The pandemic has accelerated this change, with 42% of agents overall saying they saw an increase in commercial opportunities since the start of 2020. 48% of respondents also said their agencies have made a 180-degree turn from brick-and-mortar. mortar in virtual operations. The study surveyed 351 agents between March and April this year.

Read more: Semsee partners with Cowbell to provide cyber coverage

“Agents now see how technology can be a tool that enables them, versus something that replaces them. The survey is finally telling us that the agent is ready for technology to step in and help them take some of the hassle out of the job of them so they can serve the small business owner,” Charles-Pierre told Insurance Business.

While agents are generally comfortable with the marketing and sales technologies they use today, many recognize gaps in their digital operations. Search engine optimization (SEO), new and faster ways to gauge insurer appetite and efficiently obtaining quotes from multiple carriers were all cited as areas that needed more improvement.

Just under half (49%) of agents used SEO to grow their business. Most cited a lack of time and understanding to implement an SEO strategy.

Earning and establishing business online is also a significant barrier, with 56% of agents saying they are challenged to find a marketplace that matches their needs. Additionally, 52% said getting quotes from carriers, MGAs and wholesalers is a barrier to closing deals. For Charles-Pierre, this is an opportunity for operators to provide real-time transparency about “who does what and when.”

“In most other industries, you know the inventory in real time,” Charles-Pierre noted. He said inventory, in this case, refers to lines of business, products or risks that a carrier may or may not want to take on. “One of the interesting challenges for the industry is to help agents understand what markets are available to them, so they can understand what might be the best fit for their client.”

Opportunities for carriers

It’s not just agents who need to prepare for online change: carriers need to step up, too. The Semsee and survey showed that agents were not satisfied with carrier agent-facing technologies, with 47% rating them good and 35% giving an average score. Only 6% of agents think existing carrier platforms are great.

The problem? Lack of consistency from portal to portal, limited interaction with underwriters and no prior indication of whether operators will accept new business. More carriers need to become more “tech-friendly” to connect to different platforms, but simplifying product lines will also help make agents’ jobs easier.

“One of the things the survey talks about is that carriers need to be more transparent, faster and more agile in serving the agent,” Charles-Pierre explained. “Carriers and their products are more dynamic, changing much more frequently than before. In the past, agents could buy by memory. They knew what carriers offered, what products [were available] and about what price.”

Read more: Insurtechs – we also need agent-facing platforms

Innovative digital platforms can free agents to do more. Most respondents agree: 62% said they are looking to use a quote platform in the future, preferably one that is fast and easy to use.

“For carriers, it’s about enabling ways for the agent to not only easily get a quote, but to meet agents where they are and where they’re doing business,” said Charles-Pierre. “If carriers don’t change, they won’t be able to serve agents who need to stay flexible to meet an ever-changing market.”

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