his family. He’s also an active outdoorsman and instrument-rated commercial pilot.