Hybrid approach to selling insurance policies

Maciej Wir-Konas
January 11, 2024

Insurers are embracing a more customer-centric business model, recognizing the need for a sustainable and ethical approach to business, which includes a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This shift is not just about profitability, but also about the industry's relevance and survival in a rapidly changing world​.

3 Models of Selling Insurance policies

According to Hilliard, Regan, and Tennyson there are 6 main channels of selling insurance:

  • direct sales through direct mail, call center, and Internet; 
  • local agents employed by the insurer; 
  • non-employee sales agents who sell for a single company; 
  • non-employee agents who sell for more than one company (independent agents); 
  • brokers,
  • bancassurance.

However, recent development of technology in correlation with pandemic and ever-changing expectations of customers forced a seventh channel to emerge – the hybrid selling model.

For the purpose of this article, we'll focus on three of them: direct, agents, and hybrid.

Direct insurance selling

Direct insurance selling, conducted via phone calls (e.g., telemarketing) or the internet, offers several benefits and some drawbacks. One of the primary advantages is the time saved by customers, as they do not need to leave their homes for insurance purchases. This channel also provides multiple payment options, adding to the convenience. Contracts in direct insurance selling are well-secured, with systems constantly monitored and call center conversations recorded, ensuring transparency and security. 

These features contribute to making it the most popular model for buying insurance products. However, a potential drawback of this model is the lack of personal interaction, which some customers may prefer, especially when making complex insurance decisions. Additionally, the reliance on digital communication may not suit all customer demographics, particularly those who are less tech-savvy or prefer face-to-face interactions for trust-building.

Agency insurance selling model

The agency insurance selling model, where policies are sold through insurance agents, offers a personalized approach that many customers value. Agents provide face-to-face interaction, which can be particularly beneficial for those who prefer a human touch or need assistance in understanding complex insurance products. This model allows for detailed explanations and customized advice, leading to informed decision-making by the customer. However, it can be more time-consuming as it requires physical meetings, and may not always offer the same level of convenience as digital channels. 

Additionally, the cost of maintaining a physical agency and employing agents can translate into higher premiums for customers. A study by Cummins and Doherty (2006) highlights the value of the agency model in providing personal advice and building long-term customer relationships, though it also notes the increasing competition from direct selling channels due to their cost efficiency and convenience.

Hybrid insurance selling

The hybrid insurance selling model blends direct and agency approaches, offering both online convenience and personalized agent interaction. This model adapts to customer preferences, allowing for efficient online transactions and in-depth, face-to-face advice. While it enhances customer satisfaction through flexible service, implementing this model requires significant investment in technology and agent training for seamless channel integration. According to McKinsey & Company (2020), the hybrid model is gaining traction, driven by consumer demand for speed and personalized service, positioning it as a growth driver in the evolving insurance landscape.

The Hybrid Sales Model in the Insurance Industry

The benefits of a hybrid sales model in the insurance industry are multifaceted, blending the strengths of both digital and human interactions. This approach allows customers to access relevant information at their convenience through digital channels, while also providing the opportunity for more in-depth discussions about insurance policies with advisors. This model leverages powerful insights about customer behavior, preferences, and needs, using technology to engage customers effectively. 

Additionally, a hybrid approach aids in lead generation and business enablement, as seen in examples like Aviva Insurance and Liberty Mutual Insurance, which use innovative technologies like voice-activated devices to reach new customers and offer personalized solutions. Furthermore, this approach enhances the underwriting and onboarding processes, improving customer experience and conversion rates through the efficient use of data and technology-backed processing​.

Enhancing Customer Experience through Hybrid Sales

The integration of technology in hybrid insurance sales is a pivotal element driving the industry's evolution. The digital transformation in the insurance sector is propelled by innovations in business rules engines (BREs), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and machine learning (ML), reshaping how insurers conduct business and interact with customers. This transformation enables insurers to adapt to rapidly changing technological trends and customer expectations, ensuring they stay competitive in a tougher and tougher market.

A robust hybrid sales strategy incorporates digital and emerging technologies to innovate business models and strengthen customer relationships, even with reduced opportunities for face-to-face interactions. By leveraging technology in underwriting and onboarding processes, insurers can create exceptional customer experiences and foster long-term loyalty. Utilizing both structured and unstructured data speeds up underwriting and policy issuance, enhancing customer experience and conversion rates. 

For example, Kyobo Life Insurance in Korea has implemented AI-based underwriting platforms that utilize machine learning to process large volumes of data, significantly improving efficiency and accuracy. Moreover, the adoption of technologies like blockchain for risk assessment and collaborations with various entities, including diagnostic centers and regulatory bodies, exemplifies the industry's shift towards tech-enabled solutions.

Building Stronger Client Relationships with Hybrid Sales

Building strong client relationships in hybrid insurance sales hinges on meeting evolving customer expectations and leveraging technology effectively. The traditional role of insurance, focused primarily on risk coverage and claims reimbursement, is no longer sufficient. Customers now seek insurers' assistance in risk prevention and management, particularly for their homes, cars, health, and financial well-being. This shift requires insurers to move beyond mere loss reimbursement to proactive risk solutions, transforming the industry's central purpose over the next decade​.

Improving digital self-service is essential, but human interaction remains crucial for complex or sensitive issues. Insurers must develop advanced digital capabilities to deliver risk-prevention services that resonate with consumers. This includes integrating wearables and sensors and creating engaging experiences. The successful blend of digital tools and employee interactions can be determined through constant experimentation.

