As policyholders increasingly seek a seamless customer experience through all avenues of engagement,  Independent Agencies are diligently working to construct a technology stack that enhances customer satisfaction often with frustration. Although 2024 has been hailed as the “year of the Insurance Agent becoming a technologist”, IA owners continue to grappling with the feeling that the more technology they add, the more burdened by technology they become. 

A prevalent misconception is that by simply adding technology after technology to their tech stack everything will work together and solve all their pain points.  The reality is that many agencies quickly face tech fatigue trying to integrate the tech into their operations, team dynamics, and client interactions. They often change workflows or business practices to accommodate the new technology piece, which leads to inefficiencies and frustration. To compound the tech fatigue agencies sometimes adopt tech based on what worked for another agency without confirming they had the same workflows or even the same issues. 

The solution lies in consistency so you can establish a blended tech stack tailored to seamlessly align with the agency’s unique needs. This blog aims to guide you through the fundamentals of creating a blended tech stack that works harmoniously for your agency.

Step-by-Step Process Overview to Build A Blended Tech Stack

Creating an Inventory:

Start by developing a comprehensive inventory of all technology and tangible tools used in your business operations. Start a spreadsheet and start listing them out, then elaborate on how you use them to deliver service, complete a task, and to whom you use this tool with; policyholders, team members, community, etc.

Categorize them into:

  • Software: Internal Storage, Internal Communications, External Communications, Databases, Graphic Programs, Social Media & Maintenance Tools, Policyholder Facing Tools, Analytical Tools, Cyber Tools.
  • Print Materials: Identify all printed materials and the associated devices like printers, scanners, and fax machines.
  • Equipment: Scanners, Printers, Cameras, Tablets

Assess Your Needs:

Identify pain points for both your agency and policyholders. Evaluate processes related to client needs, prospecting, referrals, reviews, testimonials, quoting, servicing, renewing, upselling, and educating policyholders.

Establish Rules:

Set rules for working with as few technology dashboards as possible. Define how, when, and where team members will use technologies, ensuring minimal disruption to the current workflow. Strive for technology to work for the agency, not the other way around.

Ensure Compliance and Security:

Prioritize systems that adhere to industry regulations and security standards, considering the sensitivity of customer data.

Research and Select Core Systems:

Research and explore solutions beyond your comfort zone. Look for tools that integrate well with existing technologies. Choose core systems such as AMS, CSP, CRM software, and accounting tools that form the backbone of your tech stack. What is most critical is do the solution providers understand your key needs… do they understand agricultural issues, can they handle your commercial needs, does the information get siloed in a system creating extra work for your team? Make sure to choose technologies that can scale with the agency’s growth and offer flexibility, considering API integration and regular feature updates.

Adopt Agency Management Software (AMS):

Invest in AMS to streamline underwriting, policy issuance, renewal processes, and document transactions with policyholders. AMS serves as a foundation for connecting with other insurtech tools.

Build a Scalable Infrastructure:

Choose technologies that can scale with the agency’s growth and offer flexibility, considering API integration and regular feature updates.

API Integration Capabilities:

Here is where knowing your strengths and weaknesses is key… Do you want integrations done for you or, do you know how to customize your tech via zapiers? What might take your friend 15 minutes could take you 15 hours to accomplish and more time to teach others how to perform. This is one of the many reasons it is important to prioritize solutions with strong API integration capabilities to ensure seamless communication and data sharing between different software applications. 

Integrate Quoting and Underwriting Tools:

Explore rating tools to improve efficiency and accuracy in quoting and underwriting processes. Make sure they integrate with your website and CSP tools. Look for raters that have templates you can create to deliver consistent quotes that are branded. 

Implement CSP & CRM Systems:

Implementing a Customer Service Platform (CSP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System is crucial for optimizing client interactions and relationships in the insurance industry. It’s important to emphasize that the CRM serves as a tool for the agency to engage with clients, providing information at a specific moment in time. In contrast, the CSP complements the CRM as the platform where policyholders can take action whenever, wherever, and however they desire. The CRM serves as a reminder to users about the possibilities available to them, while the CSP is the operational space for policyholders to engage proactively.

The Customer Service Platform (CSP) serves as a comprehensive software solution designed to manage and enhance customer interactions throughout their lifecycle. It provides instant access to policy information, convenient channels for engagement, and seamless integration with Agency Management Systems (AMS) and other insurtech tools via 2-way API integration. An excellent example of a CSP with 2-way API capabilities is the Insurance Agent App.

This innovative insurtech solution goes beyond delivering policy details; it includes elements for inventory management and claims processing. By streamlining workflows, the CSP contributes to faster claims resolution, reduced loss ratios, and heightened customer satisfaction.

On the other hand, a CRM system plays a crucial role in managing customer relationships, tracking interactions, and organizing client information. It is essential to clarify that the CRM is not a policyholder-facing tool; instead, it is a system the agency utilizes to disseminate information, pose questions, and handle requests for policyholders. When selecting a CRM solution, prioritize those tailored to the insurance industry with 2-way API integration compatibility with your AMS.

Enhance Communication with Clients:

Integrate communication tools like chatbots, virtual assistants, or messaging apps to improve customer interactions. Establish rules on using a single type of system for each communication method. Often the same tool/feature, such as texting, will be offered by multiple solutions. Select the texting feature from the solution that offers the most comprehensive texting tool and use that for all your texting needs.

Invest in Analytics and Business Intelligence:

Implement tools for gaining insights into your agency’s performance. Understand existing reporting features in an AMS and CRM before adding more analytics tools. Make sure you understand how the analytics work, as well as if your data is clean and ready to give you accurate information. 

Training and Support:

In a perfect world, you would provide thorough training and support for your team to ensure comfortable adoption of new technologies. Designate team members as experts and stay informed about updates and enhancements. This means designating two team members as the main and backup “expert” on your blended technology stack. They should anticipate blocking 4-6 hours a month to attending/reading/watching updates about the solutions you’re using. Someone needs to be listening and reporting to the team about new features and updates. They should be allowed to alert the team to changes so the agency is taking advantage of the enhancements that help team members and or policyholders. 

Test and Optimize:

Prior to the complete deployment of your updated tech stack, it is imperative to conduct thorough testing to identify and rectify any potential issues. The process of optimizing and updating your systems should be continuous, especially as new technologies emerge. It’s crucial to recognize that tech stacks are iterative in nature. 

Keep in mind, rarely will you release all components simultaneously. When adding a new element, it’s essential to review whether you’ve seamlessly integrated the latest solution into your tech stack and workflow, or if you’ve merely placed it on top, hoping it functions as intended. The goal is to ensure that each addition blends harmoniously with your existing technology infrastructure rather than creating isolated layers.

In summary, optimizing a tech stack for your agency’s efficiency involves thoughtful considerations, but it is certainly achievable. Keep in mind that constructing a blended tech stack is a continuous journey, requiring  adaptability and a steadfast commitment to staying abreast of technological advancements. Consistently evaluate your systems and make necessary adjustments to align with the ever-evolving requirements of your insurance agency and the expectations of your clients. By diligently following the outlined steps, you can establish a blended tech stack that positions your agency to adeptly navigate the future.