Managed growth, organized change and balance are keys to success in today’s increasingly competitive insurance landscape. Many insurance companies and agencies rely on independent agents and agency channel partners to generate a large percentage of their revenue and customer portfolio growth. The reliance on agents will grow industry-wide, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a minimum of 10% annual growth in the agent population in the coming years.
Rapid agent population growth coupled with up to 40% yearly turnover causes recruitment and onboarding challenges. The agent onboarding process is generally mired in complexity due to corporate, regulatory and verification requirements. Cumbersome onboarding processes result in frustration and delays in moving an identified agent to revenue generation. Companies can increase new agents’ speed to market, while ensuring strict regulatory compliance, by leveraging an onboarding technology solution.
What to Look for in an Onboarding Solution
Insurance companies should explore technology solutions that offer credentialing process consolidation within a flexible framework that allows for growth and multiple simultaneous process streams. It is also important to find a robust solution that can support custom requirements, enables tracking of license and appointment expiration notifications, and incorporates document management.
When evaluating a solution, success criteria and comprehensive onboarding use cases should be defined. All workflow requirements, including the streams necessary to support different territories, states, product lines or agent classifications, should be delineated. After defining the solution framework that meets business needs, each onboarding use case should be evaluated based on the following questions:
- Will the solution allow customization to address unique situations?
- Can the solution integrate with background check and learning development systems?
- Is e-signature integrated and available to enhance every stage of the workflow?
- How long will a typical regulatory change take to put into place?
Support and Configuration
A crucial onboarding solution success factor is the initial and ongoing information technology (IT) commitment. As most insurance companies are operating with a subsistence-level IT staff, the level of involvement required from IT for solution set-up and long-term administration should be kept to a minimum. A solution should allow marketing and operation users to manage routine updates and changes as business needs evolve.
A strong onboarding solution provides robust customization capabilities and a strong built-in feature set. Capabilities should include seamless support for managing changing regulations and contract terms, as well as the flexibility to match newly defined business requirements to new or enhanced process flows. A system should also include correspondence features for sending out legal notices, advisories, or contract term updates.
Ease of Use
When the insurance carrier is onboarding an agent, it should not forget that in some cases, this may be the first time this agent has interacted with the carrier. This impression the agent gets becomes critical in this very competitive landscape. Agents often evaluate ease of interaction in addition to an insurance company’s compensation structure when ranking their preferred providers.
Establishing a seamless, easy-to-use onboarding process creates a strong foundation for future interactions and sales. The ideal onboarding solution presents a simple, intuitive interface to agents, instead of a complex website filled with pages of forms to complete. Simpler is better in this case, and with an integrated solution, insurance companies can eliminate multiple agent ID numbers across systems and minimize data-entry errors by allowing agents to simply verify information rather than entering the data from scratch. This impression carries forward when working with agencies also.
Operating an onboarding solution in a cloud-based environment, rather than a self-hosted solution, is a key decision point. Cloud solutions offer companies access to ongoing feature enhancements, integrations into other vertically-aligned products, and a built-in support network. Adopters of cloud-based software suites often find economies and enhancements in data management and reporting, and efficiencies in streamlining processes. Additionally, cloud-based solutions typically allow companies to pick and choose the features and products that meet their current needs, while maintaining access to a wider suite of options to support their future growth.
The Bottom Line on Onboarding Technology
With the right onboarding solution, insurance companies can ensure adherence to regulations while reducing barriers to sales for new agents. Increased speed and enhanced efficiencies translate to decreased costs and revenue gains. An efficient, effective solution creates a good impression with partners and drives momentum, helping companies cope with industry growth and manage agent turnover. A robust onboarding solution is one of the keys to gaining a competitive edge in the increasingly complex and competitive insurance market.
Dean Hodge is the vice president of insurance products for CallidusCloud, where he is responsible for product development, implementation and support for the insurance vertical. Dean holds four patents and has had over 29 years of experience in product development, organizational change, driving technology vision and software delivery while working at diverse organizations such as CSC, Motorola, insurance companies, and government organizations.