The Advisory Career

Practice Management: Automation Integration

Increasing advisor adoption of technology across distribution channels

by Jim Ferrell

Mr. Ferrell is Vice President of Product Management at Insurance Technologies and leads development of the company’s FireLight® product. He can be reached at

Although agent adoption of technology is gaining steam, many in the insurance industry are wondering how technology adoption can be taken a step further toward technology truly being part of agents’ sales behavior. How can we as an industry build upon existing automation investments and how can we influence behavioral change in the distribution channels that remain paper based?

The answer lies in providing enough value to the end user to drive the desired change. Simply having in-good-order submissions, faster commission payments and cost savings associated with paper based processing is no longer compelling enough to drive the desired widespread change in agent behavior. These once desired values are viewed today as baseline requirements in automated business processing platforms. To encourage end user adoption and influence behavior change, there must be additional values for the end user that are delivered at a price point that enables successful ROI implementations for the home office.

Know your targets

In order to broaden automation adoption across multiple distribution channels, we must first understand what motivates and drives each target audience. After evaluating the unique focus of different agent/channels, it is apparent that the main common universal truth is that agents do not place value in how business is actually processed, but rather how efficiently they can process sales. Agents are not concerned with how the business is being processed unless there is an issue in the process that impacts sales or client relationships. This means that agents will continue to use paper forms over automated electronic forms if it avoids business processing issues that negatively impact their clients.

...the main common universal truth is that agents do not place value in how business is actually processed, but rather how efficiently they can process sales

Thus, the real question is: What values must be provided to entice the agent to migrate to digital forms and adopt an alternative automated approach to processing business?

With the existing value propositions of in good order, faster commissions and elimination of paper processing cost as baseline requirements, automated business processing must begin to take into account the complete business picture and not simply focus on the business requirements of automating business submissions. The technology must meet the end user where they are or want to be.

For example, a sales agent armed with a form and a pen has the flexibility to engage with a client anywhere at any time. If technology handcuffs agents to a desk or an Internet connection, this does not meet the agent where they already are, or more importantly, where they need to be. When technology is reliant upon an Internet connection and the agent is unable to connect while meeting with a client, the technology is prohibiting the agent from doing their job effectively, inadvertently influencing the agent to revert back to the way they know how to process business—in this case with paper.

Meeting agents where they are is a key to securing their acceptance of new technology. Today’s automation must deliver sales processing benefits and added abilities. These include supporting tablet devices while leveraging a single business process across devices, disconnected support for anytime business processing, multiple electronic signature capture capabilities and automated payment processing. This will make a real positive impact in an agent’s ability to conduct business. In addition, providing an intuitive process without the heavy burden of training and learning curve is an absolute requirement. By leveraging existing carrier forms that agents are familiar with, an automation solution can be simple for agents to adapt and adopt.

A process providing these additional end user values, while at the same time meeting the end user where they already are, presents a solution that drives behavioral change. It provides significant values to agents that they did not know could make a positive imprint on their sales and client relationships.