Terrific article about Agent Portals in Insurance Marketing magazine

Titled “Improving Your Agents’ Online Experience,” the article makes some key points. (Wish I could link to it, but the magazine doesn’t have a Web site — doh!).

“Independent agents, especially, view online capabilities as a key factor in deciding who to work with. Often the availability of online services can reflect on the reputation of the insurer and their ability to attract and retain independent agents.” That’s saying it like it is. I’ll just add a key word — “producing.” Attract and retain top producers — those savvy agents that can handle technology and maximize opportunity in a “Channel of Choice” era (John Kelly, Pru).

“What agents are not always able to from insurer-provided portals is better integration of the agent portal with the back-end policy administration and claims systems.” Can’t you just hear the IT department when marketing comes to them and asks to push business-status data to the portal for agent view and productivity purposes? “Sure thing. 2 years and $15k. But we need the $15k now in order for you to get on the waiting list.” Geez.

“…most agent portals suffer from poor usability, non-intuitive navigation, and poor ease of use for even the basic functions that are provided.” I’d be interested to know just how low the percentage is of how many agent portals have been put through usability testing. (By the way, IdeaStar now has a Usability Lab environment. So even though with our experience, we usually hit pretty close to the usability mark, we are still using a usability lab.)

“95 percent of your agents say they rely on email professionally.”
“66 percent rely on the company Web site.”

“Online access outranked sales training and product training as the most important service brokerages provide to agents.”

Interesting stuff. And these trends putting more pressure on the Web channel aren’t going down. See WellCarePro.com Get it done by a professional, not by IT guys trained for 20 years on back-end administration. Come on!