Knowledge Center

Knowledge Center Items Podcast Episode 18

Do You Have All the Tech You Need to be More Efficient?

Published on

There's actually a good chance that you do. 

Everything from electronic signatures to online quoting has been around for a while now. 

It's the rate of adoption and sense of urgency that's been a mixed bag across the industry. 

Now that you're left with very few alternatives, efficient discoveries are being made at an astounding rate. 

Steve Anderson, Author of The Bezos Letters and President of The Anderson Network, talks about the efficient methods you've had at your fingertips all along.

For more Change Insurance episodes, click here.

Full Episode Transcript

Joey Giangola: Mr. Steve Anderson, how are you doing today, sir?

Steve Anderson: I'm doing great, Joey. How about you?

Joey Giangola: I'm doing all right, I'm doing all right. So I want to know something before we really dive in and I guess this might be somewhat related at some point but what piece of technology have you found that was maybe underrated before that has become maybe vital to you recently that you just, you're finding it more and more useful every day now that you're kind of around it maybe more frequently?

Steve Anderson: Oh, several things come to mind. Probably given the last few months and the amount of, for most people at least, work from home. Fortunately I have a small office that I can go hide in but is a service, kind of machine learning base called, which is a microphone replacement that monitors both microphone and audio and drops out background noise in real time.

Joey Giangola: I've seen it, there's been a flurry of those types of applications come across my radar-

Steve Anderson: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: In the last, I mean it seems like over the last four or five weeks, maybe two months tops.

Steve Anderson: Yep.

Joey Giangola: I guess the bottom line, Steve, give me your thoughts. Background noise is no longer going to be an issue really in any sort of communication tool here very soon I would guess.

Steve Anderson: I think people are getting more accustomed to that being an issue. I think it's always been an issue and the more you can not have those distractions I think the better off you are. The nice thing about Krisp is it's been around a while so it's not actually new so they've got some kind of legs under them and continue to develop it. Anyway, that's just as I would say a minor piece but if you've got kids in the background that might be something worth looking into. Kids, dogs, trains, who knows, right?

Joey Giangola: I've been surprised at how accurate some of the demonstrations I've seen with some of the different tools. How it just, it's remarkable how well it cuts that stuff out and you're like, "Well where was this before?" How long has the Krisp thing been around? You said it's not-

Steve Anderson: I'd have to look. It's been, I don't remember. Probably last year.

Joey Giangola: Still longer than, yeah.

Steve Anderson: But obviously they've gotten a lot more people interested given the different environments people are working in now.

Joey Giangola: What about, let's shift gears a little bit. What about on the insurance technology side? What is going on in that world? What are you seeing? What's happening in terms of things that maybe are underrated and now becoming more extremely valuable and useful in this environment?

Steve Anderson: Probably a couple things. So it's hard to say underrated. I think again, electronic signature platforms and various types. How do I say this? Agents who didn't think they need it needed that.

Joey Giangola: Yeah.

Steve Anderson: Have been forced in many ways. I kind of feel that way about just Zoom and other communication platforms and again, that's not insurance specific. I think looking at some of the vendors that maybe have been out there for a little while, so looking at online quoting, let's say. Again, been out there a while. Agents have been more forced to think, "Maybe I need to do this," and kind of get over that, "We've never done it that way," type of mentality. So I would say more from a maybe not new stuff I'm seeing to stuff that's been out there a little bit getting a bit more noticed and the benefits of moving that way.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, the online quoting is definitely one of those things that has been around for a while but for whatever reason has been in some circles vilified, others just ignored and some embraced.

Steve Anderson: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: Is there a reasoning that you think that it's taken something like this to push the envelope and maybe what is that thing right now that we're looking at with sort of similar, disdains a strong word, but what's that thing that is sort of maybe staring us in the face that we're treating like online quoting platforms?

Steve Anderson: Give me a little more. I'm not quite sure I understand your question.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, I mean, so if agents are struggling to adopt online quoting without sort of a dramatic push or a very violent nudge, if you will, there's probably something right now sitting to the right and to the left in terms of technology that's on the horizon that's kind of there in front of us. Do you see something that is potentially has a similar chance to not be adopted as quickly, as vibrantly as maybe it should be right now that we have at our disposal?

Steve Anderson: I mean a few things come to mind just in terms of stuff I've talked about actually for quite a long time and agents have kind of said, "I'm successful." I love this one, "My clients don't want it." Be it a client portal, one agent I saw just Zoom, right, what we're using here and a comment was interested in that he said, "Well we got Zoom. I thought it was going to be temporary but it looks like it's turned into being vital." I think that shift in mindset of adoption or willingness to learn how to do something new and different. It's still connection, we're looking at each other. It's not the exact same as being in the same physical room together but it's pretty darn close. I think this attitude that, "People still want to see me," I think maybe that is changing. So now more of an openness to trying new things. Be it Zoom video, be it video emails, be it video proposals, be it ... Right? All kinds of different things like that.

