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Broking in the digital age: why tech will never replace the human touch


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Digitalisation has infiltrated our daily lives, and the use of digital tools to streamline processes has come into even sharper focus during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there’s still no substitute for flesh-and-blood human relationships – and this is where brokers will have the edge if they show that the personal touch still counts in an increasingly impersonal world.


                        Broking in the digital age: why tech will never replace the human touch


Many financial services companies have embraced digital solutions not as a luxury but out of necessity, deploying artificial intelligence and automation to enhance customer service, for example. This has not come about solely because of the COVID-enforced “new normal”, but it’s certainly been accelerated by the pandemic.

More digital players and retailers have entered the insurance space. If you’re able to get a quick quote from an app, why go to a broker? But competition is not a bad thing. The proliferation of choices simply means brokers must be nimble, responsive, and aware of the value they bring to the table – and up their game.

In insurance, technology is now available to support the customer and the broker at virtually every phase of the value chain. This can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, brokers and customers have the convenience of conducting virtual consultations. You can get quick quotes, and benefit from fast claim turnaround times and fraud protection via analytical tools. Time-consuming back-office admin has been farmed out to our trusted robot helpers. Brokers can focus on doing what they do best – connecting with people.

On the flip side, customers have become more demanding, expecting brokers to be “always-on” – and if they aren’t, there’s the temptation to bypass the experts and simply go to an app and get an automated quote. And while having documents lodged in the cloud is a boon, if a system is hacked or compromised, it can hobble your business for extended periods at a time.

One thing’s for certain: in the digital age, service delivery for a broker means much more than simply connecting with customers once a year. Customers have become far more discerning. But the customer is still king, and we must be mindful of that. They simply want simplicity and convenience in their insurance dealings, and who can blame them? They are mobile-focused and on the go and want to get insurance pricing easily and promptly. But the broker is now expected to be available at a moment’s notice, 24/7, which could pose difficulties for smaller brokerages with fewer resources.

Instead of seeing technology as the enemy, brokers should harness it to their advantage. Use digital apps to keep in touch with customers, and online survey tools to measure customer experience and solve problems in real-time. Exploit the administration efficiencies tech offers you. Allow customers to sign documents digitally. Let the robots do the heavy lifting.

Coupled with a renewed focus on customer service, these tech-driven efficiencies could well be the differentiating factor in your offering as a broker.

Insurance will always be a people business. There is no replacement for the authenticity, empathy and warmth that comes with the personal touch – having someone who’s in your corner and has your interests at heart. There is a lot of uncertainty and customers, now more than ever, need someone they can trust with their life and business decisions.

So, our advice to brokers is to embrace change. Use inexpensive digital tools to your advantage, and to build efficiencies into your operation. Forge new partnerships with insurtechs and established insurers. Simplify things for your customers. And always remember that regardless of the medium of communication – an app, a phone, or an in-person or virtual consultation – the fundamentals remain the same: broking is all about building and maintaining relationships.

By Kwena Moabelo, Head of Customer Excellence at Hollard Insure


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