As digital channels evolve, the role of insurance agents is also changing. Insurers are linking their channels more closely and shifting from a "push" distribution approach to a "pull" model that uses advanced analytics and digital tools to address customers' needs at the right moments. This approach can enhance agent productivity and focus on building relationships primed by data-informed analysis. For example, one insurer identified claims events with high customer satisfaction and used those leads for cross-selling, leading to double-digit conversion rates​.

The Future of Insurance Sales - Staying Competitive with Hybrid Strategies

The future trends in hybrid insurance sales are shaped by several critical factors. The escalating frequency and severity of global risks, such as climate change and cybercrime, are compelling insurers to transform from risk-reactive entities to proactive protectors of society's welfare. This transformation is necessitating a shift towards a more customer-centric business model, heavily reliant on advanced technology adoption and company culture modification. The industry is increasingly focusing on preventing losses rather than just reacting to them, which requires a greater accessibility of customer data and collaboration among employees​.

Moreover, the industry is witnessing significant disruptions such as the growth in embedded insurance. This concept involves integrating insurance premiums into other types of third-party transactions, potentially upending traditional insurance sales models. As a result, insurers are advised to seek alliances and adapt their strategies to remain competitive in this evolving landscape. 

Elevating Insurance Sales with Decerto's Agent Portal

Decerto's Sales Module offers functionalities essential for customizing insurance offers and concluding contracts, catering to the needs of both experienced and inexperienced agents. The user-friendly interface allows agents to easily present offers, access all necessary information, and perform sales activities efficiently. The system's navigation facilitates seamless experience of switching between product, policy, client, or agent views, supported by automated document management and mobile accessibility.

The Sales Module enables agents to tailor insurance offers and personalized advice to existing customers' needs by facilitating the product selection process. Agents can compare pre-defined options or create new ones by adjusting coverages, sum insured, and other parameters. 

Sales automation is a key feature, with the portal calculating premiums in milliseconds and automatically filling data from approved sources, ensuring high data quality through auto-validation algorithms.

Moreover, the module supports various sales methods, including traditional, hybrid, and remote, with essential processes like KYC, online payments, and e-Signature integrated. Agents can closely track each step of the sales process from the client's perspective, enabling prompt responses and effective communication.

Additionally, it can be customized to align with specific sales processes and company guidelines. It supports various insurance products, including P&C and Life, and can handle complex insurance products. 

Non-technical users can manage and change the logic of the customer journey, visual design, and product presentation without coding skills, ensuring a personalized and efficient sales experience. All data, including quotes, applications, and policies, are automatically integrated into policy administration or customer relationship management software​.

How Sales Module Fits in Hybrid Approach to selling insurance

The Sales Module within Decerto's Agent Portal is a tool that aligns seamlessly with the concept of hybrid insurance selling. Here's how it enhances the hybrid sales approach:

  • Digital and Human Interaction Synergy - The Sales Module facilitates the blend of digital efficiency and personal advisor relationships crucial in hybrid sales. It provides agents with a platform that combines technological sophistication with a human touch, enabling them to offer personalized and superior customer experiences.
  • Enhanced Customer Insight and Personalization - The module offers advanced analytics and customer insights, allowing agents to understand customer behavior, preferences, and needs. This data-driven approach empowers agents to tailor their interactions and offers to individual customers, enhancing the personalization aspect of hybrid selling.
  • Efficient Lead Management and Customer Engagement - By automating and streamlining lead management processes, the Sales Module enables agents to focus on high-value activities such as building customer relationships. It optimizes the time and resources of agents, allowing them to engage with customers more effectively and at opportune times.
  • Agility and Flexibility in Sales Processes - The Sales Module supports the agility needed in the hybrid sales model. It allows for quick adaptation to changing customer needs and market conditions, enabling insurers to stay competitive and responsive.
  • Seamless Integration with Existing Systems - The module's ability to integrate seamlessly with existing systems and infrastructures means that it can be adopted without disrupting current processes, making the transition to a hybrid sales model smoother.
  • Comprehensive Support for Agents - The Sales Module provides a comprehensive set of tools for agents, including support for policy comparisons, pricing, and complex underwriting processes. This support ensures that agents are well-equipped to handle various customer needs and scenarios, sell products easily, making the hybrid model more effective.
  • Real-Time Data and Analytics - The module's real-time data capabilities ensure that agents have up-to-date information at their fingertips, crucial for making informed decisions and providing timely advice to customers.

Conclusion

Implementing a successful digital transformation in the post-COVID future for insurance companies revolves around enabling hybrid experiences through the co-evolution of technology and humans. Rather than viewing technology and in-person interactions as mutually exclusive, insurance companies should consider them complementary, empowering their advisors with cutting-edge technology to offer superior and personalized customer experiences. This symbiotic relationship between tech and people will have a significant impact on areas like sales, product differentiation, long-term brand experience, and the evolution of the insurance industry itself

Insurers are facing a future with a wide array of options and challenges. They will need to shift their priorities and adapt their business models to meet the objectives of their investors and customers. Products that meet the needs of specific customer segments, such as wealth and asset management services, group and retail sales, are converging, pushing insurers into new territories. This evolution necessitates a shift away from traditional, balance sheet-heavy products to more capital-light products and combining distribution points to create a more integrated customer experience.

Four key functions will take center stage in this transformation:

  • product design and underwriting, 
  • balance sheet management, 
  • distribution, 
  • technology and administration. 

Insurers should map their business model strengths to these functions to differentiate themselves, achieve profitable growth, and appeal to investors. This approach will allow them to adapt to the changing industry landscape, overcoming current performance challenges and transforming both where and how they generate value​.

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