Joey Giangola: Steve, you definitely have experience in the game, in the industry. Was there a moment that sort of flipped the switch for you in terms of like, "I got to keep up with this?" Or was it just sort of a natural thing that was built into being interested, right? Because so many people new or old in the industry, they kind of get stuck in their ways but you've just kind of continually just looked for new opportunities, right?

Steve Anderson: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: Was there a moment that just kind of everything clicked for you?

Steve Anderson: I wouldn't say it's a moment. I would say it's a mindset I have. My LinkedIn summary starts out with, "I'm a very curious person so I like learning new things." Obviously technology there's always something new to learn. Even over the last, I would say what now? Two, three, four weeks, you talk about new technology so let me give you an example that I'm actually really interested in and I think it could have some really interesting implications for agencies of all types. Amazon Web Services announced a new service, a new platform called Honey Code. Like Honey, sweet, and code, C-O-D-E.

Basically it's a no programming platform that allows you to design a web and mobile application and it literally is based on Excel. So if you know Excel at all you will be able to develop your own web app and or mobile, IOS and Android apps. Let me give you one idea. A lot of agencies have a checklist that they have producers go through with specific questions to determine, "Is this really a prospect?" Right? Or the guy's twice a week golfing buddy is the insurance agent so what's the likelihood you're going to be able to break that relationship and take over that account? That could be a phone, web app that captures that information and allows it to be moved anywhere.

That is not something that agents would normally think about in terms of, "Oh, I've got to go to a vendor to get something." Not, "I can develop it myself." I think that's one of the things that's changing. I called that the democratization of programming. Meaning, it's becoming available to anybody who has some creativity and or, here's a key point, it's not, "How can I do this," but, "Who can I find to do it for me?" Is there somebody in the agency? Is it our internet? Is there somebody else that can? Here's an idea, we're using Excel spreadsheets to capture all this information, why not put that into an app that becomes now available anywhere?

 That would be something new.

Joey Giangola: It's definitely lowering the barrier for entry.

Steve Anderson: Yep.

Joey Giangola: Just like you said, it's reducing the amount of skills you need to even proceed forward. I mean, because at the very least if you just took those spreadsheets that you were using and just put them in, kind of transferred them over, it's going to be a better experience for that customer to get it as opposed to just sending them an ugly spreadsheet.

Steve Anderson: Customers, staff, literally my comment was if you're using spreadsheets to capture information, you literally can import that spreadsheet into the platform. It will start creating and then you can do relationships and you can go kind of as far as you want but one, it takes some kind of creativity. One, it takes a willingness to experiment and some time to figure it out but how much better would that be than trying to rely on a vendor to create something for you? To me, that's exciting.

Joey Giangola: Yeah and you mentioned the willingness and maybe the just kind of embracing opportunity. I want to get back to that real quick. Do you think that it's kind of forced agencies to look at the efficiency of the way that they were doing business? You'd mentioned Zoom was something that maybe they were uncomfortable with but they can do twice as many Zoom calls or three times or four times as many Zoom calls.

Steve Anderson: Right.

Joey Giangola: It's almost become its own phrase now, than actually getting out with the face to face but it's still, my experience is I've always worked from home so this isn't really anything new for me but there will be those moments I think that we'll come up against a point where we do need that sort of pilgrimage at certain frequencies, right? To just sort of solidify certain relationships.

Steve Anderson: Yep.

Joey Giangola: Do you think that, how are we going to navigate those sort of times where maybe we've fully adjusted, adopted, whatever, but then at some point it's like, what do we do? What's that thing to really solidify the relationship now to take it to that next level? Is technology going to offer a solution or do you think things will eventually get back to somewhat of a business as usual?

Steve Anderson: I would say it's a combination of both. I think there'll be some of that business as usual. I miss going to places and seeing people and talking and I mean, there is a dynamic there that's much more difficult to recreate online. We've all been experiencing virtual conferences or whatever that might be so I do think that. And I think part of what's happening there, too, is rethinking what a virtual conference might actually look like and I participated in a couple that were trying to kind of bridge that gap between the two. Will we go back to the way things were? Probably not. Will we be completely virtual? Probably not.

I think there will be, we will come at some point to a equilibrium or a balance there of in person and online virtual, whatever that is.

