Improve insurance agent onboarding to boost retention and engagement. Like all relationships, nurturing and communication is key.
The relationship between insurance carriers and their agents is like a marriage. Some start strong and see lasting success. Others experience a rocky start but then work together to smooth out the bumps. All face and overcome challenges at some point or another.
But there is a growing number that never make it out of the starting gate. In fact, over 90 percent of agents leave their carriers to pursue opportunities outside the industry. Most last less than three years at the same carrier. And a third leave within three months.
So how do you, as an insurance carrier, recruit, train, and retain top selling agents that will ensure your success in the long run?
No relationship will grow and flourish if the first few dates are a flop. Like any long-term commitment, the key to agent loyalty and engagement is all in those first few interactions that light the spark and keep your new hires around, wanting more.
A transparent, engaging, and thoughtful onboarding process is that first date that your new agent will never forget.
First Impressions for Agents and Carriers
When it comes to insurance carriers and brokerages, there are a lot of fish in the sea. Ninety percent of agents, in fact, consider multiple insurance companies when they are thinking of doing business, prompting carriers to rethink how they appeal to potential recruits. But even if it is love at first sight between you and your agent, it will take thoughtful effort to keep them engaged and committed, especially in the beginning.
Onboarding processes often take a back seat to other business strategies, especially if a company’s HR and distribution team is small and lacks manpower and time. But investing in a sound and strategic agent journeys, from onboarding to ongoing engagement and beyond, could mean the difference between agent success and failure, and can certainly impact your bottom line.
And for insurance carriers, facing an aging workforce and low agent retention rates, tapping into young, raw talent and developing recruits though comprehensive and effective training programs becomes vital.
Not only do successful onboarding processes establish strong relationships between you and agents right from the beginning, according to the Brandon Hall Group, they also improve new hire retention by 82 percent and productivity by more than 70 percent.
Rocky Relationships with Carriers
Even with an onboarding and engagement process, you still could experience agent failure and low retention. What could be going wrong?
We interviewed several leading insurance carriers about their recruiting and onboarding strategies, and they identified several pitfalls in the process:
- No centralized, brand appropriate library where agents can easily access and consume important information, such as educational documents and company brochures
- Miscommunication and misinterpretation of carrier information and product changes
- Uncoordinated and inconsistent recruiting efforts
- Varying amounts of time it takes to get agents fully on-boarded and selling policies (could take one or two weeks or up to six months)
- Lack of expectations set for the agent, such as the specific customers the agent should target
- Inconsistent customer experiences across lines of business, states, etc.
- Lack of technology that nurtures the relationship between agent and carrier
So what would an ideal onboarding process look like to an agent interested in a long-term relationship with their carrier?
An Agent’s Perfect Match
Finding lasting love may be in the luck of the draw, but fostering a successful, enduring relationship with your agent can be nailed down to a hard science.
Like all relationships, carrier and agent relationships need nurturing and good communication.
Top-selling agents are the ones who fully understand their carrier, its value proposition, and its offerings. They are aware of their carriers’ expectations, and know when and how to meet them. They have access to top-of-the-line technology that allows them to segment and target the right customers with the right message, at the right time. However, when less than a quarter of agents know how they fit into their carrier’s overall strategy, it makes it difficult for most to succeed. And when there is a wealth of carriers with whom an agent can work, the majority will choose those with better tools for agent support and engagement.
According to Centric’s agent focus groups, agents want the following from a carrier:
- Better customer management tools that can help them understand their customer
- Marketing support that is low cost and effective at helping them sell what the carrier wants them to sell
- Better experience for themselves and customer when doing business with the carrier
- More touch points and better guidance from the carrier on risk appetite and growth strategy
- As much automation as possible to streamline the sales process. Some agents even offered up part of new business and renewal commissions for STP-type automation in Commercial Lines.
- Use of analytics on existing book of business to cross-sell and up-sell insurance products for the carrier
That may seem like a lot to ask out of a relationship. Fortunately, there’s a solution: With an onboarding and ongoing engagement process equipped with marketing automation, you and your agent can be a match made in heaven.
Read on in our series to find out how marketing automation can take your insurance agents to the top.