Joey Giangola: What's the most interesting or I guess maybe effective/efficient thing you've seen from the insurance space in terms of making this adjustment from a technology standpoint. Has there been something that's stood out to you and said, "Oh, wow, I didn't think that we would see something like this?" Even this soon, maybe?

Steve Anderson: A couple thoughts come to mind. One is those agencies that did invest and at least make moves towards kind of digital agency, whatever you want to define that as, part of what's come to mind is a LinkedIn post I saw. This is probably two months at least, kind of early on when we were all going remote and the post on LinkedIn was, "Don't call our agency. My staff isn't here and we don't have access to your files." I saved it. I mean, I did a screen capture on it because it was just like, "Oh my gosh. How can you think that way today?" That was really sort of a dramatic example of being prepared and not being prepared, right?

Being able to take care of your customers and not. I think it's worked much better for the majority of agents than anybody ever thought. Now again, is it sustainable longterm? Meaning getting rid of offices? I actually don't think that's the case because you sort of mentioned, there is a point of connecting together, whatever that looks like. Even frankly just who's going to open the mail, right? Some simple things like that, that there still needs to be, at least temporarily. I actually think the Postal Service, I don't think it's available for businesses but for individuals, the Postal Service has a service that they scan your mail so you can see the outside of the envelope for what's coming. So you know.

Again, I think we're seeing al kinds of potential opportunities there for thinking differently about how we do things and when you're forced to think differently you actually can get pretty creative.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, the creativity is definitely something that has been interesting, maybe surprising to see over the course of time. In terms of what's on your radar, is there something that you think should be bigger than it is or that it's its time now, right? Conditions have kind of put themselves together to where we've been talking about it, you might have been talking about it for years. Is there something that has kind of bubbled up to the top of that list that you think, "Hey listen, this is the thing that we need to be looking at now?"

Steve Anderson: Well again, one thing that comes to mind is the small commercial space and so I feel like I'm seeing a different change in the ability for agencies to use quoting platforms for small commercial. Historically that's been personal lines, right? Auto, home, that's been around a long time. Small commercial hasn't but I feel like there's several startup type firms that are looking to tackle that problem and I think for the typical property and casualty agency, that's going to be a real benefit and a real boom for them because the worst part about dealing with those small accounts is getting a quote and the amount of time and resources and effort it takes to do that. If that can be streamlined then that business is a great business in terms of retention, claims, typically claims are less if agencies can be more efficient in actually getting a quote and writing that business.

That I see several platforms are working on that. I see a different mindset opening up more in the insurance company side to allow that to take place and is a great example of what can happen when carriers open up their quoting systems through APIs and web access to allow agencies to streamline that variant. What historically has been a very cumbersome process.

Joey Giangola:  I'm glad you brought up the small commercial quoting because that's something we definitely agree on, Steve. It's something that, like you said, has maybe gone untapped. What's the hesitation do you think from the agency perspective? Just a lack of reliability? It's just something they didn't think they needed? Now it's obviously gotten to the point where it, in a lot of cases, can be done in just a couple minutes. What do you think was the holdup and what do you think is going to be that propellant moving forward to kind of continue?

Steve Anderson: From my perspective I would say the holdup is more on the carrier side than the agency side, meaning again, personal lines, direct access to the carrier quoting engine, which is really what you need these days as opposed to the old manufactured rates and in small commercial, the dataset is way different than a homeowners or a personal auto. Meaning the number of questions and if I answer, "Yes," to this question then that leads to more questions. That on the carrier site you learn how to go through that and what kind of the friction points are to get those questions done but the problem is I have to do that on every individual carrier site versus being able to answer those questions one time, go out, get that rate, bring it back. I would say where I think there's a difference in the provider mindset, meaning the platforms, is more of an effort to not just show price but show coverage differences.

One of my biggest, what's the right word? Problems with personal lines rating platforms is they always show price first so that almost forces the agency to sell on price, not on, "Hey yeah I know Chub's a little bit more expensive but here are a couple of areas where it may be worth it." Versus, "I can save you," or, "Here's the cheapest price," even though the claim service or the coverages aren't as good as another option that might be better.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, that's always been sort of the sticking point is how do you effectively communicate those policy differences from carrier to carrier and to let the agent know to then communicate to their client. What do you think is maybe the biggest communication point? I guess maybe the translation point in there that is maybe missed? Obviously putting price up front is a big roadblock but if you had to create sort of in a perfect world sort of the simplified terms you would use or think from a high level that an agent should be focused on seeing to compare those coverages? How can we make it simple to understand those coverage differences and still maintain efficiency and effectiveness?

Steve Anderson: Well and I think that's where, so I am an advocate of online quoting, letting the consumer, business owner go in, put in their information, get some indications but I think that's kind of where then it transfers back to a well educated professional agent who can talk about coverage differences. Can we automate some of that? Yes, I think we can but there is still that ... In fact, I'm trying to think and I'm probably, I'm not going to say the name because I can't remember it exactly but a online direct to consumer post on a platform, CEO posted on LinkedIn something to the effect of, "This is the start of my apology tour." And basically went on to say consumers, if you're with them at the point of their need when looking at insurance you need to deal with agents.

I see that as a trend certainly on the personal lines, direct to consumer platforms where they're opening up their tools, which actually are pretty good to agents to be able to use to streamline that process and provide that advice that agents are known for. That's just an interesting shift in mindset and I think understanding.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, that's definitely another big change that we saw in the industry over the last, I don't know, what would you say? Maybe year and a half, two years?

Steve Anderson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joey Giangola: To where a lot of the big, "Hey, we're going to destroy the independent agent. We're coming for you." Now it's like, "Eh, well maybe we got ahead of ourselves. [crosstalk] you guys, let's just, can we have a conversation?" What do you think was it, I mean obviously let's just assume it's their ability to attract business or effectively communicate to that business. Was there something maybe larger at play? What is sort of this mindset shift that's happening and is this something that's kind of here to stay?

Steve Anderson:               I go back and I could look it up but probably five, six, seven, maybe 10 years when I was talking about consumers and again, I use consumers both personal, right, but also business owners are consumers, and their move to online being the first place they go but the numbers just never indicated over the years that they actually finished the process online. They started, right? So you've heard that, I've heard that, it's still true and wanting, I think there is an inherent understanding that covering your business, your home, your car, is a bigger financial decision than obviously buying something on Amazon. So having that availability and convenience of being able to go online and get information there and then hand it off, I think those friction points are better handled today than ever. I think maybe that is one thing that's changing and being able to talk to somebody who is knowledgeable about the insurance issues, coverages, questions, et cetera and really people are looking for advice. What's best?

Joey Giangola: All right, Steve. I got two more questions for you. If we wanted to kind of zero in on your sort of particular experience across the industry, if you want to look back, where do you see things kind of going? Where's your excitement looking forward maybe a couple years down the road? What should we be paying attention to now so we don't miss it? So we're ready for it? So we're not just kind of ignoring it when it does get here? What's that thing that we need to kind of write down and kind of keep an eye out for?

Steve Anderson: First thing that comes to mind is insurance carriers being more willing to open up their platforms to allow agencies to create, kind of back to that democratization of programming, allowing agents to create their own unique platforms, connect into the carrier systems in a common and seamless way so that agents can become more unique, either in niche markets or in processes and I think one of the things that I feel like I'm seeing is a lot more agency owners either buying into, taking over from parents with a different level of excitement about the industry and a willingness to experiment. This is kind of a theme for me over the last couple of years is that when we talk about innovation, certainly in the industry there's lots of talk about innovation, I think we have it backwards.

Our industry doesn't need more innovation. They need more experimentation because experimentation leads to invention and only then once you've invented something new can you innovate, change it, update it and so I hope we are creating agency owners, staff mindset of being creative and inventive and I'm going to steal a phrase from Jeff Bezos, inventing on behalf of the customer and I believe that is a core of what has made Amazon what it is today and I think any agency can tap into that.

Joey Giangola: Well said, Steve. I've never really thought about it that way but yes, I could probably agree with that. Last question to you, sir, all right, I'm going to hand you a magic wand we'll say and this magic wand is going to allow you to, we'll say, change, nudge, shift insurance in any which direction that you kind of see fit. Where is that going? What is it doing? What's happening with that new power that you have?

Steve Anderson: I'll say what just popped into my head. I wrote an article four, five, six years ago maybe that I felt like agency management systems should be like the Apple or Google Playstore. Meaning, I can go in and maybe a little bit like Sales Force now with the App Exchange but I can go in and pick and choose the modules I want. So my phone, I have an IOS based phone but my phone is totally unique. There is no other phone in the world like this phone because of the apps I've put on it and how I have worked to use those apps to get done things the way I want to get done. I would hope that those open platforms would become commonplace. Again, whatever, you're selling life, you're selling P and C, you're selling health, whatever it is, I can put all of that stuff and pick the apps, the best of breed and CRM and the marketing platforms and all of the things that I need in order to effectively serve customers. I can pick and choose what I want and not have to pick this vendor or that vendor.

Joey Giangola: Steve, that sounds like a fantastic reality but I'm going to leave it right there. So this was a lot of fun. Thanks a lot, Steve.

Steve Anderson: Joey, a pleasure to be with you. Thanks.

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